Opening session of Georgia Baptist annual meeting focuses on ‘Calling out the Called’

Georgia Baptist messengers gather at Church on Main in Snellville for 3-day annual meeting described as part revival, part business meeting


SNELLVILLE, Ga. – Johnson Ferry Baptist Church pastor Clay Smith challenged “young, old, and everyone in between” at the opening session of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meeting to listen for God’s call on their lives to take the gospel to the nations.

“There is a specific role for some of you to go — to go to another culture, to go to another nation, to go to another land,” Smith told a crowd of nearly 1,000 people gathered at the Church on Main in Snellville. “Missiologists tell us there are about 7,200 people groups in the world that are still unengaged, which constitutes about 3.4 billion people on this planet right now who most likely will live and die never having heard the gospel.”

Georgia Baptist Convention President Josh Saefkow had made the emphasis of this year’s three-day annual meeting Calling Out the Called in hopes, of helping church identify the next generation of church leaders who God is calling to share the gospel in the state, nation and world.

To help prepare those church leaders, Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr. committed an additional $125,000 for each of the state’s three Baptist colleges — Brewton-Parker College, Shorter University and Truett McConnell University — for scholarships for students who have been called to ministry and an additional $150,000 for scholarships  for students preparing for ministry at any of the six Southern Baptist seminaries across the nation.

Smith, whose church is in Marietta, told the crowd on Sunday that he believes God is calling many of the young people in attendance to Christian service.

“But I’m not just talking to you,” he said, gesturing to older people in the sanctuary. “I’m talking to them. Even if you’re not the one to go, God is calling you to be a part of others going — sending, celebrating, resourcing, praying, and giving so that others can go.”

Georgia Baptists from across the state began arriving in Snellville Sunday afternoon for the annual meeting that has been described as part religious revival and part business meeting.

Some 1,200 Georgia Baptist church leaders had preregistered as messengers for the meeting.

“I have been coming to annual meetings all my life,” said Bethany Beck, one of the early arrivals and daughter of longtime Georgia pastor Andrew Hammack of Albany, “Annual meetings have always been like family vacations for us.”

A 225-member choir made up of high school and college students kicked off this year’s annual meeting at 6 p.m. Sunday as part of what was billed as an inspirational service. The Georgia Baptist Executive Committee meets at 10 a.m. Monday, following in the afternoon by the Georgia Baptist Preaching Conference.

On Tuesday, messengers will decide whether to re-elect Georgia Baptist Convention President Josh Saefkow, pastor at Flat Creek Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

Saefkow was initially elected at last year’s annual meeting in Augusta and has no announced opponent for the position. Traditionally, Georgia Baptist presidents draw no opposition for second terms.

Messengers will also elect at least two vice presidents.

Some of Georgia’s most successful preachers will be on the platform this year, including Jason Dees, pastor of Christ Covenant in Atlanta, and Chuck Chambers, senior pastor of Woolsey Baptist Church in Fayette County.