DULUTH — Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee members voted today with a singular “yes” to the search team’s recommendation that Alpharetta pastor Thomas Hammond become the convention’s next executive director.
“We wanted someone who loves Jesus, loves people, loves the Church, loves making disciples, and loves Georgia Baptists,” said search team chairman Bob Jolly, pastor of Cumming First Baptist Church. “We wanted someone doctrinally sound, denominationally connected, diversity-inclusive, and dedicated to unity.
“We wanted someone who was Great Commission-driven, Georgia-focused, but globally-aware and concerned.”
Experience at all denominational levels
Hammond, 56, fits the wish list, bringing 17 years of denominational service from across the Southern Baptist Convention. Prior to joining Alpharetta First Baptist, he served as vice president for Convention Advancement for the SBC Executive Committee, senior director for Church Evangelism at the North American Mission Board, and director of missions at Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, NC. In addition, he was minister of evangelism at Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula and evangelism associate at the Ohio Baptist Convention.
In his time as lead pastor of Alpharetta since 2013, Hammond led First Baptist to join the top ten percent of fastest-growing churches in the state convention. AFBC planted three churches, began a Latino and Persian ministry, and increased its Cooperative Program giving from one percent to six percent. During his tenure, First Baptist baptized some 250 people. From 2015-17 he served as Georgia Baptist Convention president.
Hammond has also been a trustee of King’s Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, Truett McConnell University, and LifeWay Christian Resources. Midwestern, New Orleans, Southeastern, Southwestern, and Mid-America Baptist seminaries have all invited him over the years as a guest lecturer. He has been chaplain for Alpharetta Police and Fire departments.
The executive director-elect spearheaded a concentrated effort to increase Easter attendance in 2017 with The Big Invite. He also led in the creation of The Net, an evangelism software available for pastors and churches; TheBigDay.org, a call to praying neighbors to Christ, as well as organizing other calls to evangelism and fellowship among pastors. As GBC president, Hammond championed a movement among pastors to pray for one another.
A graduate of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Hammond and his wife, Kerri, have two daughters, Katie and Karley.
‘Not a position, a responsibility’
Jolly told Executive Committee members the search team had entered in four hours of prayer and Scripture “before entertaining a name.” Team members sought feedback from Georgia Baptists and bathed all resumes received in prayer. A public survey brought additional input as to what Georgia Baptists looked for in the successor to J. Robert White, who will retire at the end of the year after 26 years as executive director.
“I could not be more excited or more pleased than for Thomas and Kerri Hammond in leading Georgia Baptists in the days ahead,” White remarked after the vote. “Thomas and I have had many lunches together. Kerri is precious to Janice and me. We are dear friends.”
White noted how a couple of Sundays ago Hammond allowed White to baptize two of White’s grandchildren who attend Alpharetta First Baptist. “Thank you [for allowing me] to contribute to your baptism total this year,” White quipped to Hammond.
“What an honor and overwhelming, humbling experience this is for Kerri and myself,” Hammond said. “I appreciate the statement that this is not a position; it’s a responsibility. Truly it’s a responsibility that one man cannot do. Only God can do this. And I can tell you, we will do this together.
“I’m standing on the shoulders of a man (White) who I’ve respected for so many years because of the work he has done, and because of his leading with integrity.”
Hammond posited the Georgia Baptist Convention as the strongest in the SBC, giving much of the credit to its pastors’ “sacrifice, leadership, and commitment to the Great Commission.”
“My prayer is that we will lead out not only in evangelism, church revitalization, and planting churches, but also in what we do nationally and internationally,” he said.