Results of new survey affirm what Georgia Baptists have been seeing, that people are open to spiritual conversations


SUWANEE, Ga. — A survey that quizzed Americans on their openness to hearing the gospel has affirmed what Georgia Baptists have been seeing on the frontlines of ministry, that people are eager to talk about Jesus.

“Across all generations, the majority of people are spiritually open,” the Barna Group reported in an article last week.

Teens are especially “in a state of amplified spiritual openness,” according to Barna, a research organization that monitors cultural and religious trends in America.

In Georgia, people of all ages and in every region of the state have been turning to Christ in significant numbers since the COVID-19 pandemic subsided. And, with summer Vacation Bible School in full swing, churches are reporting large numbers of students making professions of faith.

At Nicholson Baptist Church’s Vacation Bible School, 65 children and teenagers made salvation decisions in the past week and 45 were baptized in a single night.

Levi Skipper, who leads the Georgia Baptist Mission Board team that helps train churches in evangelism, said the key is “clearly, simply and boldly sharing Christ and calling people to a response.”

“Most people who come to Christ do so before the age of 18,” Skipper said. “Therefore, it is incumbent upon us that we remain faithful to reaching the next generation with the gospel.”

The results of recent gospel outreaches in Georgia reflect Barna’s findings regarding spiritual openness.

Earlier this month, 73 middle and high schoolers made salvation decisions at the Mission Board’s IMPACT camp at Shorter University.

“God is clearly doing something in this next generation,” said Chris Trent, Next Gen catalyst for the Mission Board.

Another 31 students at the IMPACT camp said they sensed the Lord calling them into ministry, whether as pastors, missionaries or into other roles within the church.

At Fayetteville’s New Hope Baptist Church, 86 children responded to the gospel during Vacation Bible School attended by more than 600 children on the congregation's two campuses. And at the 1025 Church in Monroe and Statham, some 500 children gathered for Vacation Bible School in early June. Of those, 45 made professions of faith.

At least 27 students in Stephens, Banks and Franklin counties have made professions of faith during the school year that just ended through Christian learning centers that provide students a place to study the Bible and pray together.

“Seeing students get saved is always miraculous, but we’re also seeing students sharing their faith, taking the gospel back into their schools and homes,” said Noel Pauley, director of the learning center in Stephens County.

Center Baptist Church in Robertstown recorded 37 salvation decisions at a trout tournament on the Chattahoochee River that drew more than 400 people to the Chattahoochee River.

When the tournament ended, Stacy Dyer, a mission strategist in Blue Ridge and former host of the Extreme Christian Outdoors television program, shared the gospel with participants.

Annual church reports submitted to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board show baptisms have risen by an eye-catching 47% in the past two years. They rose from 10,243 reported in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was gripping the state to 15,071 last year.

In the first quarter of 2023, 119 college and university students made salvation decisions through Baptist Collegiate Ministries, said Beverly Skinner, collegiate ministry catalyst for the Mission Board.

“We’re definitely seeing a move of God in Georgia like we haven’t seen in a long, long time,” said Villa Rica Pastor Kevin Williams where 53 people surrendered to Christ at a Passion play attended by more than 4,000 people last month.

In some instances, several churches in a single community have joined together for evangelistic outreaches, as was the case with Love Loud Bowden, where 32 people made professions of faith.

Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta had seen 43 baptisms as of March and 67 since Christmas. Others that have seen big numbers of salvation decisions include Pleasant Valley South Baptist Church in Silver Creek where 21 people made salvation decisions at sportsmen’s banquet, at Dudley Baptist Church where 42 people made salvation decisions, and at Hopeful Baptist Church in Camillia where 30 people made salvation decisions.

In February, 41 people surrendered to Christ at a wild game dinner in the fellowship hall at Bethel Baptist Church in the tiny community of Omega where some 400 men had gathered.

In January, First Baptist Church in Blackshear reported 19 professions of faith at a venison supper. Another 28 people recommitted their lives to Christ at that event.