Home General News Thousands of Christian women (finally) gather for ‘extravagant’ conference

Thousands of Christian women (finally) gather for ‘extravagant’ conference

by ervte

Thousands of women of all ages, ethnicities, and dress codes greet each other excitedly from the rows of seats lining the cavernous Planetshakers Church Melbourne City Campus auditorium.

They’ve waited three years for this women’s conference, thanks to COVID. So when the Planetshakers band takes the stage to kick off the ‘Beautiful’ Conference 2022 on April 29 – Australia’s largest in-person Christian women’s conference this year – it’s like an explosion.

Teens and young women cram the space for the band. And women of every age and stage jump with them to the thumping rhythm.Thousands of Christian women (finally) gather for 'extravagant' conference

Each arm goes up, and each woman sings the simple yet deeply catchy lyrics as one Planetshakers song rolls into another, then another.

In the center of the stage, 55-year-old Sam Evans — who co-founded and led Planetshakers Church with her husband Russell — leads the worship like a divine conductor. When she finally invites the audience back to their seats, she greets her “girls” with tears in her eyes.

The woman next to me is also overcome with emotion. Her husband is the pastor of Planetshakers Singapore Campus. She tells me how encouraging it is to be among so many women. “We only have about 100 in our municipalities,” she says.

Other women have traveled from the UK, South Africa, and Australia to be with Beautiful. Two thousand two hundred women have signed up for this year’s conference (held over two weekends, April 29-30 and May 6-7).

Planetshakers Band in action at Beautiful Conference 2022. Planetshakers Church

It’s a long way from where Planetshakers started in 1997 as a 300-member youth conference at Paradise Community Church (now known as Influencers Church) in Adelaide. In 2004, the Evans moved to Melbourne, and the Planetshakers transformed into a church (first called Melbourne City Church). The Church now has approximately 20,000 members worldwide (14,000 in Australia) and nine campuses—six in Melbourne and three abroad, in Singapore, South Africa, and PNG. In addition, Planetshakers Music has released more than 30 albums.

But while it’s Australia’s second-largest Pentecostal megachurch (behind Hillsong), Planetshakers still has a small-church vibe. Everyone laughs at the in-jokes of the “Beautiful News” video segments. And the speaker on the first night of the conference is a first-timer: Yvonne Hughes, a Planetshakers member and a friend of “Pastor Sam’s”.

Hughes draws on the language she and her pilot husband use daily to explain Beautiful 2022’s theme: “The Handover”. She notes the parenting situations in which she would ask her husband to take over for her, to which he replied in ‘Pilots’: “I am in control”. In the same way, we must hand over control of our lives to God, Hughes says.

“Does holding on to your worries and stress prevent you from holding onto God’s plans for you?” – Tavonga Masso

While Beautiful’s first night is a Christian rave, the second day is very different. The day is spent “sitting at the feet of Jesus”. The songs consist of slow, reflective worship. And the first speaker of the day, Zimbabwe-born Tavonga Masoso, Pastor Adult Ministry of Planetshakers, encourages those in attendance to take the stance of Mary of Bethany. The latter, in the biblical story of Luke 10:38-42 at the feet of Jesus, When he visits her at home, instead of rushing to prepare food like her sister Martha.

Mass leads conference attendees through a visualization: when you hear a knock on the door, you open it and see Jesus standing there. Invite him in, offer him the best seat in the house, escort Masoso, and sit at Jesus’ feet.

“Jesus’ greatest concern was not that Martha was preparing, but that she could not let go of her fears…

“Does holding on to your worries and stress prevent you from accepting God’s plans for you?” Masso asks those present.

He then reflects on Mary of Bethany’s extravagant love in John 12, when she pours expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair.

“Mary was willing to sit at Jesus’ feet at any cost,” he notes.

“Our experiences with Jesus will be life-changing.” – Sam Evans

In the next session, the “Beautiful” women spend time doing just that: “sitting at Jesus’ feet” during a long period of extravagant worship led by Sam Evans. During the session, she calls out women needing physical healing and those who live in some bondage – emotional, spiritual, or material – and she and the rest of the attendees pray for them.

After a fun panel session on marriage to menopause and everything in between, Evans returns to close the conference with a talk that further explores the conference theme she conceived after a “vision of God.”

“I saw a photo of an old train station where we were all standing on the platform,” Evans explains on the Planetshakers website. “When the train arrived, we boarded but left our luggage on the platform. What awaited us on the train was much more beautiful and useful than what we had in our luggage.”

“What we will step into and where God will take us is far beyond our capabilities, and our experiences with Jesus will be life-changing,” Evans de Beautiful encourages attendees.

From someone who started leading a small youth conference to now running a megachurch with multiple campuses and conferences, Evans proves how life-changing “handing over” to Jesus can be.

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