Georgia Baptists adopt restructuring, missions emphases

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. (BP) -- Unity was the order of the day for the 1,128 messengers at the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) annual meeting Nov. 11-12 at New Hope Baptist Church.

Georgia Baptist Mission Board executive director W. Thomas Hammond Jr., speaks to messengers at the 198th annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention at New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville.
Photo by Scott Barkley/Index
The only battle mentioned was the one against lostness in the state through evangelism and a missions strategy pinpointing significant societal issues.

Upon getting no response during a section of the program reserved for miscellaneous business, GBC president Robby Foster looked around and observed, "There is no business [to discuss]."

He then added, to applause, "You know, this may be the first convention where we've been about God's business."

Foster, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta, was reelected by acclamation to a second one-year term as president. Among 575 votes cast, the four vice president positions determined by votes received were first vice president Josh Saefkow, pastor of Flat Creek Baptist Church in Fayetteville; second vice president Javier Chavez, pastor of Amistad Cristiana Church International in Gainesville; third vice president Grady Caldwell, pastor of New Mercy Baptist Church in Griffin; and fourth vice president Derek Berry, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Hiram.

Recording secretary Danny Henson was also re-elected by acclamation.

A budget reflecting 'core values'

Messengers unanimously approved a 2020 budget of $40,250,000, a 2.54 percent decrease from 2019. That budget's allocation will forward 40 percent -- $16,100,000 -- to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee while the rest will go toward funding ministries of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and entity ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Georgia Baptist Convention president Robby Foster (center) stands with those elected to served vice presidential roles until next year's annual meeting. Standing left to right in back are first vice president Josh Saefkow, second vice president Javier Chavez, third vice president Grady Caldwell and fourth vice president Derek Berry.
Photo by Scott Barkley/Index
The amount going to the SBC includes $8,116,010, or 20.16 percent, to the International Mission Board and $3,669,190, or 9.12 percent, to the North American Mission Board.

The budget remaining in Georgia will go toward a fundamental restructuring of GBMB ministries through five teams: Church Strengthening, Georgia Baptist Women, Strategic Church Planting, Pastor Wellness and Research and Development.

Messengers heard reports from each team's lead strategist and introductions of state missionaries working for that team.

Chad Rising, budget committee chairman and pastor of Blacks Creek Baptist Church in Commerce, explained the focus behind the budget.

"The budget you have ... in your paperwork today reflects the core values of who we are as Georgia Baptists," Rising told messengers. "We want to remind you this morning that pastors are our heroes, churches are our priority, and Georgia is our mission field."

Thomas Hammond, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, in presenting the budget alongside Rising, echoed those sentiments.

"This has become the heartbeat of your staff, the team that works for you," he said. "This is not a slogan. It's really, truly the core values that we work from.

"We honor our pastors because we believe with all our heart there's no one in Georgia with a more important job than yours. You preach the Word of God. You're teaching the people of God. You're edifying. You're equipping. So, there's nothing more important in Georgia than the work of a pastor."

Georgia Baptist messengers listen to executive director W. Thomas Hammond Jr., present the 2020 budget Nov. 12.
Photo by Scott Barkley/Index
At the close of the report, Hammond and Mission Board staff gathered on-stage as state missionary Larry Wynn prayed for pastors and churches.

Tuesday afternoon, messengers received a presentation on the new direction for Mission Georgia, the annual state missions offering. For starters, the scope and work will directly address specific ills in the state, said Hammond.

"[Budget Committee members] had a long discussion and decided to take the state missions offering and focus it on something a little bit different. We took a $1.5 million cut out of our budget. We moved that money over to an area that will enable us to help churches and Georgia Baptists wanting to help the most vulnerable and those most desperately in need of ministry care [as well as] hearing the Gospel."

Hammond urged churches to consider giving at least $1,000 out of their budget in the coming year toward Mission Georgia, followed by a love offering next fall. Those steps, he emphasized, would spur significant ministry inroads in opposing human trafficking, pre/post-natal care, literacy, refugees and internationals, foster care and adoption.

"Are we going to face [these problems]?" Hammond asked the crowd in alluding to an earlier reference of the Good Samaritan. "Or are we going to cross to the other side of the street on our way to church?"

Ministry challenges

Someone directly impacted in each of those areas by ongoing Georgia Baptist work spoke on the life-changing effects.

Kasey McClure, director of 4Sarah who for the last several years has spoken to Georgia Baptists about human trafficking as part of the Unholy Tour, said the problem of human trafficking is not limited to Atlanta.

"Where there's supply, there's going to be demand. Where there's demand, there's going to be supply," she asserted.

Traffickers, she explained, are moving from hotel to hotel, community to community preying on girls and boys. Also, they're targeting groups people would not suspect. Her organization, which rescues sex trafficking victims, includes those who went to church.

"Just because they're in church doesn't mean they're safe. You can raise your kids in the best scenario, and they can still meet the wrong person and be exposed to this."

Others addressing messengers on-stage included:

-- Daphne Harris Nicely, director of Atlanta Morning Center, who spoke about pre- and post-natal care;

-- Troy Bush, pastor of Rehoboth Baptist Church in Tucker, on the importance of reading comprehension, particularly among elementary-age schoolchildren;

-- Jay Watkins, pastor of Redland Baptist in Valdosta, about his church's work in the foster care system and Darren Talley, pastor of Southside Baptist in McRae, and his wife April on the adoption of their son, Josiah; and

-- Samuel Rai, missions coordinator at Clarkston International Bible Church, on the importance of caring for refugees and sharing the Gospel among internationals.

At the close of the report messengers were called to give a love offering to Mission Georgia, which they did to the amount of $6,047.57.

Resolutions

In other business, the Resolutions Committee presented five resolutions to messengers:

-- A resolution of appreciation to New Hope Baptist Church for its staff, members, and volunteers who "tirelessly served the needs of every messenger of the Georgia Baptist Convention in fellowship of the Lord," submitted by the Resolutions Committee;

-- A resolution in appreciation for Delos Sharpton on his 20 years of service with Baptist Village, most of that time as president/chief executive officer, submitted by the Board of Trustees of Baptist Village, Inc.;

-- A resolution expressing gratitude for years of service for Georgia Baptist Mission Board state missionaries and support staff impacted by the reduction in staff earlier this year, submitted by David Chancey, messenger from McDonough Road Baptist Church in Fayetteville;

-- A resolution on protecting children and vulnerable individuals from sexual abuse, submitted by Josh Saefkow, messenger from Flat Creek Baptist Church in Fayetteville; and

-- A resolution urging Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and lawmakers to enact legislation against drugs, hormonal therapy and sex-reassignment surgery as treatment for minors with gender dysphoria, submitted by Judy Craft, messenger from First Redeemer Church in Cumming.

A resolution on critical race theory was forwarded to the Executive Committee for further discussion.

Next year's GBC annual meeting will be held Nov. 9-10 at Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon.

Scott Barkley is editor of The Christian Index.
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