Regional SPARK conferences to pull together more than 40 speakers, including Hammond, Rainer, Saefkow, Sullivan


SUWANEE, Ga. — The Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s annual SPARK conferences are taking shape with more than 40 speakers who will share insights into how churches can grow disciples and reach their communities for Christ.

“The purpose of SPARK is to equip and empower lay leaders to their next step as a healthy disciple of Jesus,” said Scott Sullivan, the state Mission Board’s discipleship catalyst. “SPARK training will be available in six locations during the months of August and September. Our plan is to work alongside associational mission strategists and local pastors to train lay leaders from Georgia Baptist churches.”

Among the Mission Board’s most popular events, SPARK drew more than 1,600 attendees to regional sites around the state last year.

In SPARK, Georgia Baptist lay leaders will receive training in a myriad of areas, including evangelism and discipleship, church growth, public relations, church security, children and student ministries, missions, men, church administration, and more.

Sullivan said SPARK concentrates on training for lay leaders, which, he said, is key to strengthening churches.

Local leaders have pulled together a strong cast of speakers, including Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr., former Lifeway Christian Resources President Thom S. Rainer, and Georgia Baptist Convention President Josh Saefkow.

Hammond is the former lead pastor at Alpharetta First Baptist Church. He has held a variety of leadership roles within the Southern Baptist Convention, including as vice president for convention advancement at the SBC Executive Committee and senior director of church evangelism at the North American Mission Board.

Since retiring from Lifeway, Rainer has continued as a prolific author, church consultant, and founder of Church Answers, an online resource for church leaders. Among his books is the revered Autopsy of a Deceased Church that has given church leaders a sobering look at actions and inactions that can kill a church.

Saefkow, who holds a doctorate from Gateway Seminary in California, has been senior pastor at Flat Creek Baptist Church since 2016. He is a leading proponent of getting churches to engage in the public square, which he sees as especially important at a time when religious liberty is under attack.

Sullivan has been discipleship catalyst for the Mission Board for the past three years, a role in which he is tasked with helping 3,400 churches lead 1.4 million Gorgia Baptists to grow in their faith through discipleship initiatives. He is an author, thought leader, national discipleship consultant, and personal disciple-maker.

“Our team plans to rotate SPARK conferences around the regions of the state annually to provide equipping opportunities for all Georgia Baptists,” Sullivan said.

Churches can also get digital access to all the SPARK training at the website

The regional sites, along with registration links, are:

Southwest Region

First Baptist Church of Moultrie on August 12.

Northwest Region

Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Ellijay on August 13.

West Central Region

Roopville Road Baptist Church in Roopville on August 19.

Northeast Region

Beech Haven Baptist Church in Athens on August 26.

East Central Region

First Baptist Church in Sandersville on August 27.

Southeast Region

First Baptist Church in Statesboro on September 16.

“Participants who attend in-person events will receive free access to all SPARK training in the digital vault from the past three years,” Sullivan said. “This hybrid approach makes in-person and on-demand digital training available to every Georgia Baptist. Our Church Strengthening team, led by Dr. Levi Skipper, is excited about providing an experience that participants will not soon forget.