MARIETTA — Pastor Thomas Hammond of First Baptist Church in Alpharetta was elected president of the Georgia Baptist Convention by a 511-to-380 margin over Pastor Jerry Speer of Northside Baptist Church in Columbus in Tuesday’s final session of the annual meeting.
Pastors elected alongside Hammond for service were Robby Foster, Northside Baptist, Valdosta, 1st vice president; Kevin Williams, First Baptist Villa Rica, 2nd vice president; Brad Waters, First Baptist Hazlehurst, 3rd vice president; and Mark Sterling, Curtis Baptist in Augusta, 4th vice president.
Other aspects of the afternoon session included reports on Mission Georgia and WMU and Women’s Enrichment Ministry as well as the State Speaker’s Competition winner, Haddasah Slappy of Leesburg, and a panel discussion on the changing culture in America.
Revitalizing the Peach State
In presenting the Mission Georgia report, GBC Executive Director J. Robert White spoke of ongoing church plants in the state as well as potential church plants on the horizon. With most of those church plants being non-Anglo, a diverse field of congregations is making it possible to not only minister among several cultures in Georgia, but having an influence on other countries through such means as providing Bibles, testified one couple.
First Baptist Villa Rica Pastor Kevin Williams joined White onstage to talk about the controversy over a baptism video filmed on Villa Rica High School’s football field. “Before, that video had 23,000 views,” he said. “After the media made it into something else it had over three million views worldwide … including [in] North Korea.”
Holding up a bucket common to a local home improvement store, White expressed how it represented 500 Buckets of Hope sent to South Carolina for flood relief. “You’ve been a good neighbor to those northeast of us,” he told messengers.
In an update on Georgia Baptists’ long-term commitment to fighting human trafficking, White revealed how the convention has been working with private investigators to locate instances of trafficking and reporting it to authorities. An ongoing partnership with Operation Liberate, an organization dedicated to actively rescuing those caught in human trafficking, began two years ago, White said. A video featuring the hidden face of a Georgia Baptist pastor active with the group told the audience that within five miles of where they live, there is a high likelihood of human trafficking occurring.
To be salt and light
“Salt didn’t prevent, but delayed the decay of meat,” First Baptist Church, Dallas, TX Pastor Robert Jeffress pointed out to the crowd, preaching from Matthew 5:13-16 in the closing message. “It’s no good if it doesn’t get out of the shaker and into the meat. Today we have too many Christians and too many churches still in the shaker.”
Earlier, Jeffress had taken part in a panel discussion that included Claude King, discipleship specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources; former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran; and Glenn Sheppard, president of International Prayer Ministries of Lee’s Summit, MO. The discussion, moderated by outgoing GBC president and Cartersville pastor Don Hattaway, focused on the state of America, how it got here, and what can be done to fix it.
“The biggest detriment to the country is the re-shaping and re-defining of the family,” pointed out Cochran, who was fired last year for his views on homosexuality. An investigation led by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office turned up no evidence of discrimination by Cochran, but the veteran firefighter was dismissed anyway.
“Today, Americans are having to choose between living out their faith and keeping their jobs,” Cochran added. “This is happening daily, with many believers folding under the pressure of worldly consequences. I have greater faith in what God can do than in what the mayor of Atlanta could do.”
Considering the rapid transition of the country, when King was asked his thoughts on America 25 years from now he said, “Things have accelerated so quickly I don’t think we can [picture] 25 years down the road.
“We have to … [return] to our first love – Christ.”
When asked about struggling pastors in a difficult time, Shepperd advised to “find a prayer closet and a prayer partner. God will set your heart afire and you’ll desire the applause of heaven rather than the accolades of man. Reputation is what others say about you; character is what God knows about you when no one else is looking.”
Concerning where to lay the blame, Jeffress pointed a finger in a different direction. “Blame for the shape of our country lies with wimpy pastors and lazy laymen, not Barack Obama or the Supreme Court,” he stated.