Hammond challenges Georgia Baptists to be difference-makers

More than 2,000 Georgia Baptists receive training at regional SPARK conferences over past month to reach their communities with the gospel


STATESBORO, Ga. — Christians who truly want to make a difference in the world always put the needs of others first, do whatever it takes to point people to Christ, and commit to a spirit of cooperation.

Those are three characteristics common among difference-makers, said Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr., the keynote speaker Saturday at the final of a series of church equipping conferences held across the state over the past month.

“I want to tell you something about difference-makers; they always seem to find themselves with plenty of opportunities to serve,” Hammond said. “They always consider how their lives can be used to make a difference for others. What can I do? How can I serve?”

More than 2,000 people who attended the regional SPARK conferences received training in a wide array of areas, including evangelism, discipleship, church growth, children and youth ministries, missions, and church administration.

Some 40 church experts shared insights into strategies for congregations to reach their communities for Christ.  Nearly 300 churches sent delegations to the conferences.

“It’s a real hallelujah moment that we have trained lay leaders from so many churches this year,” said Scott Sullivan, the Mission Board’s discipleship catalyst who organizes the SPARK conferences, which are done in partnership between pastors, associational missions strategists and the Mission Board.”

Sullivan said more than 400 people from  59 churches attended Saturday's SPARK conference at Statesboro's First Baptist Church.

Hammond based his keynote sermon on Mark 2:1-12, which tells about four men who carried their paralyzed friend to a house where Jesus was ministering. The passage explains that they couldn’t get inside to Jesus because a huge crowd was surround Him. So they tore a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down, knowing Jesus could heal him.

Because they couldn’t get their friend to Jesus the customary way, through the door, Hammond pointed out that those four men had to find another way, a new way.

“The men were willing to do whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus, even if it meant tearing the roof off,” Hammond said. “People who are difference-makers are willing to start something new.”

Hammond said when those men heard where Jesus was, their thoughts went immediately to their paralyzed friend, and they put aside everything and went to get him.

“What you have to understand about difference-makers is that they are willing to adjust their lives so that they meet people at the point of need,” he said.

Those men worked together, each carrying a corner of their friend’s bed, to get him to Jesus. They had to cooperate to achieve their goal.

“Everybody had a corner,” Hammond said.

That kind of cooperation is necessary, he said, if Georgia Baptists are to get people to Jesus.

“Every church has a corner,” he said. “Everybody in every church has a corner. … We work together because, when we have the same passion, the same purpose, the same plan, God uses us to make a difference.”