As we begin the 2019 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly, I want to say that one of the greatest blessings of my life is working with Georgia Baptists. This January will mark the beginning of 12 years working at the Capitol as a lobbyist. I began as a lobbyist with Georgia Right to Life and this year I will have been with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board for six years. It is an honor representing Georgia Baptists.
On occasion, I have people ask what we do at the Capitol. I respond by saying we are there to represent you on the policy decisions being made in our state. You see, all public policy will eventually have an impact on everyone sitting in our churches. Dr. Robert White has been passionate about this and I know Thomas Hammond is as well in wanting Georgia Baptists to be represented “at the table” when public policy is being made. In this way we are bringing salt and light to bear on those pieces of legislation that impact us the most.
Why do we do it? Let me give you three quick reasons why:
Number one, we do it because we love God. Number two, we do it because we love people. It is impossible for us to prove our love for the God we have never seen if we do not love the people we see every day. In 1 John the Bible asks this: How can we prove that we love God whom we have never seen, if we do not love the people we see every day? Jesus reminds us that people will know we are His disciples by our love for one another.
The bottom line is that we are at the Capitol because of love. We love God and we love others.
But, the third reason we are there is because of the Gospel. Receiving the Gospel has turned us into salt and light in order that we can make a difference. But that salt is not any good if it stays in the shaker. Light is not any good if we put it under a bushel.
So, we are there because of the Gospel, but let me add that we are also there to share the Gospel! I want you to pray for me and to pray for our legislators. I would love to stand up at our next Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Committee meeting and say we had a number people come to faith in Christ during the legislative session.
I want you to know that when I am representing you, I am a “State Missionary” at the Capitol. It is imperative that, first and foremost, a representation of Christ and the Gospel is known at the Capitol!
As we represent Christ, we are going to be making stands regarding the moral and social issues of our day. Let me quickly share some of those.
It is paramount. It has moved its way to the top of our list of issues, because if we are not standing for religious freedom, then our ability to legally do missions and evangelism is going to come into jeopardy. And so, standing on religious freedom and, in particular, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is of extreme importance.
I am thankful that our new governor, Brian Kemp, has made a commitment to the passage of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. With that in mind, it is important that we as Baptists keep our governor and his wife, Marty, in our constant prayers. He’s a man who knows the Lord and what is right. He’s wanting to work with Georgia Baptists and all Georgians in protecting our First Amendment Rights.
For four years we have been able to stop every single piece of gambling, from Daily Fantasy Sports to casino gambling. But I am telling you friends, I do not believe the gambling industry is ready to give up. It is going to be harder than ever before, but we are going to work to stop the expansion of gambling in our state and to protect our families from its harm.
The fact is overlooked that every $1 raised in tax revenue from legalized gambling results in $3 of social costs back to the community! See these facts from Professor John Kindt.
We intend to work with Governor Kemp in trying to put together a bill to stop all abortions at the time that a fetal heartbeat is detected. That legislation would begin to stop all abortions from approximately six weeks onward.
This is a tremendous piece of legislation being pursued in a number of states. Georgia Baptists are working with organizations and faith leaders here in our state to support such an effort!
It is coming. And it is a very hard issue to deal with. We do not take a position on medical marijuana, but do on cultivation and recreational use. See this GBC resolution.
It is coming at us with an unbelievable force, both in our state and across our nation. Here is an article on the national impact. But we are going to try to minimize any other expansion of marijuana in our state.
Most people do not understand that the detriment from the abuse of alcohol is greater than the opioid issue in our nation. It is being overlooked. We are trying to retain the restrictions already in our laws. Evidence shows that “if you decrease availability in any manner, shape, or form it will decrease consumption.”
Public accommodation laws
These pertain to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. These laws are going to be a tremendous detriment to our state if we are not able to stop them. Many of the laws end up being a potential source of religious discrimination.
These are just some of the issues we know we will be dealing with during this legislative session. As always, we will keep you up-to-date on any issues that would have an effect on Georgia Baptists. We will also be sending out alerts that may require your action as well as your prayers.
Lastly, let me mention to you two important events coming up.
Pastors Day. It is exciting to tell you that we have Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, to be with us for our annual Pastors Day at the State Capitol. He will be speaking on our theme “Stand for Religious Liberty.” I will be giving a legislative briefing, along with invited legislators and activists who will also provide updates. It will include a meal and also a prayer walk at the Capitol. All of this will take place Feb. 26 starting at 10 a.m. We can only take 200 people, so please get registered today. We invite all of our ministers and their spouses to join us! You do not want to miss this event.
The Legislative Prayer Breakfast. This annual event is not about politics or policy issues. Each year we have a pastor come in and share the Word of God along with Brother Jon Duncan leading in special music. It is a great time of ministry and encouragement to legislators. This year it will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 27. It will be a privilege to have former Georgia Baptist Convention president, Pastor Mike Stone from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, to bring the message.