Thomas Hammond and the Layoffs: Highlighting a Problem in Georgia Baptist Culture

Yesterday, Baptist Press and The Christian Index reported that the Georgia Baptist Mission Board had “laid off 20 staff members after a near-$1.2 million budget shortfall in 2018 Cooperative Program giving.”  I never like to hear of people losing their jobs but I could not help but be encouraged by the news that Cooperative Program giving was down in Georgia.  First, I’ve long contended that the Cooperative Program itself is an inefficient means of cooperative giving by which disengaged pew-sitters perpetuate an unaccountable and inefficient bureaucracy (see my book The Cooperative Program and the Road to Serfdom).  Second, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB) itself is a reproach to the local church.

The GBMB is administered from an opulently sinful $45M headquarters in Duluth.  It is from that headquarters where its Executive Director, Thomas Hammond, issues statements like this one:

We’re committed to making the Georgia Baptist Mission Board the best resource our pastors could ask for.  Part of that will include streamlining some ministries and evaluating all of the activities of the Mission Board.”

Streamlining and evaluations is an every day part of good management.  This part of Hammond’s statement is commendable.  However, his comment about being a “resource for pastors” is trouble.  Is that truly the mission of the GBMB?  Mission boards do not exist to serve pastors but to serve local churches.  Through mission boards, local churches can leverage economies of scale to corporately engage in evangelism and other mission work.  Hammond’s language is telling.  The Georgia Baptist Mission Board is, at base, a good ole boy network that enriches and popularizes those pastors who can bring the resources of the local church, in the form of cooperative program money.  Through GBMB networking, pastors can move on to bigger jobs and bigger churches or lucrative administrative positions (like Hammond’s) at the denominational level.

Hammond himself has left a wake of failure in his previous employment at both NAMB and the First Baptist Church of Alpharetta.  A party with inside knowledge of both of those organizations had this to say of Hammond on the occasion of his appointment as the Executive Director of the GBMB:

FBC Alpharetta was down 30% year over year in attendance in February of this year…if good leadership is having over 25 staff members quit in a three year period then I don’t understand leadership…I’m happy for that church. They finally have a pilot who isn’t flying the church into the side of a mountain.”

The Christian Index (which is controlled by the GBMB) has this to say of Hammond’s tenure at FBC Alpharetta:

“At Alpharetta Hammond has increased the Cooperative Program giving of the church from one percent to six percent. The church budget has increased by 25 percent in the course of his pastorate and has been the top giving and top baptizing church in Roswell Baptist Association since his first year as pastor.”

Georgia Baptist should view the news of recent layoffs at the GBMB with optimism as well as skepticism, asking themselves “Why does the GBMB have so many employees in the first place?”  As a matter of stewardship, Georgia Baptists should question why their churches continue to support the Cooperative Program and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.  They should also ask their pastors, “Why do you?”

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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