Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee members voted with a singular “yes” to a search team’s recommendation Tuesday (Sept. 11) that pastor Thomas Hammond become the convention’s next executive director.
Photo by Scott Barkley
Executive Director-elect Thomas Hammond addresses the Georgia Baptist Executive Committee moments after a unanimous vote Sept. 11 as successor to J. Robert White, who is retiring after 26 years in the post. Standing by Hammond's side is his wife Kerri.
Hammond, 56, is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Alpharetta and was president of the Georgia Baptist Convention from 2015-2017.
“We wanted someone who loves Jesus, loves people, loves the church, loves making disciples and loves Georgia Baptists,” said search team chairman Bob Jolly, pastor of First Baptist Church in Cumming. “We wanted someone doctrinally sound, denominationally connected, diversity-inclusive and dedicated to unity.
“We wanted someone who was Great Commission-driven, Georgia-focused, but globally-aware and concerned.”
Hammond, in leading the Georgia convention, will bring 17 years of denominational service from across the Southern Baptist Convention to the post. He formerly served as vice president for convention advancement with the SBC Executive Committee, senior director for church evangelism for the North American Mission Board and director of missions at Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, N.C. In addition, he was minister of evangelism at Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, Ga., and evangelism associate at the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.
As lead pastor at Alpharetta First Baptist since 2013, Hammond led the church into the top 10 percent of fastest-growing churches in the state convention. AFBC planted three churches, began a Latino and Persian ministry, and increased its Cooperative Program giving from 1 percent to 6 percent. First Baptist baptized some 250 people. He also has been a chaplain for the Alpharetta police and fire departments.
Hammond has been a trustee of Truett McConnell University in Cleveland, Ga.; LifeWay Christian Resources; and King’s Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta. Midwestern, New Orleans, Southeastern, Southwestern and Mid-America Baptist seminaries have all invited him over the years as a guest lecturer.
The executive director-elect spearheaded a concentrated convention effort to increase Easter attendance in 2017 with The Big Invite. He also led in the creation of The Net, an evangelism software available for pastors and churches, and TheBigDay.org, a call to prayer for neighbors needing Christ. As GBC president, Hammond also championed an initiative among pastors to pray for one another.
A graduate of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Hammond and his wife Kerri have two daughters, Katie and Karley.
Jolly told Executive Committee members the search team had entered in four hours of prayer and scripture “before entertaining a name.” Team members sought feedback from Georgia Baptists and prayed over all resumes received. A public survey brought additional input as to what Georgia Baptists looked for in the successor to J. Robert White, who will retire at the end of the year after 26 years as executive director.
“I could not be more excited or more pleased than for Thomas and Kerri Hammond in leading Georgia Baptists in the days ahead,” White said after the vote. “Thomas and I have had many lunches together. Kerri is precious to Janice and me. We are dear friends.”
White noted that a couple of Sundays earlier Hammond accorded him the opportunity to baptize two of his grandchildren who attend Alpharetta First Baptist. “Thank you [for allowing me] to contribute to your baptism total this year,” White quipped to Hammond.
“What an honor and overwhelming, humbling experience this is for Kerri and myself,” Hammond said. “I appreciate the statement that this is not a position; it’s a responsibility. Truly it’s a responsibility that one man cannot do. Only God can do this. And I can tell you, we will do this together.
“I’m standing on the shoulders of a man [White] who I’ve respected for so many years because of the work he has done and because of his leading with integrity.”
Hammond described the Georgia Baptist Convention as the strongest in the SBC, giving much of the credit to its pastors’ “sacrifice, leadership and commitment to the Great Commission.”
“My prayer,” he said, “is that we will lead out not only in evangelism, church revitalization and planting churches, but also in what we do nationally and internationally.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is editor of The Christian Index, christianindex.org, news journal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)