By AT News Team, June 30, 2015:   If you are looking for an Adventist pastor in any town across North America this week, you may not find one. The 60 local conferences in the denomination’s North American Division (NAD) employ a total of about 3,000 pastors and a news release reports that 5,500 people are attending the Pastoral Family Convention in Austin, Texas, Sunday evening (June) through noon Wednesday. Although, because spouses and children are also participating, the number of pastors gone from local communities may be difficult to accurately estimate.

The opening session on Sunday evening focused on prayer and helping the pastoral families find spiritual refreshment. Pastor Wintley Phipps, a well-known gospel singer in the United States sang the powerful hymn “How Great Thou Art,” and shared some thoughts based on his day job as senior pastor of the Palm Bay Adventist Church in Florida.

“It is God’s dream that we reflect His character,” Phipps told the crowd. “This is the very foundation of our call to ministry. … Christianity without Christlikeness will always result in death. Christlikeness is the will of God for the people of God.”

A team of young musicians and praise leaders led the thousands of voices in singing praise songs. The speakers were Dick Duerksen, an Adventist minister who is known as a professional storyteller and works for Maranatha Volunteers International, and Pastor Wesley Knight, senior pastor of Mount Olive Adventist Church in Atlanta.

Over the next three days hundreds of seminars on many practical topics will be presented for in-service education. There will be an entire track in the Spanish language, and sessions for pastors’ wives and children. It was planned by the NAD Ministerial Association as a time to re-energize the entire family.

Wednesday afternoon a number of the pastors and their families will drive the two hours to San Antonio where the denomination’s General Conference Session begins on Thursday. Only about 50 are delegates from the NAD, but many others are interested in observing the decisions that will be made there. Although North America has relatively little representation at the world conclave, the decisions it makes could have greater impact on the Adventist faith in the United States and Canada than anywhere else.