Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director Thomas Hammond speaks with African American pastors at a conference in Duluth on Wednesday.
By ROGER ALFORD
The Christian Index
DULUTH, Ga. – Despite being portrayed negatively in the media almost daily, Southern Baptists have good reasons to celebrate, the leader of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board told African American pastors at a conference here Wednesday.
“I promise you, America does not want Georgia Baptists or Southern Baptists to go away,” Thomas Hammond said. “We’re the ones feeding the hungry, clothing the poor. We’re the ones helping young women escape human trafficking. We’re the ones coming alongside hurricane victims to get their lives back to normal. Much good is being done, but the media doesn’t talk about that.”
Hammond said both traditional and social media have been focusing on controversies at the national level while churches across Georgia and the nation are busy ministering to their communities and supporting missionaries around the world.
“While these national issues are extremely serious and must be handled appropriately, there’s a lot to celebrate about being Southern Baptist,” he said.
Each year, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board hosts a series of conferences for pastors from across the state, inviting them in for a closeup view of what they’re accomplishing together as 1.4 million Georgia Baptists in 3,600 churches.
Dexter Hardy, pastor of Lifepoint Church in Marietta, said Wednesday’s conference was encouraging, especially at a time when the Southern Baptist Convention is being bombarded with negativity to the point that some people are questioning why they should be affiliated with the denomination.
Hammond said pastors need to remind their congregations of all the good that they’re accomplishing by working together. How that together, they’re saving unborn babies, fighting to keep casinos out of the state, ministering in jails and prisons, helping the homeless, providing forever homes for orphans, offering hope and help to the downtrodden, and, most importantly, shining the light of Christ into a dark world.
“This is no time to slow up, let up, shut up or give up,” Hammond said. “It is time for us to continue on being faithful to what we’ve been called to do.”
More than 18,000 young people, ready to offer a fresh jolt of enthusiasm, are preparing in Southern Baptist seminaries to become pastors and missionaries and to serve in other ministerial roles.
Hammond also pointed pastors to results of a LifeWay Research study released earlier this year that showed 81 percent of Southern Baptists thought their pastors were doing a phenomenal job guiding their churches through COVID.
That leaves roughly 10 percent of people who thought pastors went too far in their handling of COVID and 10 percent who thought pastors didn’t go far enough.
“No matter what decision you make, you’re going to make one of these two fringe groups upset, and guess what upset people do: they make a lot of noise.”
Hammond also told the pastors he, along the entire Mission Board staff, wants to be an encouragement to each of them.
“I want to be right beside of you, holding your hands up while you’re lifting up the name of Christ,” he said. “There’s nothing that builds partnership like relationship, and relationship brings trust. And when we have trust through relationship, that allows us to work through matters. All kinds of chaos is out in the world, but we as the body of Christ can model what partnership, relationship and trust look like.”