A year of revival: Large numbers of people turn to Christ across Georgia in 2023


BAXLEY, Ga. —Signs of spiritual renewal swept across Georgia in 2023, producing thousands of new believers in the Bible Belt state.

Church leaders reported a widespread “spiritual hunger in communities large and small” that they said generated a huge spike in numbers of commitments to Christ.

Evidence of that was on full display in Baxley in October when some 10,000 people attended a four-night evangelistic crusade in the local football stadium. More than 1,600 of them responded to the gospel.

The Georgia-based evangelist who led the crusade, Rick Gage, focuses on America’s small towns. He holds crusades in places that other evangelists might see only from the air on their way to big cities.

“With 57 million lost Gen Zers in America, the need and urgency to evangelize the unsaved have never been greater,” Gage said.

Some church leaders have said the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced most churches to temporarily close, renewed a spiritual zeal among congregations across Georgia to double-down on outreach.

The cumulative results have been eye catching. Last year alone, Georgia churches reported a 47 percent increase in baptisms.

At East Georgia State College in early December, 19-year-old Robbie Lane, an aspiring minister and starting shortstop on the school’s baseball team, baptized 11 of his teammates who came to Christ in a campus Bible study.

Abilene Baptist Church outside Augusta had 107 salvation decisions on a single day in August, the same day that more than 2,000 people gathered for worship on the congeregation's two campuses.

“People are really hungry for God,” said Brad Whitt, the church's senior pastor. “They’re really hungry for churches that preach the gospel and that give people an opportunity to respond to the gospel.”

Kevin Williams, pastor at First Baptist Church of Villa Rica, said he's seeing  what he describes as a spiritual shift that is bringing the Bible back to the Bible Belt.

“People are searching for truth,” he said in August,  a day after 220 students in Carroll County, Ga., surrendered their lives to Christ. “We’re living in a time that the Bible warns about, when people will be calling wrong right and right wrong. We’ve reached a point where people are saying enough is enough. It’s like a switch has flipped and things are going back the right direction.”

First Baptist Church of Centralhatchee, population 400, reported 72 salvation decisions in a single day in early August. At about the same time, some two hours away in Fayetteville, 42 people made salvation decisions in a Sunday morning worship service at McDonough Road Baptist Church, as did 54 people at an event sponsored by the Columbus Baptist Association.

“God has just been moving,” said Mark Williams, pastor at the Centralhatchee church.

In Swainsboro earlier this year, volunteers from The Emanuel Baptist Association set up stations, one in the downtown area and another at a housing development., and saw some 30 people surrender their lives to Christ.

“In our area, we have seen a hunger for God,” said Joe Bedgood, pastor of Dellwood Baptist Church and evangelism director in the Emanuel Baptist Association. “Most of the people who came through had something major going on in their lives. They knew they needed prayer, that God was the only One who could help them.”

Jenni Carter, kids ministry consultant for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said thousands of children made salvation decisions during the summer break at Vacation Bible Schools held at churches across the state.

Carter said churches of every size and in every region of the state reported not only the highest attendance in years at Vacation Bible School but also large numbers of children committing their lives to Christ.

At Fayetteville’s New Hope Baptist Church, 86 children responded to the gospel during Vacation Bible School attended by more than 630 children on the congregation's two campuses in June.

More than 30 migrant workers who came to southwest Georgia to harvest watermelons prayed to receive Christ at dinner at First Baptist Church of Rochelle in July.

At the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s IMPACT camp on the Shorter University campus, 73 students made salvation decisions and 31 others said they felt that God was calling them into ministry.

A Simons Island youth retreat hosted by the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches of Georgia resulted in 15 students making salvation decisions.

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.

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.

In the first quarter of this year, 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 leading up to Easter.

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 2022. 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 a 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.