Georgia Baptist churches report 22% increase in baptisms in past year, 80% jump since 2020 as revival spreads

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Georgia Baptist churches report 22% increase in baptisms in past year, 80% jump since 2020 as revival spreads

Caelyn Hatcher smiles after being baptized by Pastor Brian Shuler at  Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church. (Photo/Mary Catherine Photography via The Christian Index)

Caelyn Hatcher smiles after being baptized by Pastor Brian Shuler at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church. (Photo/Mary Catherine Photography via The Christian Index)

Posted Sunday, January 28, 2024 11:14 pm

By ROGER ALFORD, The Christian Index

SUWANEE, Ga. — Georgia Baptist churches reported a 22% increase in baptisms last year and 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.”

With 50 percent of the state’s 3,400 churches reporting, the preliminary count shows 18,522 baptisms in 2023, up from 15,127 in 2022. That number continues to increase as additional congregations complete what’s known as the Annual Church Profile, a yearly census of Southern Baptist churches. 

Those annual reports submitted to the Mission Board showed the state’s low water mark for baptisms was 10,243 in 2020, when many churches had canceled worship services and halted evangelistic outreaches to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Since then, Georgia Baptists have ramped up outreaches, triggering widespread revivals throughout the state.

“People today are easier to reach for Christ than ever before,” said Geogia-based evangelist Rick Gage. “The reason is that the spiritual need has never been greater. People are hungry for the truth. And the truth is the gospel is the only message that will change a person’s life.”

Church leaders across the state are reporting what they’re describing as “a widespread spiritual hunger,” which showed itself in late December when more than 350 Georgia students made commitments to Christ at the Mission Board’s annual MOVE Conference, a two-day evangelistic outreach for middle and high school kids.

Such evidence of a move of God has been widespread in Georgia.

In one of the largest responses of the past year, some 1,600 people responded to the gospel in October during a four-day crusade led by Gage in the south Georgia town of Baxley.

Other instances include:

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.

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.

Jenni Carter, kids ministry consultant for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said thousands of children made salvation decisions during the summer months 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.

Between January and March of last year, 119 college and university students made salvation decisions through Baptist Collegiate Ministries.

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

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.

Last January, First Baptist Church in Blackshear re

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