MACON, Ga. – Pastors have the most important jobs and perhaps the toughest as they work to share Jesus in a culture that is growing increasingly resistant to the gospel, the leader of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board said Thursday.
Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr. said that’s why it’s important that the state’s pastors know they have a crucial support network available to them through the Mission Board.
“Pastors are our heroes,” Hammond said, repeating a mantra he adopted for the Mission Board when he arrived in his role nearly five years ago. “Churches are our priority. And Georgia is our mission field.”
Georgia pastors had gathered Thursday at Northway Church in Macon for a daylong meeting that provided an inside look at the work of the Mission Board. In that meeting, Hammond and his staff outlined a variety of services the Mission Board offers to the state’s pastors and churches as they work to share the gospel.
“We’re here for you,” Hammond said. “We’re all on this journey together, and we want to walk with you every step of the way.”
Georgia, he said, is home to about 7.5 million people who don’t go to church and who have no relationship with Christ.
“So we live in a mission field,” he said. “We feel that; we see that; and we want to do something about that. And we want to do it partnership. We don’t need Lone Rangers out there. We can accomplish much more together.”
Chris Reynolds, leader of the Mission Board’s pastor wellness team, reminded pastors they are not alone. The Mission Board’s staff, he said, is always available to them in tough times and in good times.
Hammond said ministry isn’t easy, “and in the days ahead it’s going to get harder and harder, and we’re going to need each other more and more. We want you to know there is a band of brothers and sisters all across the state with the same passion and commitment that you have for reaching the lost, for ministering and caring for those who are hurting.”
The Mission Board, which represents about 3,500 churches with 1.4 million members, is built on two rails: pastor wellness and church strengthening.
“Our success runs on these two rails,” Hammond said. “If we do these two things well, we feel like we’ll be successful. If we have strong, healthy pastors, they will lead their churches to become strong and healthy. We’re here to help; we're here to minister; we’re here to resource our churches; we’re here to do whatever we can for you.”
Among many other services to pastors and churches, the Mission Board organizes health care summits that provide health screenings, assessments and testing for all church staff members and their spouses, schedules marriage strengthening retreats for pastors and their wives, offers scholarships for pastors’ kids to Georgia’s three Baptist colleges, hosts events to encourage and inspire pastors through spiritual renewal and the sharing of best ministry practices, and arranges pastor fellowship outings paid for by donors who love pastors and want to bless them.
Though the Mission Georgia initiative, the Mission Board is helping churches minister to children stuck in the state’s fostercare system, reach out to refugees who have fled war and famines in other countries to start new lives in the U.S., start childhood literacy programs in hopes of giving kids an educational foundation that will help them succeed in life, rescuing women and children from human trafficking, and assisting pregnant women with pre- and post-natal care.
All of those initiatives are gospel-centered, providing opportunities to share Jesus with some of the state’s most vulnerable people.
“These are all hard issues,” said Beth Ann Williams, the Mission Board’s women’s ministry strategist. “They are messy. They are hard to talk about.”
Levi Skipper, lead strategist for the Mission Board’s church strengthening team, said the Mission Board serves churches to advance the gospel. He said his team does that by engaging with church leaders, equipping them with tools and skills that strengthen local churches, and empowering them to replicate proven strategies.
"This just gives the tip of the iceberg of what we do," Skipper said.
Skipper’s team focuses helping churches with evangelism, discipleship, worship and music, next generation ministries, and missions.
“We believe that you have the most important job in Georgia,” said Andy Childs, a pastor wellness catalyst for the Mission Board, told pastors. “We want you to know we’ve got your back.”
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