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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.

SUWANEE, Ga. — Jenni Carter, a beloved children’s ministry leader who has served as the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s statewide kids ministry consultant for more than 10 years, has announced her retirement, effective Feb. 29. And in an interesting twist, one of Carter’s longtime colleagues in children’s ministry, Krista Staton of Tifton, will replace her. “I’m leaving them in very capable hands,” Carter said of Staton, the children’s ministries director at Northside Baptist Church in Tifton.

SUWANEE, Ga. — Christians who routinely share their faith are finding a willingness among people to engage in conversations about spiritual matters, including salvation. That’s according to one of the latest articles from Barna Research Group, an organization that monitors cultural and religious trends in America. “Part of the reason may be that the U.S. is culturally Christian,” Barna wrote, citing past surveys. “In fact, 72 percent of people in the U.S. say they were raised Christian.” Barna said Christians aren’t being met with strong resistance when they converse with others about the Bible, because a significant number of non-Christians tend to reverence scripture.

DULUTH, Ga. — The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has sold a five-story office building and adjacent property in Duluth to a hotel developer for $23.5 million, bringing an end to a years-long search for a buyer. “We are grateful to the Lord and to all those who worked so hard to make this happen,” said Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr. “The proceeds from the sale of this property will be used to expand the kingdom and continue to grow Georgia Baptist missions and ministries.”

STATESBORO, Ga. — An electronic timer on display at First Baptist Church in Statesboro showed the alarming rate at which people around the world are dying without the hope of salvation. The number climbed as seconds ticked by. Within 10 minutes, the count had reached 325 people. Each successive 10 minutes added that many more. And in the next 24 hours, according to the International Mission Board, the total would climb to 157,000. Pastor John Waters used the display during his sermon on Dec. 10 to highlight the urgency of the work of missionaries serving in countries around the world. Since then, he has seen an outpouring of financial support to get the gospel to the nations.

PEMBROKE, Ga. — First Baptist Church of Pembroke is a midsized congregation in a small town, but, thanks to a massive Hyundai automotive plant under construction, it could quickly become a large church in a bustling industrial suburb. Pastor Tommy Smith and his congregation are preparing for a population explosion. Pembroke is poised to grow by thousands almost overnight. Local governments have already begun expanding infrastructure to accommodate additional residents. School districts are planning building expansions. And, if churches are to minister effectively to the newcomers, they need to be prepared as well.

NEWNAN, Ga. — Christians crowded into churches across Georgia on Christmas Eve where they heard words of hope in a world that’s rife with turmoil. Doug McCart, pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Newnan, preached to a congregation that has survived a series of tornadoes in recent years. “We can’t save ourselves,” said McCart, who sheltered with his wife inside the church last year while a tornado ripped it to pieces around him. “We need a savior.”

MACON, Ga. — The nonprofit National Trust for Local News is establishing the Georgia Trust for Local News, a new community newspaper company that will serve Middle and South Georgia. Anchored by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, and the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Georgia Trust for Local News is dedicated to providing and strengthening impartial, timely, and relevant community news.

SUWANEE, Ga. — The story of a 19-year-old aspiring preacher who baptized most of his teammates on the East Georgia State College baseball team amassed more readers in The Christian Index than any other news article in 2023.Analytics show Index readers have an affinity for stories about people turning to Christ. Of the newspaper’s most-read news articles of the year, all involved people turning to Christ.

BAXLEY, Ga. — Georgia-based evangelist Rick Gage rocked the Bible Belt in 2023 with his powerful brand of preaching in a series of crusades attended by tens of thousands. In his final crusade of the year, some 17,000 people packed into an open-air amphitheater just outside Jackson, Miss., for four nights of preaching. More than 2,000 people made decisions for Christ.

DAWSON, Ga. — Christians in this small southern Georgia town are putting the spotlight back on Jesus this Christmas season, shifting the focus away from Santa who, for generations of Americans, has been the face of the holidays. That shift was on full display at a Christmas party for nearly 1,000 children on Saturday. The jolly old elf wasn’t there, nor were his reindeer, nor elves, nor any other commercialized yuletide decorations.

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp’s chief of staff is resigning to become senior vice president over external affairs for Georgia Power, effective Jan. 15. Kilpatrick will lead the company’s strategy and engagement in economic development, legislative and regulatory affairs, region external affairs and corporate communication. 

PLAINS, Ga. — The chefs who prepared meals for hundreds of Secret Service agents, Georgia Highway Patrol troopers, National Guard troops, and others providing security during three days of memorials for former first lady Rosalynn Carter have vast experience feeding huge crowds, usually in disaster zones. In their trademark yellow shirts and caps, Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers will spend the next three days in the mobile kitchens where they will prepare tasty cuisine served at no charge.

DALTON, Ga. — Boxes of Kleenex are always at the ready in the sanctuary of McFarland Hill Baptist Church. They’re for wiping tears of joy among a growing congregation that nearly ceased to exist just more than a decade ago. The 83-year-old church that sprouted from an old-fashion brush arbor service had fallen into a funk, and worshippers were leaving in mass. By 2011, the congregation had dwindled to about 35 regular attendees, and they were shouldering some $330,000 in church debt. They had cut off electricity to the gym and canceled the insurance to save money. They didn’t see a path forward. They were considering shuttering the church permanently.

ATLANTA — Georgia pastor, evangelist and broadcaster Michael Youssef preached the gospel to more than 17,500 people at an event in his native Egypt, reporting Monday that more than 7,850 of the attendees put their faith in Christ. “This is an uncertain and frightening time for people in Egypt and across the Middle East as they watch neighboring Israel at war with Hamas,” said Youssef, a familiar figure among Christians in the U.S. where he is seen and heard daily on his Leading the Way television and radio broadcasts. “With threats of potential escalation, many are asking why this is happening and will peace ever be possible in this region of the world.”

SNELLVILLE, Ga. — Fayetteville pastor Josh Saefkow will serve a second one-year term as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, the state’s largest religious group with some 1.4 million members. Saefkow, with his winsome personality and unwavering work ethic that had him crisscrossing the state for preaching engagements and meetings throughout his first term, had no opposition and was elected by acclamation.

SNELLVILLE, Ga. – Georgia Baptists are projected to give more than $60 million through the Cooperative Program and a series of special offerings to cover the cost of sharing the gospel throughout the state, across the nation and around the world. That total represents a projected 4.2% increase in the Cooperative Program budget, a needed shot in the arm for what been described as the greatest evangelistic initiative of the modern church age.

SNELLVILLE, Ga. — Messengers attending the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meeting gave provisional approval to updates to 200-year-old governing documents on Tuesday in a move that is intended to provide greater legal protections to churches and the state Mission Board. Tim Oliver, chairman of the Georgia Baptist Administration Committee, said messengers “owe a great debt of gratitude” to the faithful church leaders who penned the original governing documents but that they had become dated over the years.

SNELLVILLE, Ga. — Georgia Baptists have voiced their support for Israel as well as their condemnation of Hamas for what they described in a resolution approved on Tuesday as an “abhorrent” attack that “defies human dignity.” “We call upon our state and national leaders to remain steadfast in their support for Israel, which for 75 years has been one of our nation’s closest allies,” the state’s largest religious group, the Georgia Baptist Convention, said in the resolution.

SNELLVILLE, Ga. – The Georgia Baptist Convention, the state’s largest religious organization with 1.4 million members, grew even bigger and more ethnically diverse on Tuesday when 17 additional congregations, a mission, and six new church campuses joined its ranks. Of the new churches presented at the Georgia Baptist Convention's annual meeting, three are Hispanic; three are African American; two are Korean; one is Vietnamese; and one is Russian. The remainder were identified as Anglo congregations.

SNELLVILLE, Ga. – Johnson Ferry Baptist Church pastor Clay Smith challenged “young, old, and everyone in between” at the opening session of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meeting to listen for God’s call on their lives to take the gospel to the nations. “There is a specific role for some of you to go — to go to another culture, to go to another nation, to go to another land,” Smith told a crowd of nearly 1,000 people gathered at the Church on Main in Snellville.

SUWANEE, Ga. — The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has expanded its staff by adding three experienced church leaders with some 75 years of combined experience to minister specifically to the needs of the state’s pastors. Jason Jones, with 21 years of experience as a pastor, is serving in southwest Georgia. Craig Ward, who has been in ministry more than three decades, is serving in northwest Georgia. And Marty Youngblood, who has served as a church conflict consultant, college professor and former pastor over the past 25 years, is serving in southeast Georgia. They began in the new roles on Wednesday.

JACKSON, Miss. — Gov. Tate Reeves has taken note of evangelist Rick Gage’s latest crusade, which drew standing-room-only crowds in Mississippi last week. Reeves posted a crowd shot from the crusade on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, showing people crowded shoulder to shoulder in an open-air amphitheater.

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