Florida Baptists’ most-read stories of 2022 offer inspiration and challenge

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Inspirational stories about the naming of a new president for The Baptist College of Florida, churches using creative strategies to reach their communities with the gospel, pastors encouraging pastors, and disaster relief volunteers responding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian are among the Florida Baptist Convention’s 15 most-read stories in 2022.

  1. Cloer named president of Baptist College of Florida by Margaret Colson, May 27, 2022. GRACEVILLE–Clayton Cloer, senior pastor of the Church at the Cross in Orlando, was named president of The Baptist College of Florida. On May 24, 2022, BCF’s board of trustees unanimously approved the presidential search committee’s recommendation of Cloer, who began serving as president-elect on Nov. 1, 2022, and assumed his presidential duties on January 1, 2023.
  2. Unexpected encounter leads to new church plant in Jacksonville by Barbara Hoffmann, March 31, 2022. JACKSONVILLE­–An unexpected encounter in his doctoral class led to Curtis Haynes’ decision to plant a new Southern Baptist church on the southside of Jacksonville. The seasoned church planter launched The Lord is My Shepherd Church in September 2022, with a vision for the church to be one that is gospel-centered, multiracial, multicultural, engaging people from diverse backgrounds with the gospel. “My goal is to make Sunday the most integrated day of the week,” said the pastor.
  3. 35 years of faithful service in a small town by Brooke Mannion, June 30, 2022. COTTONDALE–After serving for 35 years, baptizing 477 people and officiating countless weddings and funerals, Jack Brock, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Cottondale. The key to his pastorate over the past three decades, he said, has been, “God first, then family, and then church.”
  4. Church makes kingdom impact miles outside Magic Kingdom by Jessica Pigg, July 1, 2022. KISSIMMEE­–Located just 11 miles outside the pearl-crested gates and iconic Cinderella castle of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is a church, First Baptist Church Kissimmee,that is making an eternal kingdom impact. “Over the years, Kissimmee has gone from 90% white, English-speaking to 70% Hispanic, Spanish-speaking within a five-mile radius of the church,” said Pastor Tim Wilder. “Through intentional ministry we are a diverse congregation that now reflects our community.”
  5. Church hosts fall festival and welcomes new pastor by Brooke Mannion, Nov. 11, 2022. MILTON–Pumpkins, bounce houses, dunking booths and a new pastor. Pine Terrace Baptist Church in Milton had an extra reason to celebrate at the fall festival this year. On October 30, the church hosted the annual fall festival and called Nathan Brown as senior pastor.
  6. Pastor dedicated to bringing good news to Florida’s schools by David Moore, Jan. 5, 2022. CITRUS SPRINGS–As pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Citrus Springs since 2007, Jess Burton has sought ways to impact his community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is especially dedicated to making a difference in the lives of young students in Citrus County’s local schools through Good News Club. “For many children, this is the only church in their lives,” the pastor said.
  7. Bartow church believes ‘God is still good’ after fire destroys sanctuary by Barbara Denman, April 6, 2022. BARTOW–The scorched remains of the sanctuary, buckled roof and blackened pews serve as a backdrop for the sign outside of Main Street Baptist Church in Bartow that reads, “God is Still God and God is Still Good.”
  8. Florida Baptists answer God’s call to international missions by Margaret Colson, June 14, 2022. LUTZ–In late 2017 Dan and Mandy Biles were casually looking through the church bulletin, waiting for the worship service at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz to begin. The church’s summer 2018 mission trips were outlined in the bulletin. Fast forward four years later and the Biles are going to serve as full-time missionaries in Albania.
  9. Mission pastor uses Japanese language lessons to reach community by Barbara Hoffman, June 30, 2022. JACKSONVILLE–Police officers, restaurant workers and university students are just some of the people who gather every Wednesday night at Good News Baptist Church in Jacksonville for a lesson in Japanese language and culture. But teaching Japanese is not the only reason for the class; the weekly class provides an opportunity to share Jesus with those who come.
  10. Deadly explosion damages historic church/Baptist convention offices in Western Cuba by Margaret Colson, May 19, 2022. HAVANA– The church’s 19thcentury dome has been ripped open into the sky. Windows are shattered; floors have collapsed. Pews, which have held generations of devout Christian families in Western Cuba, are now reduced to splinters in a pile of post-explosion rubble. A May 6 apparent-gas explosion that devastated the historic Saratoga Hotel in Old Havana, Cuba, killing at least 46 people and injuring more than 90, also rained destruction on nearby Calvary Baptist Church, which is “at the heart of Western Cuba Baptists’ work.”
  11. Pensacola church putting missions first with Mission First by Brooke Mannion, Aug. 11, 2022. PENSACOLA—For First Baptist Church of Pensacola, putting missions first is more than a slogan. It’s a commitment. The church broke ground on  Mission First, a 22,000-square-foot facility that will enable the church to focus on mission projects, sharing the gospel near and far. “We believe God has given us the resources to share His love in a city, community and world in need of hope,” said Pastor Dave Snyder.
  12. Singles minister returns to hometown to plant new church by Marian Rizzo, Oct. 28, 2022. PALATKA–Daniel Helms loved his hometown of Palatka (pop. 10,000), where everybody knew everybody and sports were a major part of life. Even so, during his college years, he decided to pursue his dreams elsewhere, and he wasn’t planning to move back, that is, until God called him back to his hometown to plant a church. The seeds for The Branch Community Church of Palatka were planted in June 2021, and the official launch date was Jan. 9, 2022.
  13. Miami churches merge for the expansion of the kingdom by Keila Diaz, Jan. 26, 2022. MIAMI SHORES— Miami Shores Baptist Church, launched in 1947 in a thriving Miami neighborhood, opened its doors in 2020 to host Grace Church in Miami, a new church plant launched in March 2019, for the fledging congregation to share the older congregation’s facilities. It didn’t take long for the two churches to merge as one. As Grace Church, the combined congregations started anew reaching the changing community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  14. Disaster relief set to respond in Hurricane Ian aftermath; Active: Disaster relief teams on the road to recovery in communities devastated by Hurricane Ian; Southern Baptists at sites in six Florida counties minister to hurricane victims by Margaret Colson, Sept. 29 and 30, 2022; Oct 3, 2022. GULF COAST–Less than 48 hours after Hurricane Ian’s landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams were on the road, moving toward ministry opportunities in the hurricane’s heartbreaking aftermath. Hours upon hours of preparation and prayer became action as teams of Florida Baptist DRvolunteers, along with DR teams from six additional Baptist conventions, began moving equipment and supplies Sept. 30, 2022, to seven ministry sites along Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast where Hurricane Ian unleashed its category 4 fury Sept. 28, 2022.
  15. Florida Baptists take encouragement to New England pastors, bring back desire to serve by Garold Smith, Oct. 13, 2022. NEW ENGLAND–In a section of the northeastern U.S. that was once the cradle of American independence and the Great Awakening, religion is no longer part of the culture. For pastors trying to share Jesus in such spiritual darkness, the indifference, cold weather and remoteness can be discouraging. So, a team of Florida Baptist pastors, led by Craig Culbreth, East region catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, traveled to New England to offer encouragement and friendship to pastors there.

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