Georgia Baptists increase budget to $41M
In addition, they re-elected Alpharetta pastor Thomas Hammond as president at the Nov. 14-15 gathering at Calvary Baptist Temple in Savannah.
Of the remaining budget, 11.74 percent -- $4,812,500 -- will be allotted for Georgia Baptist Mission Board ministries such as colleges and universities, the Ministerial Education Fund, the Education Commission, Baptist Village, Baptist Retirement Communities of Georgia, and the Georgia Baptist Foundation. The approved budget is an increase over the 2016 budget of $40,600,000.
The other 46.26 percent -- $18,967,500 -- will fund Georgia Baptist Mission Board ministries beginning in Georgia and extending around the world. The board is expecting to receive additional non-Cooperative Program income of $2,983,745 from the Mission Georgia Offering of $1,450,000; Cooperative Agreements of $522,000; and Investment/Registration/and other Income of $1,011,745.
In the first year pre-registration was offered online, approximately 1,300 chose to do so. The official number of registered messengers at the Savannah meeting came in at 1,083. Last year 1,404 messengers attended the annual meeting held at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.
Alpharetta First Baptist Church pastor Thomas Hammond was re-elected without opposition for a second term as Georgia Baptist Convention president. A slate of new vice presidents also stepped in, including Jim Perdue of Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, first vice president; Joey Taylor of Springhead Baptist in Adel, second vice president; Levi Skipper, pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Clermont, third vice president; and Richard Statham, pastor of Salem Baptist Church in McDonough, as fourth vice president.
Danny Henson, pastor of New Liberty Baptist Church in Ringgold, was re-elected recording secretary. Freddie Rhodes, pastor of Westview Baptist Church in Hawkinsville, and Tom Vann, pastor of Rentz Baptist Church in Rentz, were elected as assistant recording secretaries.
The previous evening Hammond detailed his "Big Invite," which will call Georgia Baptists statewide to join a massive effort to invite one-million unchurched to Easter Sunday services.
"I would like to have all of our churches participate but if only 2,500 of our 3,593 churches invited 400 people each -- some more, some less depending on their location -- we would have the million invitations," he said.
An eight-week preparation time for churches to gear up for the event will precede the emphasis as churches will need to be ready for a larger attendance.
"If you invite them, they will come," he said.
Hammond has also rolled out a pastor prayer partner network to build fellowship and spiritual support among the group.
Backpacks exceed 30,000 goal
At last count, Georgia Baptists had donated 31,369 backpacks for Appalachian children, just behind the 31,396 collected last year but breaking the 30,000 goal. The effort has grown tremendously since its first year, 2012, when Georgia Baptists sent 4,400 backpacks.
Bill Barker, director of Appalachian Regional Ministries based out of the North American Mission Board, said he was confident a record 50,000 backpacks would be collected this season with Georgia being the front runner.
Resolutions address illegal immigration, culture issues
Georgia Baptist messengers approved two resolutions on illegal immigration and a Christian response to culture and one expressing gratitude to the host church and the Savannah Baptist Association as they wound down their two-day annual meeting at Calvary Baptist Temple. The resolutions were approved on Nov. 15.
The resolution on a Christian response to illegal immigration was submitted by Brad Whitt, messenger from Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez.
The document acknowledged "the federal government's failure to fulfill its responsibility in the area of illegal immigration during both the Democratic and Republican administrations" and the biblical mandates to "not mistreat the alien living among you."
A second resolution on pastors, culture and Christian citizenship was submitted by Rusty Stewart, messenger from Poplar Springs North Baptist Church in Dublin.
The document took strong exception on a local Seventh-day Adventist lay minister who was required to submit his sermons, notes and transcripts -- along with his ministerial credentials -- to the state's attorney general within days of employment. Eric Walsh was then terminated within a week based on the content of those sermons. The public outcry was so strong that the attorney general's office withdrew its request. See related story.
A final resolution expressed a appreciation to Calvary Baptist Temple and the Savannah Baptist Association for its hosting of the annual meeting. Messengers also thanked Hammond for his leadership as president and Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director J. Robert White on his 24 years of service.
WMU reports, messengers approve Committee on Nominations
Georgia WMU Executive Director Beth Ann Williams reported efforts by teens and women sharing the Gospel worldwide, utilizing video testimonies and a live Skype conversation with a Georgia missionary couple living in Mozambique.
The video featured the testimony of Melissa Ringwalt of Rowland Springs Baptist Church in Cartersville and Paige Knox of Thomson and their summer 2015 introduction to lostness in the African nation. That summer as camp workers -- where they studied about the ministry of a Southern Baptist missionary couple -- resulted in a trip to serve as semester missionaries alongside the couple the following year.
"Paige and Melissa developed contacts with people who otherwise would never have crossed our paths. They extended our ministry in ways that we are now using to share Christ and disciple new believers," the missionary wife in Mozambique said in a live video call cross six time zones.
"We continue to need volunteers such as these girls to serve alongside us," she said. "Less than 2 percent of those in our area -- the size of the state of Virginia -- can be considered evangelical Christians. It is impossible for [us] to cover that distance by ourselves."
Messengers also approved the 2016 Report of the Committee on Nominations for those serving on various committees and as trustees for Georgia Baptist Mission Board-related entities.
Speakers challenge attendees
Beginning with Sunday night's Inspiration Rally and a welcome from Calvary Baptist Temple Pastor Kenny Grant, speakers such as Woodstock pastor Johnny Hunt, SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page, and White proclaimed the importance of sharing the Gospel.
The following afternoon, Nov. 14, First Atlanta Senior Associate Pastor Anthony George, New Orleans pastor Rob Wilton, and North Long Beach, Calif., pastor D.A. Horton spoke on finding one's worth in Christ during the Preaching Conference, focused on the theme of brokenness.
That night, Toccoa pastor Andy Childs urged others to not lose their passion for evangelism in the missionary sermon. Hammond's address the same evening included a memorable performance by a 12-year-old cowgirl and testimony from Army Ranger and Georgia pastor Jeff Struecker.
On Nov. 15, First Vice President Perdue presented a message just before lunch, proclaiming "Jesus is better." State speakers tournament winner Mackenzie Ford gave her speech "For Such a Time as This" and talked later of her own recent experience challenging her faith. Derrick Moore, football chaplain for Georgia Tech, closed out the gathering urging Georgia Baptists to win the state for Christ.
Next year's 196th annual meeting will be held at North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville.