Advice from latest Georgia Baptist evangelism conference: Don't be deterred by church folks who look like they were weaned on dill pickles


TIFTON, Ga. — Georgia Baptists passionate about sharing the gospel shouldn’t be deterred by church folks “looking like they were weaned on dill pickles.”

Instead, they should gladly share the good news with others, regardless of where they live or how they live.

That was the combined message of two preachers at the latest of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Called to Witness evangelism conferences that began Sunday night in Tifton.

“Evangelism transcends all regions, transcends all races, and transcends all cultures,” said W. Thomas Hammond Jr., the Mission Board’s executive director who called on the nearly 350 people in attendance to renew their passion for telling others about Jesus. “The gospel is for everybody.”

More than 1,300 pastors and other Christian leaders have gathered for the Called to Witness evangelism conferences, which have been held at locations across the state over the past month. The latest conference, being held at Northside Baptist Church in Tifton, is scheduled to run through noon on Monday.

Hammond said the annual evangelism conferences play an important role in inspiring the state’s 1.4 million Georgia Baptists to reach out to the estimated 7 million people in the state who don’t go to church.

It seems to be working. Georgia Baptist churches are reporting huge gains in the state’s baptism count, which now stands at nearly 21,000 for the past year, the largest number since 2016.

Steve Foster, a Georgia Baptist Mission Board evangelism consultant, said that number represents a more than 30% increase in baptisms in the past year and a more than 90% increase since 2020.

Hammond urged his listeners to make sure every Georgian is told about Jesus, regardless of their stations in life. He pointed to some of the people Jesus personally reached out to during his public ministry — a demoniac, a thief on the cross, and other people who seemingly had little to offer but who have been memorialized in the scriptures for the impact they have had.

“Every person is valuable,” Hammond said. “Jesus died for all.”

Herb Reavis, senior pastor at North Jacksonville Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., echoed that sentiment when he took the stage.

“God doesn’t accept me on the basis of my height, my weight, my IQ,” Reavis said. “No, it’s me trusting Jesus Christ, being born again. My acceptance is on the basis of grace and the finished work of Jesus Christ.”

Reavis challenged Georgia Baptists not to stop sharing the good news of Christ.

“I am not going to sit around in a religious rut,” he declared. “I am not going to back up and sit around with a bunch of folks looking like they were weaned on dill pickles, with a face so long they can suck marbles out of gopher holes. I’m not going to sit around with a defeatist mentality. I’m going to rise. I’m going to get revived. And I’m going to shout it for the glory of God, because, let me tell you something tonight, I believe God wants to send a great spiritual awakening, wants to send a great revival to bring in one last harvest before we move out of this world.”

Over the past year, signs of spiritual revival have been popping up in communities across Georgia with huge numbers of people making commitments to Christ in evangelistic outreaches. One of the largest instances was in October when some 1,600 people responded to the gospel during a four-day crusade in the south Georgia town of Baxley.