“If Florida Baptists do not capture in our hearts the importance of reaching Miami for Christ, then we are not serious about reaching Florida for Christ,” said Tommy Green as he issued a ‘Macedonian cry’ during the State Board of Missions meeting March 30-31 at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center.

Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, cast a “greater kingdom vision” for more engagement, more commitment and more involvement to reach the three South Florida counties—Miami/Dade, Broward and Palm Beach—with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The population density and great diversity of languages in this North American Mission Board-designated “Send City” region offers a “differing call” than in others parts of the state, Green said.

He cited statistics that of Florida’s 20 million population, these three counties account for 6 million—a number that may increase to 8 million when including undocumented residents. With as many as 180 languages spoken in the homes of students attending Miami/Dade schools, Green said 75 percent of Miami/Dade’s households speak a language other than English, 60 percent in Broward and 45-48 percent in Palm Beach.

“What is taking place in South Florida will stretch further north in migration of people and population,” towards Orlando, he added. “If we as a state do not have a strategy and commitment for South Florida, we are going to wake up and realize that for half of our state we’ve become pretty much irrelevant.”

Acknowledging the commitment of many South Florida churches and church planters who are burdened and are making a difference in the spiritual vacuum in the region, Green asked for all Florida Baptist churches to come beside and help them. He proposed that funds from the Maguire State Mission Offering be earmarked for a global account to combine with funding from the North America Mission Board’s Send City strategy, to provide greater resources to plant and revitalize churches.

“This cannot be a state convention program,” Green urged. “It is a biblical mandate, a Great Commission call. If we do not embrace this, one day we will be held accountable. Time is short, we must press on, we must rise up together.”

Miami board member Noel Lozano said Green’s impassioned plea for South Florida was emotional to him. “My heart is beating so hard, I want to cry,” he said. Having served as a pastor in the city for 18 years, he said “When God gives you a heart for Miami, it is different than for any other place.”

Every month 15,000 new people come to Miami, Lozano said, creating a need for 15 new churches each month to keep up with the growth in the city where 98 percent of the population is unchurched.

Additionally during the meeting, the 99-member Board heard details of the Convention’s recent relocation to offices in the Southpoint area of Jacksonville from the outdated downtown building it had occupied since 1959. The Board approved a change of location for the Aug. 24-25 Board meeting to Jacksonville to dedicate the new building.

In business matters, the Board approved the overage distribution for the 2016 Cooperative Program receipts, authorized the 2016 Maguire State Mission Offering distribution and the 2017 Maguire State Mission Offering goal, and approved the articles of incorporation for Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center.

The Board learned that the faithful giving of Florida Baptist churches resulted in gifts to the 2016 Cooperative Program totaling $29,920,395, or $920,395 above the basic budget of $29 million. Because the Southern Baptist Convention portion of the overage was released each month, the Florida portion of the overage amounted to $450,993.

During this meeting, the Board allocated the Florida portion of the 2016 Cooperative Program overages to defray expenses related to the modernization of the new Florida Baptist Convention offices.

The Board approved the distribution of the 2016 Maguire State Mission Offering receipts of $720,057, or 86.75 percent of the $830,00 goal, to 14 ministries representing international, national and statewide mission efforts. The Board learned that two initiatives in the original goal—regional ministry and promotion–had been absorbed through the Conventions’ budget, providing a larger percentage distribution for the remaining ministries.

Board members approved an identical goal of $830,000 for the 2017 Maguire State Mission Offering without identifying specific allocations at the request of Convention staff. Green told members the staff was revaluating the offering funding and hoped to bring previously funded ministries into the Cooperative Program budget.

This action would allow the Convention to earmark the 2017 offering as funding for new initiatives and strategies to reach Miami. Allocation of funds will be presented to the Board for approval at the August 2017 meeting.

The approval of the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws for Lake Yale is one of the final steps in transitioning Lake Yale Conference Center to a Florida Baptist State Convention cooperating ministry from a department within the Convention structure. The move, which will allow the conference center to become self-sustaining and independent, was approved by Florida Baptist State Convention in November 2016. Final approval for the documents will be considered by messengers during the FBSC meeting in Miami Nov. 13-14.

In other action, the board

–approved an expenditure of $100,000 from reserve funds to underwrite a series of relationship-building meetings with pastors at the new Convention building;

— commissioned a study of the Convention’s partnership with the Confratenite Missonaire Baptiste d’Haiti to identify more effective ways to meet needs of the mission partner;

–authorized an emergency loan of $150,000 for First Baptist Church of Homestead;

–heard a report that $2 million was distributed to 44 Florida Baptist churches to plant and revitalize churches in 2016;

–granted provisional church-at-large status to Calvary Lighthouse United Church in Davie until final approval is given during the FBSC meeting Nov. 13-14 in Miami.

The State Board of Missions will next meet Aug. 24-25 in Jacksonville.

 

By Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention, April 7, 2017