NAPLES – Like many other churches across the nation, COVID-19 threw plans out the window, leaving leaders of all kinds scrambling to adjust. Putting plans on hold and pulling audibles became essential for pastors and church planters like Dave Gipson over the past year.
After more than 30 years in ministry, several of those years embracing the challenges of the Chicago and St. Louis inner cities, Gipson felt led to plant a church in Naples. So, he and his family moved as the core team that would make up Naples Family Church.
“Naples has a large population of people who are convinced God is done with them,” Gipson said. “But I believe they are a sleeping army just waiting to discover the joy that comes from seeing God use them in ministry.”
Coming directly out of COVID, the official launch of Naples Family Church on Sunday, Jan. 10 was intentionally simple, a ringing theme and mission for the six-month-old congregation. Gathering in the Eva Sugden Gomez building in beautiful Baker Park, the church is located in a prominent and “snowbird-central” spot, near the historic downtown Naples district.
Perhaps the most distinguishing mark of the new church plant is that they are committed to keeping things simple, small and authentic through expositional teaching and building relationships. The church is passionate about “keeping the feel of a small church, no matter how large they grow, through prioritizing relationships,” Gipson said.
“God is impressing on me simplicity, authenticity and relationships,” he said. “It’s easy to feel like a church has to offer every program imaginable. But I feel that God is disciplining us to keep things simple and keep them real.”
Along the way, Gipson became acquainted with Mark Gonzales, director of missions for the Royal Palm Association, and Chris Butler, pastor of North Naples Baptist Church and member of the association’s church planting and revitalization team (read here).
“North Naples Baptist Church is excited to come alongside Pastor Dave Gipson of Naples Family Church,” said Butler. “We have expressed willingness and availability to help this new church plant to reach people for Christ…we stand ready to assist and serve as needed to help this new mission in Naples.”
Desiring to keep up with the rapid growth and increase the gospel presence in the city, North Naples agreed to be Gipson’s sending church conditioned on it becoming a cooperating member of the Florida Baptist Convention.
Wayne Briant, the Southwest Regional Catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, is enthusiastic about the new work and ministry being done across southwest Florida. “Florida Baptists are excited to partner with local churches in their church planting efforts in southwest Florida,” he said.
In line with keeping the church simple, Naples Family Church offers a Sunday worship service, a weekday Bible study, and encourages those who attend to have fellowships with each other throughout the week.
The church is also committed to fixing their eyes on a simple, three-step purpose – to “reach people and draw them into a relationship with Jesus, to grow each believer as followers of Jesus, and to go by serving and sharing the love of Jesus with their community and the world.”
In keeping in step with a “simple and small” ministry mentality and following their three-step purpose, the church is seeing lives changed in just a short amount of time. Gipson shared that the congregation has seen, first-hand, what it looks like for the gospel to transform lives.
“We have seen a majority of the people who’ve attended make salvation decisions for Christ,” he said. “Many of these folks are mature adults, but God is revealing what it really means to be a Christian for the first time in their lives.”
“There are things other churches do that are nice, but too many options have a tendency to skew our focus and dilute our effectiveness,” Gipson said.
“We keep our focus on what Christ commanded. Quite simply, we focus on being the church!”