Baptist Life

SNELLVILLE, Ga. – Johnson Ferry Baptist Church pastor Clay Smith challenged “young, old, and everyone in between” at the opening session of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meeting to listen for God’s call on their lives to take the gospel to the nations. “There is a specific role for some of you to go — to go to another culture, to go to another nation, to go to another land,” Smith told a crowd of nearly 1,000 people gathered at the Church on Main in Snellville.

SNELLVILLE, Ga. — More than 1,100 messengers have preregistered for the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, which kicks off Sunday at the Church on Main in Snellville. President Josh Saefkow, who will be seeking re-election to a second term, said the emphasis of the three-day gathering will be on Calling Out the Called, the title of a broader initiative aimed at identifying the next generation of church leaders and helping them navigate pathways to ministry.

SUWANEE, Ga. — Five years ago, W. Thomas Hammond Jr. was recommended to become executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board because of his heart for pastors and their churches and his passion for reaching wayward souls with the gospel. Now, he’s being applauded for his accomplishments in the role. The Georgia Baptist Administration Committee recognized Hammond on his fifth anniversary and thanked him for the strides the Mission Board has made in helping churches and their pastors navigate through uncertain times that included a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — When churchgoers find a new congregation, most say their reasons for change had a little to do with both their old and new churches. Lifeway Research studied 1,001 U.S. adults who identify as Protestant or non-denominational, attend church worship services at least twice a month and have attended more than one church as an adult. During the research screening process, it was determined 53% of U.S. regular churchgoers say they have attended more than one church as an adult.

Few today recognize the impact “singing schools,” which used “shape-notes” to teach music, has had on American worship. This music, which is associated with the tradition of “Sacred Harp Singing,” enhanced worship across the nation. Singing schools began in New England in the late 18th century. Their purpose was to raise the quality of music in worship services by teaching people to sight read and lead music.

ATLANTA, Ga. — Roy Oliver McClain didn’t talk much about his experiences in World War II, but, on occasion, he did divulge some poignant details of life as an Army chaplain. It was in a sermon that the longtime Georgia pastor described the intense moments aboard a ship filled with troops who were preparing to invade Okinawa before sunrise on Easter Sunday morning in 1945. “I asked hundreds of men to bow their heads in prayer before we hit the beaches,” he said in the 1954 sermon. “In the pale glow of that tensive moment with all heads bowed, they seemed to be as one

SUWANEE, Ga. — The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has expanded its staff by adding three experienced church leaders with some 75 years of combined experience to minister specifically to the needs of the state’s pastors. Jason Jones, with 21 years of experience as a pastor, is serving in southwest Georgia. Craig Ward, who has been in ministry more than three decades, is serving in northwest Georgia. And Marty Youngblood, who has served as a church conflict consultant, college professor and former pastor over the past 25 years, is serving in southeast Georgia. They began in the new roles on Wednesday.

DUBLIN, Ga. — Just how many tunes Helen Hobbs has played over nearly 75 years is anyone’s guess. The soon-to-be 90-year-old has been providing musical accompaniment for the singing at Marie Baptist Church since she was a teenager, showing her congregation and her community a picture of true faithfulness.

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Vandals have defaced a church’s sign that declares: “We stand with Israel.” North Hall Church Pastor Bucky Kennedy is using the incident to proclaim the gospel. “We see it as an opportunity to share the hope, the love and the promise that is in Jesus Christ, the Messiah,” he said on an Instagram video.

ATLANTA, Ga. — The Baptist Campus Ministry under the direction of Eric Swenson is thriving at Georgia Tech. Swenson is giving particular attention to international students because he knows if they become followers of Jesus they will return to their homeland as ambassadors of Christ. Georgia Tech has a total enrollment of 26,878 students with nearly forty percent (10,525) international students representing 149 different countries.

JACKSON, Miss. — Gov. Tate Reeves has taken note of evangelist Rick Gage’s latest crusade, which drew standing-room-only crowds in Mississippi last week. Reeves posted a crowd shot from the crusade on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, showing people crowded shoulder to shoulder in an open-air amphitheater.

For some U.S. adults, many of the terrors connected to Halloween are pure fiction. Others, however, are wary of ghosts, vampires, and visits from dead loved ones. Studies from YouGov and Pew Research found an openness among many Americans to the existence of supernatural beings and events.

ROME, Ga. — Pastors and church staff gathered last Thursday to enjoy a day away from the office and compete with their peers at a disc golf tournament. Nearly 30 participants teed off on the course around Shorter University, competing individually and in pairs.

FRANKLIN, Ga. — Have you ever been geocaching? It is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System receiver or mobile device to find some object or prize and on occasion the secret cache is something of value. One man reported he found a gold ring. Others have found money and gift cards.

POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. — Michael Boatfield, pastor of Macland Baptist Church in Powder Springs, continues to be invited to speak to athletes in high schools and colleges across the Southeastern states. In the past four years and six months he has seen over 1300 of these athletes invite Jesus into their hearts. Since April 2022 there have been 600 students respond to his appeal to receive Christ as the Savior and Lord of their lives.

JACKSON, Miss. — Nearly 1,400 people heeded evangelist Rick Gage’s appeal to commit their lives to Christ in a Mississippi crusade attended by some 17,000 people over four days. The evangelistic crusade concluded Wednesday night with an estimated 10,000 people packed shoulder to shoulder in an open-air amphitheater.

POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. — Peter Abungu and his ministry helpers in Nairobi, Kenya, have seen nearly 20,000 people surrender their lives to Christ in the past 10 years. That’s an average of 2,000 people a year, and the number is growing daily. That level of effectiveness convinced Burnt Hickory Baptist Church in Powder Springs to help Abungu and the Swahiba Networks Ministries he founded to spread the gospel in one of the poorest places on earth.

SUWANEE, Ga. — A significant number of pastors feel ill equipped to minister to people in their elder years. The Barna Group, a research organization that monitors cultural and religious trends in America, highlighted that finding in an article Wednesday. Thirty-five percent of pastors told Barna researchers that ministering to people 75 and older is an area where they feel the least equipped.

CLAYTON, Ga. — In recent months, volunteers at the Pinnacle Retreat Center have built a new home for the administrator who oversees the property. They have also served in a variety of roles at summer camps to make sure children and teens were well fed and cared for. Karen Pace, a Georgia Baptist Women’s consultant, said their total volunteer time reached 7,400 hours with a dollar value of nearly $250,000 based on the local pay scale.

SNELLVILLE, Ga. — Georgia Baptists will hear sermons from an array of pastors during this year's annual meeting set for Nov. 12-14 at the Church on Main in Snellville. Johnson Ferry Baptist Church Pastor Clay Smith will be first up at the three-day meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention, the state’s largest religious organization with some 1.4 million people.

HOMERVILLE, Ga. — State Sen. Russ Goodman and his mother, Donna Kane, are safely back in southeast Georgia after having their Holy Land pilgrimage cut short by the gruesome Hamas attack on Israel last weekend. “It was quite an ordeal,” said Goodman, who returned to Homerville on Friday, six days after Hamas militants staged a surprise attack that killed more than 1,300 Israelis, most of them civilians.

DALTON, Ga. — Families at Salem Baptist Church have seen firsthand the positive impacts that fostercare and adoption have had on the lives of vulnerable children. “It changes lives not just in eternity but in the here and now,” said Pastor Darey Kittle, whose congregation includes a dozen families who have opened their homes to hurting children.

SNELLVILLE, Ga. — Three preachers with strong evangelistic credentials will speak at the Georgia Baptist Preaching Conference set for Nov. 13 at the Church on Main in Snellville. The lineup includes Jerry Vines, an elder statesmen in the Southern Baptist Convention who served 60 years as a pastor, including at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., which, at the time, was the third largest church in the SBC.

SUCHES, Ga. — Standing on a mountainside in north Georgia, Bud Braddock surveys a forest that’s beginning to take on the fiery colors of fall. For 84 years, the retired U.S. Forest Service staffer has been watching the seasons come and go. It’s a makeover he never tires of seeing. “It’s a tough life, but somebody’s got to do it,” he said, feigning hard luck as he stood beneath towering oaks just a mile or so as the crow flies from the Appalachian Trail.

LOGANVILLE, Ga. — Members of a mission team from First Baptist Church of Loganville remain in the Holy Land but are safe, four days after Hamas militants bombarded Israel with rockets in a surprise attack that also brought gunbattles to its streets for the first time in decades. The church’s co-pastor, Chase Snyder, asked people to pray for the group as they try to arrange a trip home.

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