Hope for Tomorrow: On a journey to learn all I can about Southern Baptists in Florida
by KEVIN BUMGARNER
Executive Editor

Article Date: Apr 2, 2014

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15 ESV

As I’ve shared with you before, I moved to Florida because I felt God was calling me to join Him on an amazing new journey. Having most recently lived in Hawaii, I’ve heard lots of jokes about me being crazy to leave Paradise.

I have taken the good-natured ribbing in the spirit it was intended; those kidding with me knew I wasn’t coming here for a vacation. But I didn’t come here to take a job, either. I had one of those already, and was doing fine, according to those who are paid to score such things.

No, I came to Florida in response to what I felt was God’s call in my life to help redirect the Florida Baptist Witness in a way that attempts to make it even more appealing to those who would want to continue to read it in print, and create new opportunities for those who want to access us on their smartphones or connect with us on the Internet or through social media.

I shared that basic idea with you in my first editorial. Since that time, I’ve been laying the groundwork for the changes that are to come by asking as many people as possible to help me understand as much as possible about this state I now call home, and its rich Southern Baptist heritage.

Many of you have responded, and for that I already owe a debt of gratitude: My travels have taken me from Miami to Crestview, and various points in between. If I haven’t been your way yet, trust me when I say, “I’m on the way!” It is my desire to be accessible.

If a face-to-face meeting isn’t an option, my phone number, email and social media contact information are listed elsewhere on this page. Several of you have reached me that way, and I have a better understanding of Florida Southern Baptists because of the time you took and the insights you shared.

Help me understand:

What’s currently the one feature you always read in the Florida Baptist Witness? What would be one thing you’d like to see added? And, finally, how often do you visit our website: goFBW.com?

This is an especially important time for me and you to connect, because hopefully I am learning what I need to give you so that you’ll remain a loyal reader of the Florida Baptist Witness. I also need your help in knowing what it may take to rekindle your friends’ interest.

Last week, I attended both evangelism conferences hosted by the Florida Baptist Convention, first and foremost because I believe we are obligated to share the Good News, and I wanted to hear firsthand what our leadership is doing to help us and, ultimately, hold us accountable for spreading the Word. (You may recall my own confession in this area from my editorial in the March 20 print edition.)

At the same time, I used both of these opportunities to introduce myself and then do a lot of listening. It’s the same thing I’ve been trying to do in cities as distinct as Tallahassee and Jacksonville and towns as different as Waldo and Bonifay.

Along the way, I love what I have learned, even when it hasn’t had anything to do directly with the work of Southern Baptists. I have seen firsthand, for instance, a Miami that is full of friendly people with diverse cultural heritages, and a city that is clean and safe and cosmopolitan and defies—in good ways—most of the things I thought I knew before I visited. I also have seen what God is doing there through Southern Baptists.

And then there is Waldo, where I recently had the pleasure of worshiping. I left feeling overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people at First Baptist Church, who came ready to do business with God when they met.

All of these impressions and conversations are shaping my image of the people of Florida, and what kind of news and information about your Southern Baptist story we will try to bring in the months to come. Please feel free to share your story, your church’s story or what you’ve heard about someone else’s story. I am eager to hear them all, and see how the Florida Baptist Witness can communicate in ways that give you hope for tomorrow by seeing what He is doing today.

As for any debates about who is living in Paradise, God’s Word makes it clear that we all have lost the chance for Paradise on Earth. We are living in a broken world. But, thankfully, that is not the end of the story: God is still very active, and eager for us to join Him in His work until the day He returns.

Isn’t that information worth sharing, with your neighbor and co-worker, as well as the executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness? I have it on good authority that he is a top-notch listener!


Let’s Connect: 

In the office at 904-596-3171, via email at kbumgarner@goFBW.com and Twitter @FBWdreamchaser. 

I also am available on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn under my given name.

 

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