NAPLES–With an estimated 6.6 million unchurched people calling south Florida home, Irvin Stallworth and his wife Pamela are embarking on the exciting, unknown journey of church planting. After serving at an established church in Naples for several years, the church planter launched New Beginnings Ministries of Naples on April 2019.
“We take the Great Commission seriously,” said Stallworth. “We understand that teaching and living out a commitment to the Great Commission and Great Commandment will grow a great church.”
As a church plant, Stallworth said his initial goal was to establish relationships and “developing them to Christ-like maturity and empower them for a meaningful ministry and life in the world in order to magnify God.”
The pastor has established his church plant on four primary foundations: building relationships, expository preaching, missions and the Great Commission.
Over a year ago, the Florida Baptist Convention, in partnership with the North American Mission Board (NAMB), unanimously voted to expand the SEND South Florida emphasis across the entire state. With SEND Network Florida in full swing, new church plants are being established across the Sunshine State with the desire to take the gospel to every person that calls Florida home.
Tommy Green, Florida Baptists’ executive director-treasurer, described the partnership as a “game-changer” for church planting efforts in the state of Florida.
For a burgeoning southwest Florida region, a “game-changer” is what is desperately needed.
“Those of us living in Southwest Florida reside in one of the largest unchurched areas in America,” said Wayne Briant, southwest regional catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention. “The impact of church planting cannot be over expressed.”
Stallworth and his wife completed the extensive SEND Network assessment over the summer. Being described as “enthusiastic and passionate,” he passed the Send Network Assessment in August and was approved to begin his training in January 2021 with the southwest regional trainer, Timothy Pigg.
“My goal is to help Irvin develop, grow, and sustain a healthy church,” said Pigg, pastor of Fellowship Church in Immokalee.
In coordination with the sending church, Fellowship Church, Stallworth will receive training and resources. The plant will also receive funding based on a tiered grid shared 50/50 by NAMB and the state convention. Helping fund new church plants is why NAMB’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and Florida’s Maguire State Mission Offering are so critical to reaching the state with the gospel.
Putting the convention’s motto, “Right Beside You,” into practice, the SEND Network Florida partnership provides Stallworth with six months of training, two years of coaching, five years of planter care, and financial support for up to four years through the sending church.
“God is on the move doing great things across our state,” said James Peoples, director for SEND Network Florida. “What a joy to join Him in what He is doing, and to come right beside our churches helping equip and resource them to plant churches.
“The Stallworths being sent out from Fellowship Church is a beautiful example of the local association, the state convention, and NAMB working together to serve our churches in fulfilling their ministry.”
With another six to eight SEND Network Florida church planters beginning training in 2021, Briant is excited about the future harvest coming to southwest Florida.
“Churches planting new churches can vitalize communities with the gospel. We are grateful to partner with Florida Baptist churches in this great challenge.”
With over 21 years serving in gospel ministry, some of them challenging, Stallworth remains adamant that God is good, and he still loves what he has been called to do.
“God is faithful,” proclaimed Stallworth. “As a disciple of Christ, I must love what God loves – His people. Every day of my life I get to share and teach others to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that they and others might be saved!”