Evangelism conference preachers Thomas Hammond, H.B. Charles urge Georgia Baptists to make sharing the gospel top priority


CONYERS, Ga. — Reaching the lost requires Christians to step outside their comfort zones to reach people who desperately need Jesus, preachers told Georgia Baptists on the second day of an evangelism conference in Conyers.

“If we’re going to reach this culture, we’re going to have to go to some places that will make us uncomfortable, and we’re going to have to do some things that make our people become uncomfortable,” said W. Thomas Hammond Jr., executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “You’ve just got to go on that road less traveled.”

More than 400 pastors and other Christian leaders gathered at First Baptist Church in Conyers for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Called to Witness evangelism conference Sunday and Monday in a Bible Belt state where an estimated 7 million people don’t go to church.

“There’s a culture that we’re trying to reach, and then there’s the church culture,” Hammond said. “And in our church culture, there are taboos, and I will tell you some of church culture taboos will prevent us from reaching the culture that we’re called to reach. In fact, it can come to the point where the lost mission field appears to the church like it’s the enemy when they are the ones we’ve been sent to reach with the gospel.”

The state's Southern Baptist churches have seen huge gains in the area of evangelism in the past year, surpassing 20,000 baptisms for the first time since 2017. Steve Foster, a Georgia Baptist Mission Board evangelism consultant, said that represents a more than 30% increase in baptisms in 2023 and a more than 90% increase since 2020.

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. But the Index has documented a year-long series of mass salvations, some measured in dozens, others in hundreds.

H.B. Charles, pastor at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., said the church overall is in desperate need of spiritual renewal.

“When the world looks at the church, what it sees is the world,” Charles said. “Worse, when the Lord looks at the church, what He sees is the world. The church is need of a heaven-sent, Christ-exalting, Spirit-led, gospel-saturated, truth-given, life-transforming, God-glorifying revival.”

Charles told Georgia Baptists the Lord has provided that in the past, and He is willing to do it again.

“Churches go through a lifecycle that starts with a man, moves from a man to a ministry, to a mission, to a museum, to a mausoleum,” he said. “If we’re not careful, yesterday’s success can become today’s complacency that leads to tomorrow’s failure.”

Charles warned that the enemy “is not so much after us as he is after the next generation.”

“We need revival not just for our current generation, but we need revival so that the church can have a strong and sustained witness to the next generation,” he said. “You may be slow to teach your children the truth, but the devil is not slow to teach your children lies.”