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CONYERS, Ga. — Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief teams deployed this week to assist homeowners in the wake of a tornado that hit Conyers last week. The EF-2 tornado with maximum winds of 115 mph touched down in Rockdale County early Wednesday morning, April 3, according to the National Weather Service. GBDR teams responded to remove downed trees and clear debris.

This spring, as many college students around the country turned their thoughts to beaches and parties, some had other things on their minds. Groups of students from colleges and universities across Georgia used the pause in the school year to go and tell others about Jesus. Georgia Baptist Collegiate Ministry students and leaders traveled to other nations, states, and communities to share the good news.

SUWANEE, Ga. — With a final count now complete, Georgia Baptist churches saw a 40% increase in baptisms over the past year and a more than 106% increase since 2020. Steve Foster, an evangelism consultant for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said reports from the state’s churches showed 21,151 new believers were baptized in 2023, up from 15,127 in 2022.

SUWANEE, Ga. — Pastors are comfortable with artificial intelligence for graphic design and marketing but not for preparing sermons, the Barna Group found in a survey done earlier this year. Barna, an organization that monitors cultural and religious trends in the U.S., said in an article that concerns among pastors about artificial intelligence appear to be easing for some administrative tasks.

ATLANTA, Ga. — Georgia Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson’s announcement that he has been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer that has spread to his liver has triggered an outpouring of prayer from his fellow Southern Baptists across the state. Thompson, a member of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, said he will provide updates on his health as they become available.

BOWMAN, Ga. — A spiritual movement that began in Georgia in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing in Bowman where 60 people made salvation decisions at a Wednesday evening wild game dinner. “It was incredible,” said Chris Pritchett, pastor at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church where some 550 people had tickets for the meal that included bison, duck, wild boar, rabbit, and alligator,

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Mark Marshall, a longtime pastor and former Lifeway Christian Resources director who has been serving as assistant executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board for the past four years, has transitioned into the role of senior lead strategist overseeing church strengthening efforts. The Mission Board’s executive director, W. Thomas Hammond Jr., made the announcement Tuesday at a meeting of the Georgia Baptist Executive Committee.

TIFTON, Ga. — Amid a secular culture prone to reject the gospel, Christians must be more persistent than ever to fearlessly proclaim the name of Jesus, preachers told Georgia Baptists who gathered Monday at Northside Baptist Church in Tifton for the final day of a two-day evangelism conference. “In the time and place and culture we live in, there is a growing conspiracy against the name of Jesus, but we must not be afraid or ashamed to proclaim who He is and what He has done,” said H.B. Charles, pastor at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

TIFTON, Ga. — Georgia Baptists passionate about sharing the gospel shouldn’t be deterred by church folks “looking like they were weaned on dill pickles.” Instead, they should gladly share the good news with others, regardless of where they live or how they live. That was the combined message of two preachers at the latest of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Called to Witness evangelism conferences that began Sunday night in Tifton.

KENNESAW, Ga. — A menu of wild boar, venison, and alligator, mixed with an ample serving of the gospel, proved to be an irresistible combination at Kennesaw First Baptist Church’s wild game dinner where 28 people made salvation decisions. “God is alive and well in Kennesaw,” lead pastor Perry Fowler said after the Saturday event. “He is blessing, and His kingdom is being built.”

SUWANEE, Ga. — An annual count of baptisms in Georgia Baptist churches has surpassed 20,000 for the first time since 2017. Steve Foster, a Georgia Baptist Mission Board evangelism consultant, said the total as of Friday morning reached 20,280, just 13 short of the 20,293 reported six years ago. The numbers are expected to continue to grow as more congregations complete what's known as the "Annual Church Profile," an annual census of Southern Baptist churches.

CONYERS, Ga. — Georgia Baptist Convention President Josh Saefkow is hoping for a big turnout for a pair of evangelism conferences, the first of which begins on Sunday at First Baptist Church in Conyers. “The evangelism conferences help us to grow, to be equipped and to be inspired,” Saefkow said. “A big part of these conferences is to be inspired to go and tell others about Jesus.” Georgia Baptists are going into this year’s conferences with an obvious zeal for sharing the gospel. They’re reporting a 30% increase in baptisms over the past year and a more than 92% increase since 2020.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Nearly 800 people gathered in Augusta last weekend for hands-on ministry that including renovating schools and churches, building a playgrounds, providing free dental care, throwing block parties, and so much more. In the process, at least 24 people made salvation decisions.

SUWANEE, Ga. — Nearly half of Christians say they struggle to find time to spend with fellow believers in discipleship activities because they’re too busy, according to a pair of surveys by the Barna Group, an organization that monitors cultural and religious trends in the U.S. Barna, writing about the surveys in an article last week, said they found bright spots in that 58 percent of Christians spend uninterrupted time with God and that 57 percent find time to regularly read their Bibles. But, when it comes to discipleship activities, 39 percent of Christians are not involved in helping others grow in their faith.

JONESBORO, Ga. — Pastor and author Henry Blackaby is being remembered as “a great Bible teacher” who inspired untold numbers of missionaries, church planters and everyday believers to “watch where God is working and join Him.” A funeral for Blackaby, author of the best-selling Experiencing God Bible study, has been set for 3 p.m. on Feb. 25 at Jonesboro’s First Baptist Church where his son, Mel, serves as senior pastor. “He will be greatly missed, but his influence on the lives of untold numbers of people through his Bible teaching will live on,” said evangelist Franklin Graham in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

CONYERS, Ga. — Georgia Baptists are heading into a pair of evangelism conferences with a full head of steam, having seen a 30% increase in baptisms over the past year and a more than 92% increase since 2020. Baptism numbers are rising as more churches submit their Annual Church Profile, a yearly census of Southern Baptist congregations, and, the process, ratcheting up interest in the evangelism conferences to be held on Feb. 25-26 in at First Baptist Church in Conyers and March 10-11 at Northside Baptist Church in Tifton.

DULUTH, Ga. — It’s not lost on Craig Dale that the $8.4 million in checks he helped to hand out to faith-based healthcare providers on Thursday will have physical and spiritual impacts on untold numbers of Georgians. “It's a cool experience to say the least,” said Dale, chairman of the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds frontline caregivers in communities across the state. “And the really cool part is that each check is going to be converted into life-changing programs.”

ATLANTA — Hindsight shows that refusing to order churches to shut down at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was the right move, Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday. “I’m glad we never wavered on that,” Kemp told some 200 Georgia Baptist pastors gathered at the Capitol for an annual prayer breakfast. “If there was ever a time people needed to worship, that was the time.”

ATLANTA — Over the objections of Georgia Baptist leaders, a proposal to legalize sports betting in Georgia cleared the state Senate on Thursday, but gamblers may not want to reach for their wallets just yet. A series of legislative hurdles still remain, meaning sports betting remains a longshot in the state. Senate Bill 386, which passed 35-15, would empower the Georgia Lottery Corp. to award 16 licenses to sports betting facilities, but only if voters first approve an amendment to the state's constitution to specifically allow sports betting, just as they did with the state lottery in 1992.

ATLANTA   — Declaring that there is no place for hate in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an antisemitism bill into law on Wednesday to protect the state's Jewish population from harassment, intimidation or violence. "Our Jewish citizens have experienced hate in the form of antisemitic flyers spread across neighborhoods, messages on social media calling for the death of Jews in Israel and around the world and even hateful gatherings outside synagogues," Kemp said at the bill signing ceremony. "So, we are all thankful for the perseverance and dedication shown in getting this bill across the finish line as we work together to send a clear, unified message: In Georgia, we proudly stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters."

GLENWOOD, Ga. — On weekdays, Robert Rogers is a pharmacist, dispensing prescriptions to southeast Georgia residents, but, on Sundays, he is pastor at Stuckey Baptist Church, delivering sermons to many of those same people. Rogers is one of a much-in-demand band of bivocational pastors who feel a calling to Georgia’s small rural congregations. Most of the roughly 300 Georgia churches that are without permanent pastors right now are in rural communities that simply don’t have the resources to support full-time clergymen, which makes bivocational pastors especially hot commodities.

SUWANEE, Ga. — Georgia Baptist churches reported a 22% increase in baptisms last year an an 80% jump since 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was gripping the state. “This is such encouraging news,” said W. Thomas Hammond Jr., executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “I am truly grateful for the commitment of our pastors and churches to make sure all Georgians have the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. I pray we are building on a trend that will go on for decades.”

SUWANEE, Ga. — Georgia Baptist churches gave nearly $36 million last year to support state, national and international missions through the Cooperative Program, a Southern Baptist initiative that’s been described as the greatest evangelistic initiative of the modern church age. David Melber, chief operating officer for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said financial contributions from the state’s 3,400 churches exceeded budget projections by some $2.5 million in 2023.

SUWANEE, Ga. — Churches are seen as playing an important role in helping people deal with the epidemic of loneliness that is sweeping through modern America but not as key players on other pressing issues. That’s according to a researchers at the Barna Group, an organization that monitors cultural and religious trends.

LIBURN, Ga. — Pastor Samuel Aleman, an architect who inspired a long line of other Spanish-speaking professionals to become ministers, has retired after more than three decades leading Atlanta’s oldest and largest Hispanic Southern Baptist congregation. “He opened the door to many Hispanics to say, ‘I have a career, and I can serve the Lord,’” said Javier Chavez, a Gainesville pastor and university professor.

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