It’s a typical weekday afternoon in South Florida as Mark and Kristin Schweitzer unload their four tow-headed preschool sons at a neighborhood park in suburban Sunrise.
Kristin and the boys kick around a soccer ball on the field and invite others to join the fun. Mark sets up a portable cool misting machine and offers bottled water to sweat-drenched joggers along the gravel path.
As runners and walkers accept the bottled water, Mark quickly engages them in conversation, sometimes sprinting alongside, as he shares about the new church he’s planting. Handing a card to those who accept, he asks if the church can pray for them. Soon a young woman stops and tearfully begins to relay the burdening need in her life. He clasps her hand, and together they bow their heads and pray.
“This is the mission field God has given us. This is where we live, where we shop and where we go to the park,” said Schweitzer, church planter of the Gospel Life Church. For this young family, it is the place where acquaintances are made, relationships are built and opportunities to share the gospel abound.
Within a three-mile radius of their home, 142,000 people live “and when we started, there was one church preaching the gospel,” he said. Two years ago, the Schweitzers planted Gospel Life Church which meets each Sunday at nearby Welleby Elementary School.
Church planting is hard, Schweitzer shared. “Setting up chairs every week, tearing things down, resetting an elementary-school cafeteria. It takes a lot of energy and it can be discouraging when you do all of that and have 20 people show up on a Sunday.”
“But with that, we have seen God’s hand of grace because we are now celebrating the fact that we have seen new people every single week for over two months in a row,” he said.
“We need missionaries in suburban South Florida. We’re here where the people live, where families are, this is where the gospel is needed.”
The new church can use volunteers who are willing to do simple things, like playing soccer in a park or placing door hangers on homes, one of the most effective ways they have found “in getting people to come through our doors on Sunday,” he said.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is people are comfortable,” the church planter explained. “Because people have a little bit more of a comfortable existence, you don’t see the brokenness painted as clearly. But behind those air-conditioned walls are sanitized version of brokenness.”
“This past week, of five response connection cards that were turned in, two persons told me their marriages were falling apart,” he said.
Schweitzer is one of six church planters featured in Florida Baptists’ 2017 State Mission Offering emphasis, “Send South Florida,” which will allocate 100 percent of the proceeds toward mission initiatives in South Florida. These church planters are dedicated to reaching Florida’s highest populated and least churched region with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Schweitzer asks Florida Baptists to pray for “endurance to help us every day as we wake up hard and continue to push hard at the plow.
“We have come to Sunrise to see this community transformed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need you to come and help.”
By Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention, August 28, 2017