Baptist Life

SUWANEE, Ga. — Crews from Georgia churches are deploying to Vermont to help victims in what has been described as that state’s worst natural disaster in nearly a century. Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief Director Dwain Carter said flood response units are expected to pull out Monday morning enroute to Barre, Vt., one of the hardest hit communities.

ROCHELLE, Ga. — More than 30 migrant workers who came to southwest Georgia to harvest watermelons will leave with much more than a paycheck. That’s because they prayed to receive Christ at First Baptist Church of Rochelle, where they gathered Thursday for dinner and a gospel presentation by Georgia Baptist Mission Board missions consultant Samuel Ayala.

SYLVESTER, Ga. — When Ricky Braswell, weakened by chemotherapy and radiation, began having trouble maneuvering the steps into his home, a team of builders from Isabella Baptist Church showed up to construct an access ramp. Problem solved. Braswell’s ramp was only the latest built by the Isabella volunteers who have completed 108 for residents of Worth County over the past decade.

ATLANTA, Ga. — Mary Gellerstedt is a living example of what it means to press forward with steadfastness in Christ. Her heart, her eyes, her mind are riveted on the Savior. It has been this focus that has given her the strength and desire to press forward in untiring service at First Baptist Church Atlanta for almost eight decades.

SUWANEE, GA – Georgia Baptists and Georgia Baptist pastors need to know Chris Reynolds, the new lead strategist for the state Mission Board's pastor wellness team, and they need to understand that he and his colleagues are ready to help when personal or vocational challenges and crises arise.

WOODSTOCK, Ga. — It was during time of crisis that Mark Richt committed his life to Christ. While an assistant coach at Florida State University, one of his players had been tragically killed, and legendary coach Bobby Bowden, the always unapologetic Christian, pulled the entire team together and shared the hope that can be found in Christ. Richt, who went on to lead the University of Georgia football team as head coach, walked into Bowden’s office the next morning and said the words that changed his life: “I need Jesus.”

CUMMING, Ga. — He ran away from home in Georgia at age 15, heading to Virginia to join the Confederate army. At the time, he could neither read nor write and had few marketable life skills. Before his return to Georgia, he would sail around the world several times and meet an unlikely teacher who taught him reading, writing and arithmetic. Then, after returning to Georgia, he would become a farmer, marry and start a family, and once again return to sea, before becoming a Baptist preacher and evangelist.

SUWANEE, Ga. — Keys to ensuring that pastors don’t get worn down by the grind of ministry include observing a day of rest each week and taking periodic sabbaticals. That’s according to the Barna Research Group, an organization that monitors cultural and religious trends in America. “When compared to statistics from 2015, current Barna data shows that pastors’ well-being — spiritually, mentally and emotionally — has decreased significantly,” Barna said in a June article that delved into the importance of rest and selfcare.

SUWANEE, Ga. — The Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s annual SPARK conferences are taking shape with more than 40 speakers who will share insights into how churches can grow disciples and reach their communities for Christ. “The purpose of SPARK is to equip and empower lay leaders to their next step as a healthy disciple of Jesus,” said Scott Sullivan, the state Mission Board’s discipleship catalyst.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. — Many Georgia churches celebrated the long Independence Day weekend with sermons calling on believers to engage with politicians at the local, state and national levels on issues of biblical and ethical importance. “There’s an old saying that’s true, that they see the light when they feel the heat,” said longtime Atlanta-area pastor Richard Lee who spoke Sunday at Flat Creek Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

JESUP, Ga. — A resilient Jack Lee is back in the pulpit, serving as interim pastor at First Baptist Church in Jesup. “It has been invigorating for me,” said Lee, who has been fighting Stage 4 cancer for the past two years. “I’m not just surviving; I’m thriving.” Lee, 65, had retired as pastor at Altamaha Baptist Church at Madray Springs in 2021. “At the time, I was to the point I couldn’t preach,” he said. “Mouth sores that the chemo was causing was really giving me trouble.” Doctors had given Lee a year, possibly two, to live  at the time of his retirement. Yet, he’s still stepping into the pulpit on Sundays with the vigor of a young preacher.

ROME, Ga. — As a mother, Christy Sansom is especially appreciative of the impact the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s SURGE150 music camp has on the kids. “I love how SURGE150 allows an opportunity for students to gather with other students across the state who share the common bond of music,” she said. “My kids enjoyed the camp … because they spent the week focused on what they love, worship and music.”

SUWANEE, Ga. — A survey that quizzed Americans on their openness to hearing the gospel has affirmed what Georgia Baptists have been seeing on the frontlines of ministry, that people are eager to talk about Jesus. “Across all generations, the majority of people are spiritually open,” the Barna Group reported in an article last week.

CHATSWORTH, Ga. — With horse-drawn wagons full of farm implements and other necessities, settlers began arriving on former Cherokee lands along Holly Creek in northwest Georgia in the mid-1800s, establishing homesteads and, later, a church that will celebrate its 175th anniversary in mid-July. Holly Creek Baptist Church, which began with a handful of families meeting in a one-room log structure, survived meager early years to become a major player in the spread of the gospel in this part of Georgia.

CALHOUN, Ga. — Wayne Bray and Stephen Williams have been great friends for more than 20 years. Both pastors served churches in Georgia and developed a deep love and respect for one another. They are now serving together in one of the most dynamic churches in the Southeastern part of our nation.

Georgia college students are sharing the gospel  in the state, across the nation and around the world this spring and summer as part of the Send Me Now program. The initiative, sponsored by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board Collegiate Ministry, mobilizes students to serve God through missions.

NEW ORLEANS — Southern Baptists have adopted a groundbreaking resolution on artificial intelligence that will serve as a guide to church leaders as well as their government lobbyists. “We must proactively engage and shape these emerging technologies rather than simply respond to the challenges of AI and other emerging technologies after they have already affected our churches and communities,” the resolution said.

NEW ORLEANS — Two churches expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this year because they have women serving as pastors will not be allowed to return to the fold. Messengers to the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans voted 9,432 to 1,212 to uphold a decision by the Executive Committee to oust Saddleback Church in California and 9,700 to 806 to uphold the decision removing Fern Creek Baptist Church in Kentucky. The results were announced Wednesday morning.

NEW OREANS — Southern Baptist messengers got their first look Wednesday at a website that provides resources to help churches prevent sexual abuse and that will eventually include an online sexual abuse registry of abusers. The registry currently has no names because its creators still are vetting people for potential inclusion.

NEW ORLEANS — Two churches expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this year because they have women serving as pastors are expected to learn Wednesday morning whether they’ll be allowed to return to the fold. Messengers to the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans held a vote Tuesday afternoon to decide whether to reverse a decision by the Executive Committee to oust Saddleback Church in California and Fern Creek Baptist Church in Kentucky.

NEW ORLEANS — Texas pastor Bart Barber has won election to a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, fending off a challenge by Georgia pastor Mike Stone. With 11,014 ballots cast, Barber received 7,531 votes to Stone’s 3,458 votes. The election coincided with other significant issues that pushed up attendance at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans. Chief among those was whether to back the ouster of churches that have women serving as pastors.

NEW ORLEANS — Southern Baptists commissioned 79 newly appointed missionaries on Tuesday in New Orleans where the SBC annual meeting is underway. Nearly 12,000 messengers watched as the fledgling International Mission Board missionaries crossed the stage in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, some silhouetted behind screens to conceal their identities because they're deploying to countries hostile to the gospel.

NEW ORLEANS — A young mother saw a group of Southern Baptists who were sharing the gospel in New Orleans, so she yelled to them. “I need to be saved.” Tim Dowdy, former pastor of Eagle’s Landing Baptist Church in Georgia now serving with the North American Mission Board, said they went over to her and explained the plan of salvation. “That young mom came to know Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior,” he said

ALBANY, Ga. — Georgia pastor Michael Catt who showed Hollywood that wholesome family films can still be huge box office successes has died, his church announced on Monday. Catt, executive producer of the Christian movies Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof and Courageous, had been battling prostate cancer and had taken a turn for the worse in May.

ROME, Ga. — Student ministers in Georgia are reporting a growing spiritual awareness among school-aged kids, the latest evidence seen last week when 73 middle and high schoolers made salvation decisions at an IMPACT camp at Shorter University. “God is clearly doing something in this next generation,” said Chris Trent, Next Gen catalyst for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

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