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State Board names church planting strategists, oks year-round operation for Blue Springs

November 14, 2013


JACKSONVILLE—The State Board of Missions named a strategist and a field missionary for the Convention’s English-speaking Church Planting Team, authorized a one-year endowment fund solicitation campaign for the “Florida Baptist Witness” and approved the year-round operation of Blue Springs Conference Center in Marianna during its meeting held prior to the Florida Baptist State Convention Nov. 11 at North Jacksonville Baptist Church.

At the beginning of the meeting, reading from a prepared statement, John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, announced that he will undergo “significant” surgery for ongoing urological health problems he had been “battling” for the past seven months.

Saying he had undergone extensive treatment of these issues, which first surfaced in April, Sullivan added, “I thought they were resolved but they are not.” The surgery is scheduled for Nov. 26 at Jacksonville’s Mayo Clinic.

During his absence and recovery he assured the Board that Glen Owens, assistant executive director, will handle the Convention’s day-to-day operations.

In personnel matters, Robert Beckman of Lakeland was promoted to team strategist for the English-speaking Church Planting Team, effective immediately. He assumes the position left vacant when Will McRaney was named as executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

The Lake Park native, 37, has served as field missionary for the English-speaking team since 2012 and previously as a contract worker since 2007. During that time, he also planted and pastored the Go Church in Lakeland.

A former International Mission Board missionary in Amsterdam, Beckman holds the bachelor of science degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach and master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.   

The Board also elected Damaian Emetuche of New Orleans, La., as field missionary in the Central Florida region, English-speaking Church Planting Team, effective immediately. Originally from Nigeria, Emetuche assumes the position formerly held by Ray Campbell, who recently retired.

Emetuche, 50, has served as director of the Cecil B. Day Center for Church Planting at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary since 2010, where he also served as assistant professor of church planting and as a national missionary with the North American Mission Board. Prior to that he was a church planting strategist with the Puget Sound Baptist Association in Washington, where he planted a church in Lynnwood, Wash.

The newly elected field missionary received the bachelor of theology degree, master of theology and doctor of philosophy from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

In other matters, after approving the potential sale of Blue Springs Conference Center in Marianna 2011, the Board authorized reduced operating schedules at the Panhandle facility. However, in action taken at this meeting, the Board rescinded the actions and approved the center to resume a year-round operating schedule while increasing marketing and programming plans for 2014.

In a related matter, the Board also gave approval for the two Florida Baptist conference centers—Blue Springs and Lake Yale Conference Center in Leesburg—to begin developing generic Christian-oriented events targeting specific groups such as senior adults, men’s groups and women’s groups with the potential to generate attendance and income.

One such event, Senior’s Enrichment Retreat, is scheduled for Lake Yale Feb. 3-5, 2014 and is close to being sold out, reported Don Sawyer, convention facilities director.    

The one-year endowment solicitation campaign for the “Florida Baptist Witness” will be conducted in 2014 built around the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Witness in 1884. The focus of the campaign will be to enlist 1,000 Florida Baptists to make a gift of $130 or more to the endowment fund, managed by Florida Baptist Financial Services. The Board had previously authorized the Witness to conduct a campaign in 2004, but the solicitation campaign was never implemented. 

The Board rejoiced after learning Florida Baptists had planted105 new churches during the 2012-13 church year, representing a variety of language and culture groups. These congregations including Anglo, 30; African-American, 7; multi-ethnic, 8; Hispanic, 27, Haitian, 25; Filipino, 2; Portuguese, 2; Arabic, 1; Ethiopian, 1; Filipino,1;  Russian, 1; and Thai,1.

Included in these churches are 53 congregations planted in the Urban Impact corridor stretching from the Miami to Treasure Coast associations, Sullivan noted, and all but five were language congregations. “God is blessing us with the greatest opportunities among language groups than we ever had had in church planting,” he said.

Also during the pre-convention meeting, the Board approved $25,000 for legislative monitoring in 2014, contributing $20,000 for the Florida Ethics and Religious Commission, spearheaded by former Florida Baptist Convention’s legislative lobbyist Bill Bunkley; and contracting monitoring services by Public Policy Associates, Inc. in Tallahassee.

In the post-Convention organizational meeting, held Nov. 12, the Board welcomed its new members and elected officers for 2014: Marvin Pittman, member of First Baptist Church in Bartow, for a second term as president; Dan Wade, pastor emeritus of First Church of Zephryhills, vice president; and Darin Kress, pastor of Scott Lake Baptist Church in Lake City, recording secretary. 

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