Easter brings huge crowds to Georgia Baptist churches as COVID wanes


LEXINGTON, Ga. – Easter brought the largest crowds in at least two years to Georgia Baptist churches, a clear indication that people have put the COVID-19 pandemic behind them and have returned to in-person worship.

“The hand of God was on our churches this year for Easter in a special way,” said Scott Smith, director of communications for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

At Lexington Baptist Church, average attendance of 100 to 125 people more than doubled to a standing-room-only crowd of 255 on Sunday. That’s in a town with a population of about 200 people.

Pastor Matt Bartlett said Lexington Baptist used the state Mission Board’s The Big Invite plan to reach out to local residents, and, he said, it worked wonderfully.

“We give God all the glory and all the credit,” Bartlett said. “We’re just so thankful. There was not a seat left to be had in our church. The choir loft was full. Kids sat on the floor. People are hungry and hurting after two years of COVID, and I think that God is moving in Georgia right now.”

Smith, an evangelist and architect of The Big Invite, said the initiative has been beneficial to churches across the state.

“God seemed to bless it again to help many get to preach the gospel to record crowds this year,” Smith said. “Most every report I’ve been getting is that churches had double their normal attendance for Easter Sunday.”

At First Baptist Church of Moultrie, which also used The Big Invite, Pastor Matt Peek reported: "We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 800-plus attendance which is about double what we normally run.”

At Trinity Baptist Church in Danielsville, Pastor Robby Brown reported 688 people attending two Easter services. That was 200 more than the church’s previous Easter record.

Rock Branch Baptist Church in Elberton, which has an average Sunday attendance of about 250 people, reported Easter attendance of 550. Rock Branch used The Big Invite, adding an extra incentive by giving away $30 gas cards at local gas stations leading up to Easter.

“Many of those who got gift cards showed up for Easter services saying that they couldn’t believe a church was doing that,” said Rock Branch Pastor Kevin Vaughn. “It really made an impression, and they made sure to accept the invitation to attend.”

Smith said The Big Invite was simply one tool churches could use to reach out to their communities.

“Not every church who had great crowds gather for services used The Big Invite, but we have seen that implementing the step-by-step plan found in The Big Invite delivers relatively predictable results,” he said. “And the first step is prayer. It’s always prayer before promotion.”

Steven Nichols, pastor at Son Rise Community Church in Summerville, said his congregation saw their prayers answered with each visitor who walked into the sanctuary. Each of them had been praying for five people for five weeks leading up to Easter.

The state Mission Board found higher attendance in churches statewide.

Penia Baptist Church in Cordele had 139 in its Easter service last year. This year, the number swelled to more than 300.

Midway Church in Villa Rica had a total of 4,330 people in its three morning worship services, a record high.

Jason Britt, pastor of Bethlehem Church, which had record attendance of about 8,000 on Sunday, said Easter 2022 sent a resounding message: “The pandemic is very much over.”