Michael W. Smith (Photo provided)

The song "Healing Rain" by popular Christian recording artist Michael W. Smith has inspired an upcoming conference in Johnsubrg.

Organizers are gathering speakers and hoping to attract a large crowd to Healing Rain Conference 2013, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at Johnsburg Middle School, 2220 W. Church St., Johnsburg.

The free conference is open to all affiliations and Christians.

"The goal of the conference really is geared toward reconciliation between His followers no matter what church they go to," said Doug Peterson of McHenry, who is organizing the event with his wife, Laurie, and Tim and April Stewart of Johnsburg. 

"We know there are differences that divide us, but we're not going to attempt to tackle differences in any way, shape or form," Stewart said.

Peterson, who also serves as deacon at CrossPoint Church in Ingleside and as league president of the McHenry Christian Fellowship Softball League, came up with the idea for the conference several years ago after hearing the song.

A discussion at a Bible study with Tim and April Stewart of Johnsburg, members of St. John the Baptist in Woodstock, further inspired him to move ahead with the conference.

The event will include a morning session followed by a 90-minute lunch and an afternoon session with keynote speaker Dr. John Armstrong, a retired pastor of Wheaton Baptist Church. 

Armstrong founded the ACT4 Network, a group of churches and missions, and is the official representative of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Evangelical-Catholic Dialogue. 

Peterson said he specifically chose a neutral location for the conference to encourage people of all faiths to attend. He hopes to fill the school's 900-capacity gymnasium and attract speakers representing major denominations. 

He said he knows various affiliations have opposing views on numerous social issues involving baptism, marriage and other topics.

"Healing Rain Conference 2013 will not involve debate or discussion of those issues that divide us, but on the person of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us, as his followers," he said. 

"There are people who get it, who understand, who walk it and they live it, and we're trying to get those people connected." 

A friend and supporter of the event, Tim Stewart said he hopes the conference attracts those who've moved from church to church, unable to find a place they feel comfortable.

Perhaps the conference will help them focus on their basis of their faith, he said.

"Within the role of Christianity, there are too many divisions," he said. "Being Christian is supposed to be being a Christian. You're supposed to be kind to one another, love one another. Yet, we're bickering.

"Let's forget about the stuff we don't agree on. Let's come together on the stuff we do agree on, which essentially is Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior."

By JAMI KUNZER - jkunzer@shawmedia.com