In an interview with Dr. Gerald Harris, former editor of The Christian Index, Executive Director Thomas Hammond shares the vision of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, as well as insight on the Southern Baptist Convention.
Question: What has been your greatest joy in your service to Georgia Baptists in this third year of ministry with us?
The greatest joy for me over the past two years has been getting to know and work alongside our pastors to encourage them and resource their churches. There is no doubt the best preachers, leaders and pastors are in the Georgia Baptist Convention. I believe we are laying a foundation upon which we will build for many years to come.
Q: You followed Dr. J. Robert White, who for 28 years was a compassionate pastor to pastors. How do you see your role as executive director complementing his years of service?
There is no question that Dr. White loved pastors and the work of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Every day, I stand on his shoulders to further the things accomplished during his tenure as our executive director. Through Dr. White’s leadership, the GBC is well positioned to continue being an exemplary state convention, and I am grateful for the valuable contributions he made to Georgia Baptist life. We will carry on the legacy of honoring pastors and serving churches.
Q: What is your overall vision of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board?
My vision is for Georgia Baptists to unite in aggressively pursue the mission field in our state, our country and the world. To accomplish this, we must do everything we can to ensure that our pastors know they are loved, appreciated and supported by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. I believe if we encourage and bless our pastors it will help to lighten the heavy burdens they carry each day. We also must strengthen our churches through resources and training. This is why we have increased the budget of the Church Strengthening team by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Finally, we must strategically plant churches across our state to reach areas that are growing in population and are underchurched.
Q: You have established the mantra: “Pastors are our heroes, churches are our priority and Georgia is our mission field.” How do you plan to support, honor and serve our pastors?
There are actually five areas we are addressing in a pastor’s life. We want to help pastors with their spiritual, physical, financial, vocational and relational health. Our goal and passion is to provide a balanced approach to helping pastors obtain and maintain good health. We believe strongly that healthy pastors have a greater impact on the overall health of the churches they lead. We all know healthy pastors leading healthier churches are going to be more effective in reaching their lost community.
Q: What do you plan to do to make churches a priority in the course of your ministry as the leader of Georgia Baptists?
We have consolidated and are restructuring our personnel in order to create a Church Strengthening team that includes evangelism, missions, discipleship, next gen, church planting and music and worship.
We are also moving more of our staff closer to our churches. This will give pastors and churches greater access to our staff and help our staff have a better understanding of the culture and context in which our churches minister.
Our Executive Committee voted to approve the reallocation of more than $500,000 to facilitate these church strengthening ministries. These monies are available due to cost-cutting measures on administrative, personnel and property expenses.
Q: What strategies are you employing to show that Georgia is the GBMB mission field?
One example is the new church planting strategy that is being developed in partnership with our associational mission strategists. We must be more strategic than ever in planting churches in the most unreached parts of our state. Metro Atlanta receives much of our attention, and it should, but there are many other areas in our state that desperately need new churches now.
Q: Some churches in Georgia and others throughout the country are struggling with how they can support the Cooperative Program when they are in disagreement with some of the policies of agencies in our national convention. Is this really a problem, and if so, what can be done to resolve it?
My deepest desire is for all Georgia Baptists to support the Southern Baptist Convention’s mission efforts that are almost solely supported through the Cooperative Program. The CP is the envy of every other Christian denomination in the world. I know that we are fragmented on many fronts, but my prayer is the Great Commission would continue to unite us.
Decisions by some of our national entities have caused concerns in the hearts of some Georgia Baptists, but I am grateful for the wisdom of those who preceded me by allowing churches the opportunity to specify how they want their contributions to be allocated.
Q: How do you feel about Resolution 9 concerning Critical Race Theory that was approved by the messengers of the SBC in Birmingham?
Like most Georgia Baptists, I had not heard of CRT until this resolution came up at the SBC. This action by our convention challenged me to become educated on the theory. Undoubtedly, we face many cultural and racial challenges in our society; nevertheless, there is no doubt in my mind the Word of God is the ultimate authority to overcome our challenges and heal our nation. I am a firm believer in the infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture to address every issue sin creates.
Q: There seems to be a growing perception that the Southern Baptist Convention is going through a metamorphosis that is troubling. What do you want people to know about the Georgia Baptist Mission Board that can keep them encouraged and engaged in our ministry and mission?
Theologically we, the GBMB, are not wavering. We have an uncompromising allegiance to the Word of God. We are also absolutely committed to reach every square mile of our state with the gospel.
We are going to work hard to resource Georgia Baptist churches to win the lost and disciple the saved. We are resolved to serve our pastors as they lead their churches to evangelize Georgia and the world with the Truth that sets men free. I believe God wants Georgia Baptists to lead the way in reaching the world for Christ.