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St. Peter's AME sets leadership conference
In the pulpit
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In 1982, Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman wrote a bestselling book, “In Search of Excellence.” The popular management book sets the standard for identifying characteristics of excellent, innovative companies.
Likewise, some clergy leaders strive to better equip churches to do the Lord’s business in a more efficient manner. Members are afforded the opportunity to attend various workshops, seminars, lectures, conferences and conventions that are designed to assist them in becoming more spiritually mature.
On June 10-11, the Rev. Debbie Grant Neal, pastor of St. Peter’s African Methodist Episcopal Church and Worship Center in Midway, will host a leadership conference. The conference’s theme, “In search of excellence,” was taken from James 2:20. The event will conclude at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 12 with a praise and worship service.
The guest facilitator for the conference and Sunday morning speaker is Dr. Elbert Gaither, founder of Elbert Gaither Ministries, a purpose-driven ministry based in the Gulfport and Shreveport areas of Louisana. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Gaither has been in the ministry for 35 years. He spent many years traveling with Morris Cerullo World Evangelism Ministry and has visited 47 states and a dozen foreign countries.
“During a 40-day period of fasting and prayer, God birthed in my spirit a sincere desire to see the body of Christ move in a more positive direction. In our churches, we have a real need for solid Bible-based teaching that parallels the strong preaching we receive on a regular basis,” Gaither said. “Our goal is to provide teaching that is Bible-based and that will not only inform, inspire, empower and engage, but even challenge and correct when necessary.”
Gaither has conducted numerous seminars and workshops in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. A complete list of his workshops and seminars is available online at
In addition to the various workshops and seminars he facilitates, Gaither has a weekly prayer list that reaches 15 countries and four continents.
“The ministry also has people who spend a great deal of time fasting and praying for others. When a fast is called, people have participated from as many as eight different countries,” he said.
“We also have a prison ministry. Besides praying and fasting for individuals in prison, we also reach out to those who are incarcerated by providing Bible study lessons, Bible reading plans, words of encouragement, monetary assistance and periodic visits.”
The first session of St. Peter’s AME Church’s leadership conference, “Work is worship,” is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, June 10. Two morning sessions, “The assignment” and “Competitive jealousy,” begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 11. An afternoon session, “Servant leadership,” will be at 1 p.m.
“Each year, we have training for officers — those in leadership positions. As part of training our leaders (stewards, trustees and presidents of ministries), we normally do in-house training. But this year we decided to expand and open it up,” Neal said.
“The goal of the conference is to draw the attendees into a deeper understanding of their call to servant leadership. Excellence in service begins with a true, genuine and committed relationship with God, and a determination to focus on God’s will for our ministry and not, as the world tells us, on ourselves.
“Service as a leader in the kingdom of God has nothing to do with achievements or self-accolades, but on having others see God in the works and service we give. It is not enough to simply say that we have faith in God and that attendance at Sunday service fulfills our requirement as Christians,” the pastor said. “The word of God lets us know that when we hold a position of leadership in the church, our spoken faith must be validated by our deeds.”
“The conference is recommended for church leaders in all positions and ministries, as well as for those who desire to understand God’s calling placed on those in leadership roles,” she said.
“The church serves a leadership role in the community. We need to bridge the gap between the secular and the church. How we conduct ourselves as leaders at work and in the community should be in line with what God expects based on the word. As leaders, we must have integrity and truthfulness and know how to treat one another,” Neal said.
“I would like the conference to become prominent in Liberty, Long and Chatham counties. The scheduled topics are very relevant to the body in which we are serving. I hope the entire community will find some benefit from the conference so we can ask what we can do to further our impact on the betterment of the community,” she said.
“We believe the presenter, Dr. Gaither, is more than qualified, and this is a wonderful opportunity,” Neal said. For more information about the conference, call the church at 876-6874. St. Peter’s AME Church is at 5394 E. Oglethorpe Highway in Midway.

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