Florida’s DOMs focus on strengthening churches

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Thirty-eight associational mission leaders focused on the main priority of their mission—to strengthen the local church—during the annual Florida Baptist Director of Missions Retreat May 2-4 at College Road Baptist Church in Ocala.

Kicking off the three-day meeting was Tommy Green, who has been serving as the executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention for nearly a year.

He pledged to the director of missions that the Convention and association would work together to support and strengthen the local church.

“I want to see Florida Baptists do great things for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. I want the Convention to help the association be better and the association to help the Convention be better, so together, we can help our churches be better.”

Green shared with the director of missions that one of his passions is a love for pastors. “They are our heroes. They are serving faithfully and fruitfully, living under high expectations.”

Citing, Jeremiah 12:10-11, he acknowledged that many pastors live under stress as they fulfill the calling God has given for them—and have had their “hearts crushed.”

He pledged to do more to help local pastors and churches.

“It’s about trust,” he said. “If we trust one another we can do more to impact the Kingdom.”

Green told the group changes made since his arrival at the Convention have been to decentralize and regionalize the resources of the state convention, adding that both have been fully implemented. Now is the time, he added, for the personalization component to be a priority. “That’s what we are all about,” adding that “the Convention is continually working on relationships.”

After years of a downward slide in Cooperative Program giving, Green shared with the group that churches are becoming reengaged and are putting their mission dollars back in the cooperative giving. He shared that CP giving in 2015 was above the previous year’s giving for the first time since 2007. And CP giving continues to be ahead this year through April.  “This impacts ministry because it allows us to do more in missions.”

During a time of dialogue, director of missions asked questions on a wide range of topics.

Glen Rogers of the Seminole Baptist Association said his churches have already benefitted from the Convention’s new concept of regional catalysts and the “right beside” approach of ministry.

When asked by Don Walker of the Suwannee Baptist Association, to assess the structure of the association in ten years, Green told him “relevance will drive people” in the future.

Chip Fox of the Santa Rosa Baptist Association asked Green how the DOMs could pray for him.

Green responded that he wants to remain focused on the mission—not the institution. “I didn’t accept this job to build up the Florida Baptist Convention,” he said. “The Convention is irrelevant. The churches of the Florida Baptist Convention are relevant.”

“If I ever lose sight of that I have messed up.”

He added that he is praying earnestly for revival. “Outside of a fresh movement of God over our churches, I think we are in trouble.”

When asked about future staffing, Green said the Convention structure may have some “tweaking” in the future, but “we are not going to build up a larger staff.” He said the Convention is considering adding a sixth region to more efficiently serve churches.

Sean McMahon of the Florida Baptist Association, said he appreciated Green’s “transparency,” calling it “so refreshing.” His willingness to admit that there needs to be an increase in the number of regions was good to hear, as it’s something we DOM’s said we were concerned about from the beginning.

“We have been fearful that the load placed on some of the regional catalysts was too much,” he said. “Glad to have a leader who is willing to evaluate and adjust his plan.”

During the three days, speakers from across the state and the SBC presented how associational leaders can help churches by better understanding their life cycles.

Bob Bumgarner, executive pastor of Chets Creek Church in Jacksonville, “If you don’t believe your association is important to your churches, you will never be.”

Every church has a life cycle, Bumgarner said. Church growth takes place on a bell curve, noting the four quadrants of the cycle are: accelerating–when ministries are just beginning and getting going; booming–when ministries are prospering and continuing to thrive; decelerating–when ministries begin to struggle or diminish; and tanking–when ministries lose personal engagement and financial support.

Bumgarner also told the associational director they can do more for local churches than other entities, including the North American Mission Board, because they have proximity. “Pastors don’t want another pastor, they want a partner.”

Other speakers addressing the life cycle of the church were Spike Hogan, pastor, Chets Creek Church; Thom Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, who spoke via SKYPE; Rick Wheeler, DOM, Jacksonville Baptist Association; and Tom Cheyney, DOM Greater Orlando Baptist Association.

McMahon said, “Walking through the four quadrants of church life and health was a great reminder of the opportunities we have to help and assist churches.”

Serving as officers for the group are Chip Fox, Santa Rosa Baptist Association, president; Troy Varnum,  Northwest Coast Association, president-elect, Rick Wheeler, Jacksonville Baptist Association, vice president; Joe Maddox, Nature Coast Baptist Association, treasurer; Mike Hoffman, Brevard Baptist Association, webmaster; and McMahon, adviser.

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