196th annual Convention opens at 6 p.m. tonight at North Metro

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Pastor Charlie Wellham of Lebanon Baptist Church in Blue Ridge visits with IMB President David Platt. A reception for the Atlanta native was held following the Sunday evening Inspirational Rally. JOE WESTBURY/Index

LAWRENCEVILLE — Messengers from across the state will be converging in this North Atlanta suburb this evening for the 196th annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Many arrived Sunday evening for the Inspirational Rally at North Metro First Baptist Church, which is hosting this year’s gathering. Registration opened this morning as messengers filtered into area hotels and restaurants for two days of business, worship, and fellowship – and collecting as many as 35,000 backpacks for impoverished children in Georgia and Appalachia.

Messengers to North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville cannot miss the greeting to them on the church’s electronic sign. JOE WESTBURY/Index

Last year Georgia Baptists donated a record 35,571 backpacks, surpassing 2015’s record collection by 1,337. Georgia Baptists have shattered each year’s goal since the initial 4,400 were collected in 2012.

That was the year when then-Georgia Baptist Convention President John Waters, pastor of First Baptist Church of Statesboro, issued the call and churches responded on relatively short notice. That first backpacks collection also occurred at North Metro and this is the first year the Convention has returned to the church since that clarion call.

This year the highly successful ministry will be expanded to include children in two southwest Georgia Associations – Bethel Baptist in in Edison and Summerhill Baptist in Dawson – with some of the state’s highest childhood poverty rates.

The Sunday evening pre-convention rally got off to an upbeat start as eight individuals were baptized and messengers heard a combined choir from the Convention’s two universities and one college. They also heard a missions message from Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director J. Robert White and from International Mission Board President David Platt.  Platt is an Atlanta native and grew up in Briarlake Baptist Church.

The Convention’s first session will be held tonight from 6 p.m. through 9 p.m. Al Denson, from Grapevine, TX, will open the session with congregational praise followed by Enrollment and Organization by Recording Secretary Danny Henson, pastor of New Liberty Baptist Church in Ringgold.

Index Editor Gerald Harris autographs a copy of the new Georgia Baptist history for longtime friend Novel Germany, left. Germany is a member of Jonesboro First Baptist Church. JOE WESTBURY/Index

The Adoption and Order of Business will follow at 6:15 p.m., led by Ken Alford of Crossroads Church in Valdosta.

Greetings from the hosts – Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro and Hugh Townsend, Intentional Director of Missions for Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association – will follow.

At 6:30 p.m. SBC Greetings will be brought by Steve Davis of the North American Mission Board, Chris and Katie Nalls from the IMB, and Tim Millwood representing the Southern Baptist seminaries.

Miscellaneous business is scheduled for 6:45 p.m.

At 6:50 p.m. Special Music will be brought by the International Choir and Orchestra, followed by Denson leading in congregational praise.

Convention President Thomas Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church of Alpharetta, will deliver his annual message at 7:10 p.m. Hammond is concluding his second and final year of his presidency.

He has chosen “Win Georgia” as this year’s theme, building on last year’s them of “Unite Georgia.”

Special music will follow at 7:45 p.m., once again featuring the International Choir and Orchestra. Special music guest Rodrigo Rodriquez will then sing, followed by Denson leading in congregational praise.

J. Robert White, executive director of the then-Georgia Baptist Convention (now Georgia Baptist Mission Board), left, and First Statesboro Pastor John Waters, right, announce that 22,500 backpacks were collected at the 2014 annual meeting at First Baptist Church of Woodstock. The campaign was launched in 2012 at the Convention meeting at North Metro First Baptist Church, where 4,400 were collected. The ministry was the vision of Waters when he served as Convention president. KELLY DURHAM/Index

Announcements and Recognition of Past Presidents will follow at 8:10 p.m. The Public Affairs Report will be delivered by Mike Griffin at 8:20 p.m.

Sam Davis, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Dacula, will read Scripture and pray at 8:25 p.m. followed by congregational praise led by Denson.

The highlight of the evening will be the Missionary Sermon delivered  by Robby Foster, pastor of Northside Baptist Church of Valdosta.

The benediction will close out the first session at 9 p.m., led by host pastor Cox.

The second session will be held from 9 a.m. until noon on tomorrow morning, Tuesday, followed by the third and final session from 2 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. that afternoon.

A book signing of the new history of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, written by Index Editor Gerald Harris, will be held at the North Entrance Lobby between the two sessions. The book is titled Reaching the World Through Mission Georgia – A History of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board 1972-2017.

The book is current through the day it is premiered, mentioning the two candidates for president of the Convention.

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