Florida Baptists’ Most-Read Stories of 2023

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Pictured above: Pastor Marcos Andrade embraces the youngest member of the Lucie family. The Lucies lived 10 years in Brazil where they learned to speak Portuguese.

How is God moving through the Sunshine State? Here’s your answer. Planting and revitalizing churches, reaching unreached people groups, baptizing new believers, ministering and witnessing during times of crisis–these are just a few of the Florida Baptist Convention’s 20 most-read stories in 2023.

1. Pastor Brings Churches Together to Revitalize First Baptist Fort Lauderdale

By David Moore, Oct. 13. 

FORT LAUDERDALE–Pastor David Hughes helped turn things around for what is now Church by the Glades decades ago, and now he and members of that church are working together to help revitalize First Baptist Fort Lauderdale.

2. Brazilian Church Plant in Delray Beach Reaches Haitians with Gospel

By Keila Diaz, June 2.

DELRAY BEACH— One-year-old church plant Brazilian Baptist Church is reaching not only Brazilians in the Delray Beach community, but also Portuguese-speaking Haitian families.

3. Baptist College of Florida Partners with Local Church to Launch Extension Campus

By Jessica Pigg, Aug. 9. 

CLEARWATER– The Baptist College of Florida recently has announced a partnership with Calvary Church in Clearwater to launch a new extension campus slated to open in August 2024.

woman being baptized
First Baptist Church Naples baptizes record number of men, women and children.

4. Southwest Florida Church Witnesses Unprecedented Number of Baptisms/Life Change

By Jessica Pigg, May 18.

NAPLES—April found herself searching for purpose and struggling to find direction. She had grown up attending church with her family, so she did an online search for Baptist churches near her and found First Naples. On January 23, after years of searching for purpose, April found life change.

5. Pastors to Be Nominated to Lead 2024 Florida Baptist Pastors’ Conference

By Margaret Colson, Oct. 2.

LUTZ­–Aaron Burgner will be nominated by fellow Florida Baptist pastor Alan Brumback to serve as president of the 2024 Florida Baptist Pastors’ Conference.

6. Church Replant Breathes New Life into Historic Community/Unites Local Churches

By Brooke Mannion, March 8.

PENSACOLA­–A new God story is unfolding in West Pensacola’s rich historic religious landscape. The Point Church Jackson Campus, a replant of West Pensacola Baptist Church, is breathing new life into the historic 12-acre campus, which had been “a foothold for the gospel” in the community for more than half a century.

7. Florida Baptists to Celebrate/Conduct Business at 2023 Annual Meeting

By Margaret Colson, Oct. 30.

LUTZ–Florida Baptists will gather to conduct business and celebrate churches working together to expand God’s kingdom when the 2023 Florida Baptist State Convention convenes at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz Nov. 13-14.

8. Horseshoe Beach Church Serves ss ‘Lighthouse’ for Community Amid Hurricane Devastation

By Jessica Pigg, Sept. 5.

HORSESHOE BEACH—Known as a laid-back, friendly fishing village, the quaint community of Horseshoe Beach found itself directly in the path of Hurricane Idalia’s 125 mph winds and 10-foot storm surge. The catastrophic devastation has left the fishing and boating community in pieces.

Picking up some of those pieces is Robin Hoffman. Hoffman’s family has owned a home in Horseshoe Beach since the early 1970s and is a longtime member of First Baptist Church Horseshoe Beach—the only local church within 20 miles.

9. ‘Incredibly Gracious and Big God’ Fuels Partnerships Between Churches/Regions

By Jessica Pigg, June 28.

FT. LAUDERDALE–The long, scenic miles across Alligator Alley could not hinder southwest Florida Baptist pastors from coming “right beside” Larry Brister, a pastor serving in Ft. Lauderdale.

10. Calvary Church Reaches Deaf Community for Christ

By Jessica Pigg, July 18.

CLEARWATER—For Ron Cooney, a specific church ministry originally brought his family through the doors of Calvary Church when he was 14 years old. As a child of a deaf adult (CODA), Cooney and his family were able to find a home at the Central Florida church. Now, years later, Cooney still calls Calvary Church home—as its executive pastor.

11. ‘God Has Showed Up and Showed Out’ for Worship/Youth Pastor

By Brooke Mannion, Oct. 15.

CRAWFORDVILLE–An excruciating cry of pain rang out through the worship center as Pastor Wayne Baker presented the altar call at First Baptist Church of Wakulla Station on Sunday, April 23. Baker quickly realized that Pastor Daniel Lloyd, worship and youth pastor, had fallen to the ground in debilitating back pain.

12. ‘I’ve Always Had a Love for Pastors’ Says Retiring Catalyst Gary Townsend

By David Moore, July 16.

Helping pastors and their churches was one of the things Gary Townsend enjoyed most about his role as north regional catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention.

13. Monticello Church Marks 192nd Anniversary with Heritage Day Celebration

By David Moore, July 6.

MONTICELLO­–When Elizabeth Baptist Church in Monticello held its heritage day celebration recently, members and guests gathered to commemorate 192 years of history in various ways, which included:

Dedicating its new bronze plaque containing a handwritten replica of the church’s original constitution, now attached to the front of the church.
Honoring its historian and a couple of longtime, dedicated members.
Thanking its members for its status as one of the most generous Baptist churches in Florida.
Rejoicing in the baptism of a new believer.

14. UF Students Spend Spring Break on Mission in South Sudan

By David Moore, May 11.

GAINESVILLE–South Sudan in East Africa is not your typical spring break destination for today’s college students, but when the opportunity arose to go there on a mission trip, Emma Formet was all in.

15. Diverse Populations Unified in Christ at Crestview Baptist Church

By Teodosia Rivera, Oct. 10.

LAKELAND­–As David Renfroe celebrates his 20th anniversary as senior pastor of Crestview Baptist Church in Lakeland, the true celebration focuses on the more than 1,500 individuals­–representing dramatically diverse walks of life­–who have made professions of faith and been baptized over the past two decades at the Central Florida church.

16. Florida Baptists Come Together to Celebrate Victories, Look to Future During Challenge 2025 Gathering

By Margaret Colson and Keila Diaz, March 3.

ORLANDO­–Close to 1,000 Florida Baptists came together to celebrate victories and look to the future in reaching Florida’s 22 million residents with the gospel during the Challenge 2025 Gathering held Feb. 28 at First Baptist Church in Orlando.

17. Cloer Inaugurated as Seventh President of Baptist College of Florida

By Margaret Colson, April 26.

GRACEVILLE–The Baptist College of Florida inaugurated Clayton Cloer as it seventh president in a ceremony April 25 on the school’s main campus in Graceville.

18. Culbreth Retires, Credits God with Ministry Opportunities/Impact

By Margaret Colson, March 24.

JACKSONVILLE–After serving the Florida Baptist Convention, where he has “invested his life in the church,” for 25 years, Craig Culbreth, is retiring March 31, 2023.

19. Cooking up a Community that Glorifies God

By Brooke Mannion, June 1.

PENSACOLA­–Working late nights and serving the Sunday brunch crowd, restaurant workers can find it difficult to draw near to God, consistently fellowship with believers and receive encouragement to walk with Christ.

20. Chipola Churches Share Christ, Give Generously and Celebrate Milestone

By Brooke Mannion, Sept. 21.

MARIANNA–Smiles, singing, crafts, praising Jesus and learning about His love and sacrifice fueled the summer for churches in Chipola Baptist Association.

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