Thomas Hammond reaches 5-year mark at helm of state’s largest religious group

Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s executive director applauded for leading Georgia Baptists through pandemic, expanding Baptist Collegiate Ministries, focusing on pastor wellness, strengthening churches


SUWANEE, Ga. — Five years ago, W. Thomas Hammond Jr. was recommended to become executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board because of his heart for pastors and their churches and his passion for reaching wayward souls with the gospel.

Now, he’s being applauded for his accomplishments in the role.

The Georgia Baptist Administration Committee recognized Hammond on his fifth anniversary and thanked him for the strides the Mission Board has made in helping churches and their pastors navigate through uncertain times that included a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

“Thomas Hammond embodies the ministry values of Georgia Baptists,” said Administration Committee Chairman Tim Oliver. “In these first five years, he has proven that ‘pastors are our heroes’ through investments in pastor wellness. Thomas’ leadership toward a greater emphasis on Mission Georgia is a move to fulfill his oft-heard statement, ‘Georgia is our mission field.’”

Shortly after becoming executive director, Hammond restructured the Mission Board into two major branches, one dedicated to pastor wellness and the other to church strengthening. He describes those as the rails of the track on which the Mission Board runs. He also put Mission Board staff members into six designated regions of the state so that they would be closer to the pastors and churches they serve.

Hammond also clarified the focus of Mission Georgia, giving it a multi-faceted approach by helping churches become aware of and connected to the greatest needs across our state.

Knowing the value of Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Hammond has spearhead a push to get BCMs on every campus in the state. So far, that push has expanded the ministry to 44 campuses and is in the process of adding more.

Hammond also developed a revolutionary partnership with private investors to construct new BCM buildings at five of the state’s largest universities with the possibility to expand to additional campuses in the future.

In that deal, Georgia-based Covenant Capital Investors will spend more than $130 million to construct multi-story buildings that will provide prime space to the BCMs and greater opportunities to reach students for Christ.

These facilities will be completed at no cost to Georgia Baptists.

Hammond accomplished those things despite the COVID-19 pandemic and a 30-year downward trend in Cooperative Program giving.

“Thomas Hammond has faithfully led Georgia Baptists through one of the most difficult five-year spans that could be imagined,” said John McMillian, senior pastor at Crossroads Baptist Church in Eatonton. “Today our convention stands strong and positioned to see our best years ever.”

Rhys Stenner, senior pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville and Senoia, also applauded Hammond for his leadership during the pandemic.

“Thomas has vigorously pursued our agreed purpose for Georgia Baptists in the most challenging times in recent history, and much is being accomplished,” Stenner said. “Above all, he is a friend of pastors and churches. His devotion to the Lord and his willingness to die to self gives him a cheerful and able tenacity. He has been a friend to our leadership team at New Hope and helped us grow. I’m so thankful for his friendship and counsel, knowing that many more experience the same.”

David Mills, chairman of the Georgia Baptist Executive Committee and senior pastor at Beallwood Baptist Church in Columbus, described Hammond’s care for people is one of his most endearing qualities.

“He has an ability to communicate his sincerity and heart to people,” Mills said. “No one in Georgia has a stronger work ethic. Thomas is always spot on when he speaks. In fact, Thomas could sell UGA t-shirts to 'Bama fans. It is one of the high points of my ministry to work with him.”

Other pastors throughout the state also are voicing appreciation for Hammond’s five years of leadership at the Mission Board.

“Thomas Hammond’s leadership has brought a new and fresh energy back into our pastors and the churches they lead throughout our state,” said Pete Mattix, pastor at north Georgia’s Lake Country Baptist Church.

Ivy Creek Baptist Church Senior Pastor Craig Dale said he has gotten to know Hammond through his work with the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation. Dale, whose church is in Buford, is chairman of the board at the foundation, which funds many of the Mission Board’s pastor wellness initiatives.

“I’ve been able to witness firsthand his commitment to Georgia Baptist pastors,” Dale said. “I’m grateful for him and his passion for the gospel and those who stand and proclaim that gospel week in and week out. I’m thankful he’s our executive director, and I’m thankful he’s my friend.”

In 2018, a search committee recommended Hammond, then the lead pastor at First Baptist Church of Alpharetta, to replace the beloved J. Robert White who had retired after having led the Mission Board since 1993.

Bob Jolly, pastor of First Baptist Church in Cumming who served as chairman of the search team, said God led members to a visionary leader who has “the relational skills to bind our convention together under the Lord’s mandate found in the Great Commission to win the lost, disciple believers, and take the gospel to the nations.”

Jolly described Hammond at the time as a man with a passion to win the lost, a deep respect and love for pastors, and a vision for the future of Georgia Baptists.

“I am so thankful God allowed Thomas to lead the GBMB,” said Chris Winford, pastor at First Baptist Church in Brunswick and a member of the Administration Committee. “He’s navigated difficulties within the SBC/GBMB with the humility and grace desired in a godly leader all the while keeping the Gospel front and center.”

Hammond was a successful pastor, having led First Baptist of Alpharetta to become one of the Top 10 fastest-growing churches in the Georgia Baptist Convention while investing heavily in starting new churches.

Under his leadership, First Baptist of Alpharetta increased Cooperative Program giving.

Hammond has also served the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee as the vice president for convention advancement and senior director of church evangelism for the North American Mission Board.

During 13 years at the North American Mission Board, Hammond led in the development of evangelism resources for the Southern Baptist Convention, directed “Crossover” events in SBC annual meeting host cities, and led in the creation and implementation of a national evangelism strategy.

Hammond, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Augusta State University and a master’s degree from Mid America Baptist Theological Seminary, has served as a director of missions, minister of evangelism at Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, and evangelism associate for the Ohio Baptist Convention.

With Hammond cheering them on, Georgia Baptist churches reported a 47% increase in baptisms last year.

Winford said Hammond has been great for Georgia Baptists.

“I believe with Thomas’ leadership the best is still to come,” he said.