FORT MYERS—During their association’s annual meeting this past year, four local pastors heard story after story of pastors who were hurting and in desperate need of encouragement. With a deep-seeded desire to minister to these needs, the four men began meeting monthly for lunch, prayer and accountability. A year later a mutual brotherhood is not the only partnership that has formed.
Gripped by the increasing lostness, hurting churches and discouraged pastors in the southwest Florida region of Naples and Fort Myers, the four pastors formed a Church Relations Team within the Royal Palm Baptist Association. Birthed out of a desire to help plant healthy churches and revitalize hurting ones, the team promised to walk right beside local pastors.
“Other than missions, perhaps the greatest thing about being part of the Southern Baptist Convention is the instant connection pastors experience with one another,” said James Hunt, pastor of Caloosa Baptist Church in LaBelle. “We are all part of one team, essentially, for the furtherance of the kingdom of God. Local pastors need to be reminded that they really, actually, are not alone.”
“This team and the relationship that we have together stirs my heart to pursue Jesus as my greatest treasure,” said Gold. “They hold me accountable to faithfully and personally share the gospel and to lead my church to do the same.”
At the Oct. 20 annual gathering, the association voted to adopt the formation of the team to assist in church planting and church revitalization efforts.
“I am looking forward to partnering with these men and their churches to see lostness reduced in southwest Florida by planting gospel-centered churches,” said Gold. And to be “a resource and a source of encouragement to our local pastors.”
The team will serve as an advisory council, overseeing the distribution of funds and the completion of the multiple planting and revitalization training and coaching steps.
“There is no church that is too small to plant a healthy church,” said Pigg.
Working in conjunction with the Florida Baptist Convention and North American Mission Board, the association will provide additional funding and coaching assistance to new church plants and existing church revitalization projects.
“We need every church in our association to be a healthy gospel-centered church and a disciple-making church if we are going to see lostness reduced in southwest Florida,” said Gold.
With a goal of working with one new church plant and two revitalizations each year, the team is measuring success based on gospel-impact. It is the heartbeat of the four pastors that every church becomes actively engaged in personal evangelism and discipleship.
“It’s going to take every pastor being healthy, encouraged, equipped, resourced, prayed over, supported and loved,” said Gold. “We need each other.”
The pastor-led team hopes the kingdom-impact Royal Palm Baptist Association will be greatly affected and strengthened. “I’m looking forward to seeing new churches planted in strategic locations as well as existing, struggling churches strengthened,” said Hunt.
“It is exciting to see the Royal Palm Baptist Association prioritize church planting and church revitalization,” said Wayne Briant, Florida Baptist catalyst for the southwest region. “The need for church planting and revitalization is great and is the foundation for reaching our lost communities for Christ.”