Florida Baptists celebrate God’s provisions in 2020

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MIAMI— In a first-of-its-kind annual meeting, the Florida Baptist State Convention celebrated all that God has done among Florida Baptists in 2020 during an online meeting that reached more than 10,000 views on social media platforms.

The video message hosted by Erik Cummings, president of the Florida Baptist State Convention (FBSC), and featuring reports from Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention and the leaders of FBSC cooperating ministries, premiered Tuesday Nov. 10, on all of the convention’s social media channels.

“Over the next few moments, you’ll be able to hear reports and exciting testimonies of how God has taken this season of difficulty and turned it into a season of victory for Florida Baptists,” said Cummings, pastor of Miami’s New Life Baptist Church of Carol City, as he introduced the videos.

The reports were presented in lieu of the FBSC annual meeting held historically in the month of November but was cancelled this year due to COVID-19.

“We’ve been able to do great and mighty things individually, collectively as well as cooperatively; and as a result of our faithfulness God has honored that,” Cummings said.

In the convention report, Green said despite challenges in 2020, “Our time today is not an ‘oh my’ or an ‘oh me’ reflection. Our report today is a celebration of the wonderful hand of God and the wonderful provisions through the cooperative efforts of our Florida Baptist churches.”

Florida Baptists’ cooperative achievements include:

  • invested $935,200 dollars in pastoral assistance for churches to sustain salaries during the pandemic;
  • approved $3,000 forgiveness on every loan provided to churches for salary supplements during the pandemic, amounting to $365,000 of immediate relief;
  • provided financial gifts to church planters and bi-vocational pastors totaling more than $100,000;
  • restored 10 percent of support to FBSC’s cooperating ministries from the 30 percent budget reduction earlier in the year;
  • approved an interest-free loan of $250,000 and grant of $100,000 to Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center to secure the future, sustainability and survivability of the conference center;
  • allocated $500,000 to Send Network Florida for continued strong and faithful support of churches planting churches in Florida;
  • celebrated 77 church planters completing assessments in 2020;
  • provided grants and interest-free loans to churches for insurance deductibles and other expenses incurred when Hurricane Sally hit the Pensacola area in September;
  • provided financial assistance to pastors impacted by the hurricane;
  • supported Florida Baptist disaster relief teams remaining on the ground with cleanup and recovery teams in Pensacola, staging two feeding units to meet hunger needs in the area;
  • authorized a pilot project to partner with churches responding to the massive influx from across the world, to assist them move toward citizenship, acclimate in their communities, develop English as a second language; and to minister to new neighbors in communities and cities with compassion; and
  • approved a $28.5 million Cooperative Program budget for 2021 that will send 51 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention, while retaining 49 percent for ministries in Florida.

Green announced that through partnerships with the state and other private companies, Florida Baptists received $27,810,764 in food donations that provided 6,344,015 meals distributed by 672 churches located in all 67 counties. Through the churches’ commitment to share the gospel and care for their communities, more than 1,000 persons made professions of faith.

“The pandemic has accelerated a passion and zeal to be laser focused to keep the ‘main thing the main thing’ together as a family of churches in Florida,” he said

Green noted that Challenge 2025 “could not have been more providentially revealed by our Lord” and is within reach with goals of 75 new churches a year; 100 church revitalizations; 30,000 baptisms; 12,000 mission engagements; $33 million in Cooperative Program giving; and one million dollars in Maguire State Mission Offering giving.

Saying that a God-sized vision to lead requires a God-sized faith to lead and believe, Green added, “God has shut us down to see his glory, his power, his provision, his purposes, his majesty through a collaborative kingdom effort.”

Citing Nehemiah 6:3, Green encouraged Florida Baptists to continue the work of the Kingdom of God even in difficult circumstances as those presented by 2020.

“I want to encourage you today Florida Baptists, you are doing a great work. Stay on the wall, stay on the wall, I’m staying on the wall right beside you; you are not alone or isolated. We are a family and family sticks together.”

He urged Florida Baptists to attend the “Challenge 2025 Gathering” at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Feb. 16, 2021. “It will be a powerful day as we come from all across our state to focus on Challenge 2025 and what God can do through us as we unify together to reach Florida for the lord Jesus Christ.”

FBSC Cooperating Ministries

Thomas A. Kinchen, president of the Baptist College of Florida, reported that BCF continues to be committed to training Christian leaders in the areas of ministry, psychology, business, teacher education, music and worship. Among highlights of the past year, the college is providing free housing scholarships to students in need; and the school’s worship ensemble, “One Voice,” made its first music video this semester highlighting historical churches at BCF’s Heritage Village.

Jerry Haag, president and CEO of Florida Baptist Children’s Home and One More Child, said during the past year, more children than ever have been impacted by the Children’s Homes; and highlighted some of the ministry’s achievements, including:

  • provided over 13 million meals for hungry families in need;
  • hosted the annual “Sound the Call” conference for pregnancy care centers and churches as they advocate and educate to protect the unborn;
  • continued to care for the needs of single moms and their children located on FBCH campuses throughout Florida who are a part of the single moms’ community programs; and
  • met needs of children through their anti-trafficking team and needs of girls in the safe homes, while also caring for more than 80 trafficking victims statewide through the mobile units.

In a video, Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center commended its staff for banding together to serve where they were needed during the pandemic; and for making their facilities safe, clean and sanitized environments, while also partnering with their community to meet needs and share Christ. “God brought opportunities for ministries we would have otherwise missed.”

Rick Wheeler, executive director-treasurer of Florida Baptist Financial Services (FBSC), shared how they come beside Florida Baptists and their churches in the role of financial planning, stewardship and investment as a partner in the Great Commission and kingdom of God.

Through the Church Growth Investment Fund, FBFS provided 11 loans and over $11 million in funding for churches buying property and buildings, and renovating their facilities,” he said. “We’ve been able to see $2.3 million distributed to kingdom causes because of the generosity of Florida Baptists through our church growth investment fund.”

Wheeler continued, “We’ve taken this year to develop a strategic plan and come together and say ‘what kind of organization do we need to be and what kind of capacity do we need to have.’ So, look for announcements in the days ahead as we add some staff, and we increase our ability to serve you and come alongside you.”

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