SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. – Sometimes churches struggle in their valiant effort to survive. When a church membership ages and there are few or no young couples with children or teenagers, it becomes difficult to attract other young couples. If a church no longer has a critical mass or enough people in attendance in their worship services those who visit the church may not return be inspired or inclined to return.
The First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs is beautiful, the grounds are immaculate, the buildings are well kept, the fellowship hall is clean and bright, and the core of people who are active members are grateful for what God has done through their congregation over the years.
Carl Marshall, who has been serving as the transitional pastor of the Sandy Springs First Baptist Church since September 2022, stated, “The church, once a formidable force for Christ in the area, has declined for years. The membership had reached a point of desperation. Some wanted to form a search team and find a pastor and continue to follow the course of years past. However, the leadership team was willing to explore options and find a path that might revitalize the church.”
Marshall was encouraged to contact Jason Dees, pastor of Christ Covenant Church in the Buckhead section of Atlanta to discuss the possibility of a merger. Jimmy Baughcum, the Executive Director/Lead Strategist for the Atlanta Metro Baptist Association, also made some recommendations regarding churches in the association that could possibly be part of a merger. Marshall also contacted a pastor that he knew whose church might be willing to develop a partnership with the Sandy Springs church.
Three churches were interviewed; and the overriding question in the hearts of the Sandy Springs leadership was, “Which church would do the best job of reaching our region of Metro Atlanta for Christ?” After the interviews, another set of questions were sent to each church. The questions related to doctrine, church polity, the Cooperative Program and their relationship to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Sandy Springs First Baptist Church’s Constitution stated that if the church ever needed to dissolve the property could only be used by a 501c3 religious group. Marshall insisted that it was too broad a statement and he urged the church leadership to change the Constitution to state that the property must go to a GBMB church, and the distribution of all other assets would be determined by a separate vote. Furthermore, he specified that if the church receiving the property disbanded, the property would go to the GBMB for its future use to be determined.
Christ Covenant Church was the church selected for the merger. This church located in the Buckhead area of Atlanta is only six years old, but is a flourishing congregation that is growing spiritually, financially, and numerically.
In a previous article in The Christian Index it was stated, “The rapid growth of Christ Covenant and the depth of commitment that characterizes so many who are a part of the fellowship is convincing evidence that God is mightily at work in this burgeoning fellowship of believers.”
On Sunday September 24, Pastor Jason Dees and as many as 75 of his members from Christ Covenant Church came to First Baptist Church Sandy Springs for the morning worship service. The congregation comprised of members from the two churches created a critical mass and the service was a blessing from the first song of praise to the benediction. Several people from Sandy Springs stated, “We heard a baby cry in our church today. It was the first time in a very long time since that has happened in our church.
Pastor Dees preceded his sermon by saying, “We are humbled and honored to be a part of this merger. Our church voted overwhelmingly last week to join you in this partnership for the Gospel.”
Dees sermon based on II Corinthians 5:16-21 was inspiring and challenging. He explained, “This is a good text for beginning our partnership – a partnership that must be centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
It was both a scholarly and a practical message in which he focused at the end of his remarks on “Jesus being made sin for us who knew no sin.” He then stated, “If this partnership is based on this eternal truth, it will last longer than any of us will live, but if it is based on anything else, this effort will die and fail.”
Christ Covenant Church will provide leadership in worship and in recreating the vision and purpose of the Sandy Springs Baptist Church, but the future looks incredibly promising. Several people who were present for the Sunday morning worship and the dinner following the service expressed their belief that the 400/500-seat worship center would be filled within 18 months. Pastor Dees agreed. First Baptist will likely be called Christ Covenant at Sandy Springs.
Marshall added, “This has been a great experience. The people at Sandy Springs have been easy to work with. They have a deep desire to see this community reached for Christ. It is my prayer that this process will be duplicated with other churches in the state that are looking for a way to renew their church and its ministries.
“Fewer churches will close their doors if they turn their property over to another church that is strong enough to replant, revitalize or refresh their ministry.”
Carl Marshall will continue as the transitional interim pastor at First Baptist Church in Sandy Springs at least through the end of this year and help set the stage for the amazing reformation which is anticipated.