Georgia's final count shows baptisms up 106% since 2020, 40% over the past year


SUWANEE, Ga. — With a final count now complete, Georgia Baptist churches saw a 40% increase in baptisms over the past year and a more than 106% increase since 2020.

Steve Foster, an evangelism consultant for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said reports from the state’s churches showed 21,151 new believers were baptized in 2023, up from 15,127 in 2022.

Foster called the increase “a tremendous accomplishment.”

“It is a result of God’s favor on our pastors and church leaders who put a major focus on leading their churches to pray for lost people by name and share Jesus through personal witnessing and evangelistic events,” he said. “Georgia Baptist should feel grateful to God, yet desperate for a gospel movement that would sweep across Georgia and spiritually impact the vast lostness in our state.”

Baptisms are reported on what’s known as the Annual Church Profile, a yearly census of Southern Baptist churches. The numbers submitted to the Mission Board showed the state’s low water mark for baptisms was 10,243 in 2020, when many churches had canceled worship services and halted evangelistic outreaches to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Since then, Georgia Baptists have ramped up outreaches, triggering spiritual movements throughout the state.

Foster said he expects to see baptism numbers continue to rise in coming years.

“I don’t have a target number for 2024 but do believe we are on track to experience 25,000 to 30,000 baptisms per year in the future if we will seek God, pray for harvest workers, and sow the gospel in every way possible,” he said.

In Bowman last week, 60 people made salvation decisions at a wild game dinner at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Pastor Chris Pritchett called it “incredible” to see so many men responding to the gospel on a single evening.

Similar instances of mass salvations have become almost routine since the pandemic subsided in Georgia, and wild game dinners have counted for a good many of them.

A menu of wild boar, venison, and alligator, mixed with an ample serving of the gospel, proved to be an irresistible combination at Kennesaw First Baptist Church earlier this month when 28 people made salvation decisions.

Kennesaw First Baptist has been doing annual wild game dinners for 23 years, using them to reach men who may not otherwise go to church. At this year’s event, Kevin Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church in Villa Rica, presented the gospel.

The immediate past president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, Williams has been seeing large numbers of people responding to the gospel at events across the state where he preaches. He had at least 70 salvation decisions in the first two weeks of February at his own church. And at his church’s “Passion Play” last Easter, 53 people made salvation decisions.

“I love to see people give their lives to Christ,” Williams said. “Nothing excites me more.”

In Swainsboro, 55 men committed their lives to Christ at a wild game dinner in January.

Billy Brinson, missions strategist in the Emanuel Missionary Baptist Association, said 1,100 men had gathered for that event,  some 200 of them standing along walls because all the seats were filled.

“God was there,” Brinson said. “I’d never seen that many people in a gathering in Emanuel County before. It was awesome.”

Chuck McAlister, a South Carolina pastor and longtime host of the AdventureBound Outdoors TV show who presented the gospel at the Bowman event, said churches are dealing with challenging times that require unique strategies to reach men with the gospel.

“The day of simply expecting the unchurched to come to our churches to accept Jesus are over,” McAlister said. “We must go to them. Jesus said that He would make us fishers of men. That implies, as all good fishermen know, that we must know the bait that attracts men. If done correctly, a wild game dinner can be the bait that attracts unchurched men who love the outdoors but would never think of setting foot in a church.”