Second annual Renew and Refocus Conference aims to build on previous success with impressive roster of guest speakers
by Brett Buckner
Special to The Star
Mar 16, 2013 | 4280 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. Marvin Sapp will be the guest speaker on April 3, 2013 at the Renew and Refocus Conference at the Anniston Performance Center. Photo: Submitted photo
Dr. Marvin Sapp will be the guest speaker on April 3, 2013 at the Renew and Refocus Conference at the Anniston Performance Center. Photo: Submitted photo
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Eugene Leonard can’t help but laugh, and he’s got good reason.

Last year more than 1,000 people attended his inaugural Renew and Refocus Conference, which caught the pastor of The Life Center Church a little bit by surprise.

“Anniston really showed out, came out and pulled together to prove just how much the spirit lives within us,” Leonard said. “But that was last year. Every year you want to go higher, do more. This year we’re expecting even more.”

Given the impressive turnout from last year’s conference, Leonard had only one choice when it came to preparing for this year — raise the bar.

“We wanted to make it bigger and better,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be good enough just to have the biggest conference in the area. We wanted to have the biggest conference in the state.”

And he appears to be well on his way.

The 2013 Renew and Refocus Conference will take place April 3-5 at the Anniston Performance Center. The conference features an impressive lineup of spiritual leaders, including singer Marvin Sapp, Atlanta-based pastor Paul S. Morton and author/pastor R.A. Vernon.

“These are people we’re used to seeing on TV, but never thought we’d get to see in person,” Leonard said. “It’s a prayer come true and it says a lot about our area, and frankly our ministry, that we can bring this level of speaker.”

Sapp’s music career spans more than 20 years. The title track to his eighth album, “Here I Am,” debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart. Sandwiched between Lady Antebellum and Ludacris, “Here I Am” sold more than 76,000 copies in its first week, making it not only a benchmark in Sapp’s career but the highest-charting gospel song in the 54-year history of the Billboard.

Working alongside his wife Debra, leading multiple churches in two states, Bishop Paul Morton lives according to a slogan that’s come to define his expansive ministry — “Changing the way we do church.”

In 1972, Morton moved to New Orleans, where he became the senior pastor of the Greater St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church. He served faithfully there for 33 years, expanding to three areas of the city. Debra Morton now serves as senior pastor of the “mother” church in New Orleans, while Bishop Morton serves as senior pastor of the “baby” church, GSS Changing a Generation, in Atlanta. Bishop Morton Sr. is also the founding Presiding Bishop of one of the fastest-growing movements in America, the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International.

“They say that pastors need a preacher, and Bishop Morton is mine,” Leonard said. “He’s had an impact on my life and my ministry.”

When it comes to impacting the lives of the faithful, look no further than the Renew and Refocus Conference’s final guest, preacher/author R. A. Vernon, senior pastor of The Word Church in Cleveland, Ohio, which has grown from 200 members to a congregation of more than 20,000 since its founding in 2000. The Word Church includes multiple congregations spread across Ohio. Vernon is the author of three books, including his latest, “Dr. R.A. Vernon’s 10 Rules of Dating,” which promises to be “a lifeline for singles who are searching for answers on how to successfully navigate the sometimes cloudy, unsettling waters of the dating pool.”

With such a cast of guest speakers, there’s little doubt that this year’s Renew and Refocus Conference will continue to build on the previous year’s success.

“We’re looking to save souls, to bring those lost souls to the kingdom of God,” Leonard said. “This is going to be something special.”

Contact Brett Buckner at brettbuckner@ymail.com.
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