FORT MYERS — The smell of SON Coast Coffee and sounds of laughter filled the worship center of Crossroads Baptist Church in Fort Myers as more than 200 people gathered Tuesday, Oct. 8 for the 61st Annual Meeting of the Royal Palm Association.
The Royal Palm Association is a missional network of 100 cooperating churches in southwest Florida, one of the most diverse and unreached areas of the state.
Served during the meeting was SON Coast Coffee, which is produced as an ongoing mission project by Beach Baptist Church in Fort Myers Beach to fund the ongoing growth of the gospel and community development in the San Pedro de la Laguna region of Guatemala.
The associational meeting began with a time of worship and business led by Mark Gonzales, executive director of the Royal Palm Association; David Gold, pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church; and Wayne Briant, southwest regional catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention
He stressed the vital need for cooperation among churches. “It would hurt our missions endeavor if you stopped giving. We are very grateful for your gifts and for your partnership.”
After a short time of approving the new 2020 annual budget, messengers celebrated new church plants and pastors who are making southwest Florida home. Over the past five years, the association has seen 14 new church plants established in three counties and other churches revitalized.
Josiah Mazzell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Clewiston, is one of the newest pastors to the association. Moving to the area in September from South Carolina, Mazzell said he is confident that preaching the gospel will revitalize and transform the church.
“I believe God is in the transformational business,” said Mazzell. “If we want communities transformed, the people have to be changed from the inside out.”
Throughout the meeting, panel discussions led by pastors and ministry leaders expressed one common goal–to make God known in their community by going beyond the four walls of their church.
“We have a global missions focus within our association,” said Gonzales. “I am grateful for the vision each one of our churches has to go beyond their four walls.”
A panel focusing on new church plants featured Jim Olson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pine Island; Manuel Oreana, Hispanic pastor of FBC in Pine Island; and Bill Vecchio, pastor of Ft. Myers Community Church. The pastors called attention to how vital community ministry is to establishing their new church plants.
“Our ultimate goal is to be a church that if we cease to exist, our community would miss us,” said Vecchio.
Royal Palm is a diverse association. Of the 100-plus churches that comprise the association, 33 are Creole-speaking congregations and more than 20 are Spanish speaking. Further representing such a diverse association of churches during the meeting was a performance by the Noah’s Ark Baptist Church Choir in Creole.
The meeting concluded with Gold, the host pastor, and Timothy Pigg, pastor of Fellowship Church, calling for pastors and church leaders to pray over Gonzales as he continues in his calling to walk beside and provide resources for pastors.
Those who attended the meeting expressed an excitement to hear the things God is doing in and through the many churches in southwest Florida and were encouraged to keep harvesting a ripe field.