Florida Baptist Partnership with Ohio Baptists sets stage for ‘something bigger’

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As Florida Baptists’ partnership with Ohio Baptists begins to take shape, leaders from both state conventions are realizing the opportunities for God to do “something bigger” in and through both state conventions.

Recently several Florida Baptist leaders traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to speak and serve at the 2023 Ohio African American Fellowship.

Florida Baptist leaders included Jeffery Singletary, Florida Baptists’ Central region catalyst; Patrick Coats, Florida Baptists’ East region catalyst; Erik Cummings, Florida Baptists’ Black multicultural catalyst; and Zelvis Applin, pastor, South Hills Church, Wimauma.

“The experience was incredible.  I felt like the Lord was able to use my journey as a pastor who has served in various roles, the most recent being a church planter, to equip and bless those in attendance,” Applin said.

Reginald Hayes, convention relations-community leader for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, agreed, saying that the gathering “helped in sharing and understanding techniques used in Florida that are most effective in urban areas.” The collaboration and ideas, he said, “galvanized best practices for planning, revitalizing and strengthening pastors and churches in urban communities.”

Cummings welcomed the opportunity to share with Ohio Baptist pastors. He said, “We can encourage each other to go beyond traditional practices as it relates to reaching and engaging diverse communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  Floridians, he said, have long been familiar with diversity, and Ohioans are now seeing demographic shifts in their population. “These partnerships provide dialogue and strategy to be proactive in preparing to minister in changing times.”

Applin recalls a testimony from Ohio pastor Darryl Baker, who, though not knowing what to expect from the fellowship meeting, “felt encouraged as he realized that he and I were both ministering in suburban/rural contexts with diverse congregations.”

Returning home from the Ohio visit, Applin said he realized he was “part of something bigger than what’s happening in Wimauma, Florida. I am committed to assisting my Ohio brothers and churches in any way I can as we continue to build upon the established partnership between our two state conventions. We are truly better together.”

Collaboration between regional catalysts

Regional catalysts in Ohio recently have been matched with regional catalysts in Florida “to communicate better and collaborate for a more effective partnership,” said Jeremy Westbrook, Ohio Baptists’ executive director/treasurer.

“Now that our regional catalysts have been connected in both state conventions, we will begin to see momentum between the churches and catalysts as they partner for missions and revitalization efforts,” he said.

Hayes is optimistic about the partnership’s potential. Such a partnership, he said, provides “opportunities to strengthen communities by growing healthy churches,” and he commended Florida Baptist catalysts as “wonderful advisors with a wealth of information about how to organize, develop and build lasting evangelism models in communities.”

Cummings said he prays “that we will continue to have fruitful conversations and even possibly collaborate on combining our efforts to encourage like-minded church leaders across the country in the ever-changing landscape in which we all minister.”

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