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FBSC Messengers take another step toward 50/50 split of CP funds

By Barbara Denman     

November 14, 2013


JACKSONVILLE—While focusing on “Partnering for God’s Kingdom,” Florida Baptists moved one step closer to sending half of their Cooperative Program gifts to national and international missions with the approval of a $30.5 million CP budget during the 152nd annual meeting of the Florida Baptist State Convention, Nov. 11-12 at North Jacksonville Baptist Church.

The 826 registered messengers and 113 visitors also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the leadership of John Sullivan, executive-director treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, established a new partnership with the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention and re-elected a slate of officers to lead them for a second year.

In his first ever visit to the Florida Baptist State Convention, SBC Executive Committee president Frank Page, addressed Florida Baptists and challenged churches to consider increasing their Cooperative Program gifts by one percent to more effectively reach the world for Christ.

The $30.5 million Florida Baptist Cooperative Program Budget for 2014—its lowest amount since year 2000—sends 43 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention and retains 57 percent for Florida Baptist missions and ministries. The 43 percent earmarked for the SBC represents a 1.5 percent increase from the previous year.

The proposed budget, a half million dollars below the 2013 revised budget of $31 million, keeps Florida Baptists on-track to reach an even 50/50 percentage division between national and state mission causes by 2018.

During the business session, two Florida pastors, Joel Breidenbaugh, First Baptist Church Sweetwater in Longwood, and Jimmy Scroggins, First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, sought clarification and assurances that the CP budget will move to the 50/50 split, despite “smaller steps” currently being taken, Breidenbaugh said.

“We plan to continue with the Performa we have set to move to 50/50. That’s our plan,” Sullivan said, adding, “We also will finance what it takes to win the state of Florida to Christ.”

In the 25th anniversary celebration Sullivan was described as a “man who walks with God,” by FBSC President Tim Maynard, pastor of Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville. “John Sullivan is the man I look up to more than any other man.”

Sullivan is the ninth executive director to have served the State Board of Missions since 1880, and holds the distinction of having served the longest tenure.   

He was recognized for his quarter century of service through a video retrospective highlighting his ministry of leading Florida Baptists to accomplish the Great Commission in the Sunshine State.

Marvin Pittman, president of the State Board of Missions, said Sullivan’s tenure has been marked by a focus on three priorities: evangelism without apology, aggressive church starting and effective church and leadership development. 

Those three priorities have borne significant fruit among the churches during the past 25 years, highlighted on the video retrospective, including: approximately 780,000 baptisms; 2,500 new congregations; 14 mission partnerships; 385,000 Florida Baptist mission volunteers; approximately 40,000 disaster relief volunteers; and the establishment and expansion of theological education throughout the state.

Additionally, during the past 25 years, more than $670 million has been contributed by Florida Baptists through the Cooperative Program and $20.6 million to the Maguire State Mission Offering.

“John Sullivan does not believe he can effectively lead Florida Baptists from behind a desk in Jacksonville, and he has committed a majority of his calendar to being on the Florida mission field,” said Pittman. During his service, Sullivan has preached in more than 1,650 Florida Baptist congregations, many on multiple occasions. 

The partnership with the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention, modeled on the partnership Florida Baptists have had with the Western Cuba Baptist Convention since 1997, will focus on evangelism, church starting, church development and support ministries identified as needs by Eastern Cuba Baptists.

Sullivan explained that because of the “integrity of our work,” the Cuban government has allowed Florida Baptists to increase the number of mission projects undertaken by Florida Baptists to the island nation. During the first year in Western Cuba, Florida Baptist were permitted only two projects; that number has grown to 26 in Western Cuba in 2014; and another four are scheduled in Eastern Cuba in 2014.

During the meeting, Eastern Cuba pastor Samuel Regaldo addressed messengers, saying, “The Lord brought me here to tell you in Cuba there is a powerful God.”

“Invest in us, help us and you will be helping the Kingdom.”

Western Cuba pastor Osmel Perez also traveled to the meeting to express appreciation to Florida Baptists for their long-term commitment and helping win his nation to Christ.

The two-day meeting unified Florida Baptists in partnership behind a commitment to winning the state, as well as the world, as reflected in the President’s Message presented by Maynard. He said the Book of Acts tells the story of the early church, but the track of the work of the Holy Spirit continues in the 21st century.

The work of the church is a compelling story, a cooperative story and a continuing story, Maynard said.  “If we are not standing together, we don’t get it done. We live in a lost state and we cannot walk through this alone,” he said.

The same theme was echoed during the closing session devoted to proclaiming Christ to the nations when speakers included Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, and Nik Ripkin, author of “The Insanity of God,” who shared of his work among Muslims in Africa.

Florida Baptist State Convention officers re-elected to a second term were Jacksonville pastor Maynard; Jack Roland, member of First Baptist Church in Ocala, first vice president; Chris Coram, associate pastor, North Jacksonville Baptist Church, second vice president; and Randy Huckabee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dade City, recording secretary.

During Crossover North Florida held in prior to the Convention on Saturday, Nov. 9, multicultural evangelistic outreach events took place in 17 venues and ranged from fall festivals to car/motorcycle shows to strength team exhibitions.  Approximately 6,700 people came to the events where the Gospel was presented more than 100 times, resulting in 179 professions of faith.

The next convention meeting will be held Nov. 10-11 in Lakeland.

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