I wanted to update you, Florida Baptists, on the progress the Florida Baptist Convention has made on the implementation of the recommendations from the Imagine If Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, which messengers approved at the 2011 Florida Baptist State Convention held in Coral Springs.
You will be pleased to know that we are on target with the implementation. Every recommendation has been implemented or is in the process of being implemented.
The State Board of Missions has given exceptional leadership through this process to bring focus and implementation of all of the recommendations in that report. Every single recommendation approved by the State Convention has now been or is now in the process of being addressed and implemented. To complete the process the Board assigned the implementation to Convention staff, which has been exceptional in making adjustments, assuming additional responsibilities and maintaining relationships throughout the state.
Recommendation 1: Call to Repentance and Spiritual Renewal
We are implementing this recommendation through “ReVision Florida,” a marketing plan that includes a dedicated website, social media sites, stories in the Florida Baptist Witness and Florida Baptist Missions. Dr. Clayton Cloer has given excellent leadership to this effort. Regional meetings have been held around the state where pastors gathered together in prayer for the state of Florida.
We must have revival; we must have an awakening in our state and in our soul. ReVision Florida can become a reality in direct proportion to our willingness to be broken, our willingness to come before God and give Him our very best. We are on target, but we must increase this side of the conversation of our Great Commission task in Florida.
Recommendation 2: Joining Together to Fund Global Missions
Under the GCR recommendations, we approved that in seven years the Convention will move to a 50/50 percentage split of Cooperative Program funds between Southern Baptist mission causes and Florida Baptist mission causes. At that time, we were sending 40 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2012, we increased that to 40.5 percent; in 2013 an additional one percent increase is earmarked for SBC causes, bringing it to 41.5 percent. Additionally, we voted to send one-half of any overages to the SBC. So in 2011 we produced a slight overage, which increased the amount earmarked for the SBC by 1.4 percent more than the prior year.
We are on target to reach a 50/50 percentage division of the Cooperative Program budget.
Recommendation 3: Planting Evangelistic, Reproducing Churches in Florida
Within this recommendation of church planting, several strategies were developed, including: regionalization of Convention staff for better communication, better collaboration, and better cooperation; partnering with the North American Mission Board to reach our state’s urban regions through Send Miami; and allocation of additional funds to underwrite church planting emphases.
In 2012, we planted 117 new churches. When looking at the Convention budget, about 20 percent or more than 20 cents of every dollar that comes through the Cooperative
Program to the Florida Baptist Convention, funds church planting efforts. Additionally church-planting staff has been added and will continue to be added to the Convention personnel through our partnership with NAMB.
We are making great progress in church planting. We are on target with planting churches in the state of Florida.
Recommendation 4: Developing Evangelistic Pastoral Leaders.
Exploring ideas has become a watchword of the Florida Baptist
Convention as we seek to develop evangelistic pastoral leaders. We believe every church should be a theological seminary. We are conducting more certificate programs in churches and associations than ever. We believe in theological education. We are cooperating with the Canadian Baptist Convention to provide another platform to reach the laity with theological studies.
We are improving our resources in “Love Your Neighbor, Share Christ,” our statewide evangelism effort, and are working with NAMB on a new emphasis for church growth and revitalization. Dr. Johnny Hunt was in our state last week to lead a conference at First Baptist Church in Brandon. We believe this meeting could push us forward in everything we are doing in ReVisionFL as well as church planting. We are on target in developing evangelistic pastoral leaders.
Recommendation 5: Meeting Needs by Providing Missional, Compassionate Ministries
In September, I traveled to Haiti for the graduation of Haitian pastors in our theological program. When I handed diplomas to 145 Haitian pastors who had come through the devastation of the earthquake and still managed to graduate in three years, I have to tell you Florida Baptists, I was moved beyond my emotions. My inner spirit was stirred. These men paid the price and so did their families, for theological education.
We have had a wonderful missions partnership with the Western Cuba Baptist Convention for the past 16 years. There is a house church movement going on in Cuba that I cannot explain, but it is obvious that God is in control. In January, we sent a team into eastern Cuba, a region of the country originally assigned to the American Baptists, which has since abandoned that mission. We are considering the possibility of partnering with the entire island of Cuba to fulfill the Great Commission in that country. Pray for us.
In the last quarter of 2012, we sent disaster relief teams to the northeast after Super Storm Sandy and will continue to send teams as long as they are needed. Our mobile kitchens that could feed 35,000 meals per day were preparing to leave the state for the northeast when the American Red Cross and FEMA put us on stand down. We have sent logistic specialists, security specialists, and now we are ready for our clean-up teams.
God is doing wonderful work through our Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and The Baptist College of Florida. We are so pleased with the leadership in both of these agencies. We are on target with these ministries.
Recommendation 6: Reorganize and Restructure Along our Stated Priorities
We have four priorities and have reorganized our staff to more effectively and efficiently accomplish the task God has given to Florida Baptists. Our four priorities are:
Evangelism Without Apology—Last year in the state, Florida Baptist churches baptized 31,807 new believers—more than any other state convention in the SBC. In addition, the 1,600 churches we started in the past 16 years in Haiti baptized 1,731 new believers in Jesus Christ in the past year. We are on target with our staff priority—Evangelism Without Apology
Intentional Church Planting—We planted 117 new churches last year—41 Anglo, 41 African-American and 60 language churches.
Strengthening Existing Churches—We are doing everything we can in terms of leadership development by consulting with churches. Let us come to your church and help you in the areas of leadership, organization, small group, women’s ministry, whatever it is you need, we can be the resource, and we want to be a resource.
Missional Expression along with Compassionate Ministries—Helping churches develop ministries in their communities that will transform lives of men and women, boys and girls.
I hope you see from this report that we are on target to fulfill all of the recommendations that were given to us from the State Convention and ultimately from the State Board of Missions to the staff of the Florida Baptist Convention. We are on target to implement every single recommendation.
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