WARNER ROBINS— Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee members received updates about Cooperative Program giving and heard testimony from a south Georgia pastor on Hurricane Michael’s destruction, among other items, during their meeting in conjunction with the Georgia Baptist Convention annual gathering, held this year at Second Baptist Church.
While introducing David Williams, pastor of Iron City Baptist Church, First Baptist, Ludowici Pastor Eric Rentz mentioned how he’d never heard of the little town before. Taking the mic, Williams countered with, “Well, I’d never heard of Ludowici, either,” to laughter from the crowd.
Taking a more serious tone, Williams recounted how he and his wife along with their children, ages 1 and 3, rode out the storm. “The last thing my wife and two boys heard before the power went off was the hurricane is making landfall and getting stronger. [Hurricanes] aren’t supposed to do that.”
‘God … sent someone’
The family huddled in a small hallway, alongside their 85-pound dog. Soon, they heard water falling through the ceiling in the dining room. With no cell service by this point, Williams wasn’t sure how long they should stay where they were. Even if they could go somewhere, he wasn’t sure where to go.
“By ten o’clock at night it’s pitch-black with no power, no moon, no stars, there was a phenomenon where the clouds were on the ground,” he said. “I walked out my door and couldn’t see the church (the Williamses lived in the parsonage next door).”
In the following weeks, Williams and other men from his church cleaned yards, tarped holes in roofs, and basically did whatever they could to help the people of Iron City just as shellshocked as he was that first night.
Williams admitted he’d been struggling with pastoral burnout before the storm. However, helping others helped Williams. And despite the good-hearted jabs during his introduction, he credited Rentz and Greg Bentley, associational missions strategist for Altamaha-New Sunbury associations, for the relief they provided. “If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where we’d be today,” Williams said.
“God, in His faithfulness, sent someone and did what He promised He would do, to take care of us.”
Cooperative Program giving
Executive Director J. Robert White reported that from October 2017 through September 2018 Georgia Baptists collected $62,213,262.68 in mission dollars. Of that, 55.77 percent was sent on to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee in Nashville. And while Cooperative Program giving year-to-date lagged behind by .1 percent, giving for October 2018 outpaced October 2017 significantly by 21.8 percent.
Pastor Michael Wilkes of Center Baptist Church in Cleveland opened with the devotion, urging fellow Committee members to not be discouraged but keep their eyes on Christ.
“Ministry isn’t done on the mountain; it’s down in the valley,” he said. “Only when we see Jesus will we get back to the mission.”
GBC President Mike Stone addressed his decision to not seek a customary second term, citing his desire to be a good husband, father, and pastor in addition to serving as Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee chairman. Stone further prompted Committee members to invest in reaching the younger generation.
“There is so much negativity about them,” he said. “You can either curse the darkness or shine the light. The gospel of Jesus Christ is still the power to put us on Mission Possible.”
Upcoming evangelism conference, Index senior editor reports
State Missionary Larry Wynn issued an invitation for those gathered to attend the Georgia Baptist Evangelism Conference Jan. 28-29 at Central Baptist Church in Warner Robins.
“Each speaker is a leader in evangelism, but brings a personal perspective,” he said. “You have a vision. You have a passion. Nothing as a pastor inspired my leaders more than to take them to a conference like this. It put us all on the same page.”
Gerald Harris, senior editor of The Christian Index, reported on The Index’s 73 percent growth in readership since 2016 as well as key stories driving online traffic. Among them were White’s announcement that he would be retiring at the end of the year and the announcement of Thomas Hammond as the choice to be White’s successor.
Harris, who will retire at the end of the year, reflected on his tenure at The Index.
“I would like to be a man-pleaser but I was not called to do that,” he stated. “My calling is to please God and be a watchman on the wall.
“The churches in our Convention are living in an unprecedented time. There was a time when there was a Christian consensus in our society. But now, we’re living in a society that’s becoming increasingly secular. Our faith has encountered a hostile culture. Our country is overrun with a socialist, humanistic, hedonistic, radical, lawless, anti-marriage, anti-God contingent.”
All that said, Harris agreed that it provides a time for Christians to shine with a very bright light. In fact, churches through the power of Christ can overcome the obstacles he listed.
“If a church that is lukewarm can overcome, we with the help of God can overcome anything. Those of us who preach and teach only have a limited amount of time to ring the bell on sin, lift up our voices with the sound of the trumpet, rally the troops, and call this nation back to God. Let’s do it with faith and fervor!”