By Philip Timothy, Message Staff Writer
[img_assist|nid=7631|title=Mike Walker|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=72|height=100]WOODWORTH – ‘The guys in the pews’ can expect a little something different at this year’s annual Pastors’ Conference.
Mike Walker, pastor of East Bayou Baptist Church in Lafayette and president of the 2011 Pastors’ Conference, has decided to forego a lineup of ‘big-time’ speakers, and instead will bring in men who have shared similar experience as the ‘guys in the pews.’
The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Fill my Heart’ and comes from Nehemiah 2:12 “… what my God had put in my heart to do …”
The conference, which will be held in First Covington’s auditiorium, will begin Sunday evening and will finish up at 2:30 p.m. Monday, so the auditorium can be prepped for the LBC Annual Meeting.
Speakers will address topics such as, fill my heart for church planting; fill my heart for the rural area; fill my heart for the city; fill my heart for Louisiana; fill my heart for the nation, and fill my heart for the world.
“I wanted to get speakers who have first-hand experience with each of these topics,” Walker said. “I think each speaker will be able to show how God has filled their hearts with a vision. And they can show our Louisiana pastors how to enlarge on God’s vision for their church and how to go for it, no matter what it takes.
“It is my prayer and desire our Louisiana pastors will be inspired by this lineup of speakers, who are working in similar situations as themselves,” Walker said.
Among the speakers scheduled to speaks are Michael Catt of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., Mike Fritscher of Cottonwood Baptist Church near Dublin, Texas, church planter Tony Bourque of Waters Edge Church in Lake Charles, Fred Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Dennis Watson, Celebration Church in New Orleans, and David Hankins, Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director.
“I am sure everyone is familiar with Michael Catt and Sherwood Baptist Church,” Walker said. “The church, which is located in Albany, Ga., formed Sherwood Pictures which has produced four-hit movies -– Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and just recently Courageous.
“Here is a pastor who is trying to change the world from a church in Southwest Georgia,” Walker said. “Few believed it could be done when he first shared his vision, but his faithfulness and God’s blessing has made a reality.”
Fritscher, who hails from New Orleans, probably never envisioned himself as pastor of a rural Baptist church. Yet, through his faithfulness he has helped Cottonwood Baptist Church which is located three miles outside Dublin, and 10 miles outside Stephenville – to become one of the most successful rural churches in Texas.
“Cottonwood is really out in the country,” Walker said. “There is really not much around the church. Dublin’s claim to fame is it is home to the oldest Dr. Pepper bottling company in the world. Despite its location, Cottonwood regularly draws upward to a 1,000 people each Sunday.”
Bourque’s Waters Edge Gathering is a three-year-old church plant in Lake Charles that East Bayou Baptist, Walker’s own church, supports.
“Tony’s church is a flourishing church in the southwest corner of Louisiana,” Walker said. “This past Sunday, and most Sunday’s, they are packed wall-to-wall with people. God gave Tony a vision to plant a church in a city where many people felt there was not a need for another church. Obviously, the people were wrong, because the attendance there says otherwise.”
Walker believes pastors will be encouraged by both Luter and Hankins.
“Who doesn’t know Fred or Dr. Hankins,” Walker said. “Fred’s exploits in New Orleans, especially after Katrina, are well documented. The church not only survived the storm and the aftermath, but Franklin Avenue is flourishing.
“And Dr. Hankins has a great message of encouragement for our pastors,” Walker said. “I believe all of the speakers will be able to speak to our Louisiana pastors, and everyone will come away from this year’s conference encouraged.”