By Donna Howell
CME, Defender Publishing, SkyWatch Television
For the last six or seven years, I was always facing a crucial deadline around the time of our conferences, and therefore was not personally able to attend them. I heard stories of events that had transpired at these gatherings from the returning staff, and I listened with intrigue as I was told about sensationally divine appointments and lives that were changed (sometimes on our end!), but each year something came up that kept me from being able to see these things in person. Then, last August, at the Annual Defender Conference in Branson, it finally worked out for me to go. (Well that and the fact that I was penciled in to speak, so I had to make it work one way or the other.)
What an intense week that was! I have never encountered anything like it!
Working only on this side of the proverbial “SkyWatch TV and Defender Publishing curtain” for several years can isolate someone from a personal connection with those we minister to and that partner with us. Despite the steady interest expressed by viewers through email, letters, encouraging phone calls, and the like, it’s easy to sometimes feel in the dark about how important this ministry (and my personal role in it) really is to the outside world. But seeing for myself the masses in attendance, overhearing the testimonies as I stood near our book booths, watching the audience react right there to things our crew was teaching… It’s an indescribable feeling. These conferences were even more important than I had imagined them to be when I was experiencing them vicariously through co-staff accounts.
But the coolest, neatest part of being there in person last month wasn’t about “what SkyWatch TV does for people,” but about “what these people do for each other” while they’re there. I saw incalculable, heart-melting moments shared between believers of every age, ethnicity, and backstory. Men and women all around me, including Millennials, were bonding with each other, praying over the other’s needs, encouraging one another, making important contacts for their ministries…and on several occasions, someone told us that they didn’t feel alone anymore. They had found comrades of the same conviction within those hallways. As I told Josh Peck after we returned to work, “It was like ‘New Testament Street’ up in there from the moment the conference started to the moment it ended.” For the reasons I just shared and many others, Josh agreed with my assessment completely: It seriously felt like the Holy Spirit was accomplishing an archetypal Day of Pentecost, but instead of flames and tongues and mighty wind, people were being called into their higher purposes and then sent out into the world with new equipment, inspiration, motivation, direction, and badly needed confirmation/clarity on what God had been priming them for over recent years/months.
No doubt about it: People left that assembly refreshed and renewed, as so many testified, and I was lucky enough to be there and see it all unfold right in front of me. I don’t think I’ll be missing any future conferences, if I can help it.
You know what, though…Tom said something weird a few weeks ago regarding the next conference in 2020. In a meeting with only a few chief staff members (six total, including Tom and I, to be exact), Tom shared that he would personally be speaking, and that his message was literally so secretive that he wouldn’t even tell us—his most trusted employees whom he divulges everything to—what it was he plans to say.
No, I’m not trying to be sensationalistic, and in case you’re wondering if Tom put me up to saying all of this, I guarantee you he didn’t. He has no idea I’m writing these words. (And if he reads this article, he will probably raise his eyebrows at my curiosity, because I’m dying to know what this “secret message” of his will be. We all are. His beguiling nuggets of mystery feel like the dangling carrot right about now; although, I guess I can’t blame him for saying what he’s already said and nothing more, because he has to keep his staff informed, yet he has to also keep this thing under wraps for now [for reasons I don’t understand]. Good times…)
Truth be told, I’m personally mystified, because as the numerous invitations have come into our offices over the last several years, all of us here at SkyWatch Television and Defender Publishing have watched him politely decline. Speaking at conferences has simply not been a priority for Tom, and we’ve all come to expect the standard “no” from him when the question is raised about whether he will plan to speak any time in the near future. Thus, this time, we weren’t even planning to ask. We knew in advance what he would say (or we thought we did). So, at this meeting, when he suddenly declared he was taking to the podium at the Annual Defender Conference scheduled August 27–30, 2020, my eyebrows weren’t the only ones that raised.
That’s not to say we were immediately falling out of our chairs or anything. Tom can do what he wants, and he knows he can count on us for support. But it was the second half of his declaration that caught us off guard: “I have a top-secret message. It will be the most important thing I’ve ever said. I’m not telling anyone what it’s about. Oh, and it will probably be the last time I ever speak.”
Yeah, that was the part that did it. Voices clamored for several seconds expressing the need for answers, but it was all in vain. Not even Tom’s key staff have any clue what he’s planning to address, why it’s of such a confidential nature, how it could be “more important” than the last umpteen messages that Tom Horn has delivered, or why on earth it’s the “last time.”
So why am I telling you readers this? Why mention it at all if I don’t know what it means yet?
As the CME (Chief Managing Editor) of Defender Publishing, I have early access to the SkyWatch Television episodes, and I can watch any one of them I please weeks before they air. In a routine viewing of one of these “hidden from public” compilations, I watched Tom Horn, Joe Ardis, and Derek and Sharon Gilbert talking about an upcoming promotional giveaway package involving the DVD set of our last conference and a number of other materials. In this same episode, Tom mentioned the 2020 conference, saying this:
The Upper Room experience in the book of Acts in the New Testament only happened one time. There were things that led up to it—there were a lot of things that happened afterward as a result—but there was only ever one Upper Room experience. You want to be at the 2020 Branson conference, because it’s going to have that kind of dynamic, spiritual presence between the speakers [and] the messages…. This is going to be a “once in a lifetime” event.…
This is not going to be live-streamed. Now, months after the event I’m sure there will be a DVD set, but it is not the same as being in the presence of the Holy Spirit and [experiencing] this kind of dynamic opportunity.
Did you catch that! The 2020 Branson conference is NOT GOING TO BE STREAMED! The only way you can participate is to be there and be part of it.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO…
WATCH VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FROM TOM HORN
Now, everyone that keeps up with any “Donna Howell” ministry or writing knows that I have been saying for a few years: We are on the cusp of a Great Awakening—and maybe even a Great Reformation that will split the Radicals from the Apathetics in a Holy-Spirit-directed “house-cleaning.” I don’t find the current Church exodus concerning in the least. I find it exciting, because I believe that God is in control of His own house. I believe He is going to remind a lot of half-hearted “social club” churchgoers that they need to either “get serious or get outta the way” for the next generation of on-fire believers to blast their way onto the Great Commission scene. All these “unreachables” are about to “reach the world” in an act of beautiful and divine irony. God knows what He’s doing, and He cannot be stopped.
Okay, so I’m sitting at my computer listening to Tom talk about this “Upper Room” conference he sees, and I’m struck with my own overwhelming, butterflies-in-the-stomach-inspiring, palpitations-inducing thought: Is it possible that this new Awakening is going to both directly involve SkyWatch Television (as some have seriously prophesied), and that we might have the honor of witnessing a historical, crucial, trigger event of this movement occur at the 2020 conference?
I’m swallowing back a very big reaction right now and reserving the right to be wrong, but my “spiritual spidey-sense” (Joe Ardis’ pet phrase for that strong gut feeling that often does come from the Lord) says there’s something brewing in the supernatural realm, and that this upcoming Annual Defender Publishing conference of 2020 might be a catalyst event.
“Who is the next Billy Graham?” everyone keeps asking. But the question is inherently wrong. There is no “next Billy Graham,” and there wasn’t ever supposed to be. God doesn’t call “repeat” men and women for “new” movements. “Who will be a part of the next Great Awakening?” is the question. And when I hear Tom talking about an “Upper Room” feeling he has regarding next year—on top of fresh memories about the life-changing power of the last “New Testament Street” conference we held—my fingers start to itch.
Wild horses couldn’t keep me away.
This isn’t a pitch. You’re either supposed to be at the next conference or you’re not, and those who are supposed to be there will be. I’m not worried about that, and I’m not interested in putting out an enticement-piece that inspires folks to impulsively sign up for something out of fear that they’ll miss out, because again, God is in control of those who are in His house and what they’re up to. What I am interested in accomplishing with this letter is this: Some of you read what Tom said about the “Upper Room” and what I shared about the last conference, and it solidified something in your spirit. You feel in advance—no, you know in advance—that there’s going to be another Day of Pentecost-style mighty wind that hits somebody in that building (and probably a lot of somebodies), and you know you’re supposed to be there when it does.
Am I talking to you?
If not, I judge not. But if so, register now because our last conference sold out in 5 days.