Mount Pleasant - About 1,700 people crammed Seacoast Church's main campus Friday for its Chosen Women's Conference, which attracted national speakers to discuss Christian living, recovery and service to those in need.
The sold-out crowd arrived for the two-day conference despite days of icy conditions, a closed and re-closed Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge nearby and a clogged Interstate 526 just outside the campus doors.
A major conference theme: Christianity isn't just about being Christian. It's about acting in ways that reflect Christ.
"Chosen 2014 is touching women through worship and amazing words from the stage, and empowering them to reach out into the world doing exactly what God created them to do," said local Christian author Jennifer Tubbiolo, who runs the church's bookstore.
One major draw was Jen Hatmaker, a popular author who pastors a church in Austin, Texas, with her husband. HGTV is planning a reality series featuring their family of seven.
"She totally rocked my world and let a passion change my life," said Katie Walters, who just read Hatmaker's book "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess."
Hatmaker asked the crowd what Jesus meant when he referenced "greatness" in the New Testament.
"Our world has always, always, always measured greatness in terms of power," Hatmaker said.
But Jesus defined greatness in terms of service to the "least" of people.
"We see the posture Christians take in a lost and lonely world. It's defensive," Hatmaker said. Instead, she urged Christians to see others, even those who criticize their faith, as "future brothers and sisters in Christ" rather than as enemies.
"We don't need to defend (Jesus). We need to represent him," she said. "That's how we make it real."
She noted that her own family once was comfortable in their middle-class lives. Then they felt God call them to help those who are broken, as the Bible says Jesus did.
She realized that right next door to them lived a widow who was struggling with loneliness and fear of her own son.
"Next door was a pastor's family who never lifted one finger for her," Hatmaker said.
At first, they reached out to that neighbor, then to local homeless residents, then to children of the working poor.
"Now we have two Ethiopian children," Hatmaker joked about recently adopting a young boy and girl in addition to their three biological children.
The conference featured church partners Lowcountry Pregnancy Center, which helps women facing unplanned pregnancies; Bethany Christian Life Center in Sri Lanka; and The A21 Campaign, which combats international human trafficking. The Sri Lanka church's pastors were on hand to accept a $10,000 donation from Seacoast.
"We actually are taking part in the Great Commission," Walters said.
Speakers included Seacoast's Senior Pastor Greg Surratt; author Christine Caine who with her husband founded The A21 Campaign; and the Rev. Mercy Lokulutu, a native Nigerian who came to America to become a pastor, author and speaker.
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563, follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes or subscribe to her at facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.