Florida Baptists gather to celebrate, encourage, sharpen skills during Challenge 2025 meeting

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ORLANDO–Florida Baptists from all corners of the state set aside a day for prayer, instruction, and commitment to reach Florida’s 22 million people during the “Challenge 2025 Gathering” held Feb. 22 at First Baptist Church in Orlando.

“Wherever you go there are people to be reached for the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention. “Behold how good and pleasant it is to be gathered in unity.”

He asked God “to encourage us, challenge us and convict us.”

The meeting that drew nearly a thousand Florida Baptist pastors and church leaders offered more than a dozen “Challenge” breakout sessions—led by fellow practitioners–for church leaders to hone their skills with specifics relevant to their own ministry settings. The sessions focused on language challenges found in Brazilian, Hispanic, Haitian and Asian churches; contextualized challenges in urban, suburban, rural churches; and church growth challenges, multi-sites, church planting and church revitalization; and others.

“We want iron to sharpen iron today with practical knowledge,” Green said.

Paul Purvis, Challenge 2025 GatheringIn the keynote address, Florida Baptist State Convention president Paul Purvis urged the group to “finish well” during a biblical message from Acts 20: 18-24.

“Don’t quit before you finish,” said the pastor of Mission Hill Church in Tampa. “We are coming out of a two-year season that has left many of us feeling like quitting…My prayer is that God will meet you here today,” he said. (See story | View sermon)

This is the second year the Challenge 2025 gathering was held. Challenge 2025 was originally revealed as five-year vision for Florida Baptists in 2019 to spur the family of Baptists to attain a new level of commitment to reach the nation’s third most populous state with the gospel.

Green’s vision established annual benchmarks for the state’s combined churches: 75 new church plants; 100 revitalized churches; 30,000 baptisms; 12,000 mission engagements; $33 million in Cooperative Program gifts; and $1 million in Maguire State Mission Offering gifts for church planting.

This meeting celebrated that “God is continuing to bless us” said Green, meeting these goals in 2021: 74 new church plants*; 17,040 baptisms—despite the toughest days of ministry in the past two years; 106,659 mission engagements*; $30,775,364 in Cooperative Program gifts that sent $15,688,053, or 51%, to the Southern Baptist Convention; and other offering totals including $2.5 million to North America missions; $5.39 million to international missions and $38.7 to state missions. (View Dr. Green’s address here.)

Challenge 2025 GatheringIn the closing session, Green led the church leaders in a season of prayer, scripture reading and worship. Bowing heads, kneeling and standing with arms outstretched to heaven, participants in multiple languages offered praise, confession and repentance, thanksgiving, and intercession for those among them who were hurting.

That closing time of prayer “was especially powerful,” said Jack Smith, pastor of West Pittman Baptist Church in Westville. “The preaching and praise times were great. Usually, I am the one doing the feeding, so it is great to go somewhere and be fed.”

The Panhandle pastor said it was “encouraging to hear what God is accomplishing through Florida Baptists.

“I returned home with better ideas on how to make disciples and I was reminded that in a rural setting, I get to pastor my people intimately! I left encouraged.”

*Subsequent to original publication, the new church plants and mission engagements numbers have been updated.

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