|Prayer resonates; 50/50 to come one year earlier
By Barbara Denman
June 19, 2014
MARIANNA—While contemplating Kingdom decisions for the state of Florida, the State Board of Missions sought God’s will throughout the three-day meeting as they prayer-walked across the Blue Springs campus; gathered on their knees to “Engage Florida” through prayer; and offered intercessory prayers for a young Panhandle family committed to reach the lost in one of the nation’s fastest growing corridors.
On the final day of the May 28-30 meeting held at Blue Springs Baptist Conference Center, the Board approved a strategy to reach a 50-50 percent division of Cooperative Program funds a year earlier than previously planned; elected Cindy Bradley as team strategist of the Women’s Missions and Ministries/Mission Education Team; and expanded theological education into the Hardee Correctional Institution.
The prayer walking by the Convention Properties Committee allowed members to “seek God’s face and discover His will,” said Gary French, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Perry. “With our eyes we see what men see, but with our hearts open to God in prayer, we have the potential to see and discover what God sees.”
The Blue Springs facility, one of two conference centers owned by Florida Baptists, was placed on the market to sell in 2009. After several failed attempts to sell the property, the Board voted in November 2013 to rescind the sale of the center and try a renewed marketing campaign to Florida Baptist churches and other Christian groups for retreats and meetings.
After the May 28 prayer walking and a called meeting to consider once again the potential of selling the property, the Properties Committee urged the Convention staff to place the property for sale through a world-wide realty company; while at the same time aggressively market the center’s accommodations to other groups.
The Board approved a rebranding of the spiritual renewal emphasis “ReVision Florida,” to “Engage Florida” with a multi-year emphasis on intercessory prayer, missions and evangelism, church planting and developing vibrant churches.
With the year 2014 highlighting prayer, five regional intercessory prayer meetings were set for the months of May and June. The May meeting was held in Southeast Florida in Sarasota with 34 persons in attendance. Wayne Briant, pastor of Southside Church in Sarasota, and facilitator of the meeting said “every person in attendance, God did something in their lives.”
During the “Engage Florida” committee meeting, Board members spent time—many on their knees—in prayer for the renewed emphasis. Three regional meetings were scheduled to be held June 17: First Baptist Church in Kissimmee; First Baptist Church in Boca Raton; First Baptist Church in Chipley; and a fourth on June 24 at Madison Street Baptist Church in Starke.
During a report that highlighted the multiple ministries of the Convention’s Missional Support Group, Craig Culbreth, lead strategist, introduced the Board to James and Christie Ross, and their four preschool children.
The couple planted the Mosaic Church in Crestview, a military town, six years ago. Recently the church received a $100,000 interest-free loan through the Convention’s Maguire State Mission Offering to renovate a 30-year-old church facility given to the congregation by a neighboring church that had declined to only a handful of members.
“Florida Baptists have walked with us along the entire way,” said Ross. “First, through church planting as we started the church, then through coaching from the Church Health Group, and now this loan which will provide much needed funds so we can update the church for God to use it to reach our community.”
Included in the renovations was more preschool and children educational space as Mosaic is attracting young couples, many from the military bases surrounding the city.
“The generosity and support of Florida Baptists have played a part in our story,” he continued. “We are thankful to you, the Board and the Florida Baptist Convention staff.” Concluding the presentation the Board prayed for the Ross family and their ministry.
New CP distribution plan
The Board approved a Budget Study Committee plan that moves to a 50/50 percentage division of Cooperative Program funds by 2017—a year earlier than previously projected. Currently, the Convention sends 43 percent of CP funds contributed by Florida Baptist churches to the SBC.
To accomplish the division of funds, the formula will include four percent in negotiated funding refunded to Florida by the SBC Executive Committee for ministries that mutually benefit the state and the SBC.
Darin Kress of Lakeland, chairman of the study committee, explained that the challenge faced by the study committee was “getting more funds to the SBC without totally crashing our own FBC budget.” To accomplish the 50/50 percentage division the state convention’s Cooperative Program budget is anticipated to be reduced by $1.4 million by the 2017 budget year.
The new budget formula is expected to be implemented in the proposed 2015 Florida Cooperative Program budget. The Budget-Allocations Committee will finalize the budget in August; and recommend it to full board in September. Final approval must be made by messengers at the Florida Baptist State Convention when it meets in November.
As the newly elected team strategist of the Women’s Missions and Ministries/ Mission Education Team, Cindy Bradley, 56, will fill the position to be vacated by the retirement of Cindy Goodwin, who announced earlier this year that she planned to retire Aug. 31 after completing 21 years of service to Florida Baptists. Bradley begins that role effective Aug. 1.
The Illinois native has served as WMU Executive Director/Community Evangelism Leader/Missions Ministry Leader with the Baptist State Convention of Michigan since 2009; and as regional coordinator with the Mississippi River Ministry in Murphysboro, Ill., from 2006-2008.
She received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., in 1980; and the Master in Religious Education degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY., in 1983.
The Board also approved a resolution of appreciation for Goodwin.
The Convention will cooperate with New Orleans Theological Seminary to co-sponsor a theological education training program for the 1,500 persons currently incarcerated in the Hardee Correctional Institution located near Bowling Green. The purpose of the program is to train inmate ministers to serve as chaplains and church starters within the prison. The training will be modeled on a successful program NOBTS sponsors at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, which by all accounts has transformed the culture within the prison.
Funds have been made available to underwrite the ministry during the first year. In following years, the convention will share the cost with NOBTS. In action taken at this meeting, the Board authorized the Convention’s executive director-treasurer to raise $50,000 from sources outside Cooperative Program channels to underwrite the second year costs.
In other action, the Board:
-- learned that the Convention staff had met or exceeded 73 percent of 159 goals of the Convention’s 2013 Strategic Plan, including encouraging Florida Baptist churches in evangelism, which produced 60,600 baptisms in Florida Baptist churches and Haiti; planting of 111 new churches; enrolling 1,294 persons in theological education; and recruiting 115,000 volunteers to serve in national and international partnerships;
--heard that all 55 Board-elected staff members were involved in word and deed activities in Florida Baptist churches which resulted in 3,946 gospel presentations, 25,517 outreach contacts, 2,743 professions of faith; and leading 1,051 Bible studies and 1,611 worship services.
--received an unqualified opinion of the Convention’s financial statements for 2013 by the auditors Batt, Morrison, Wales and Lee, PA of Orlando;
--revised Florida Baptist church loan fund guidelines and guiding principles of financial assistance to churches and missions to update terminology and references; and
--adopted goals for the Florida’s Kingdom Growth Strategy for 2015.
During a joint dinner with the State Board and trustees of The Baptist College of Florida, hosted on the college campus, the school honored John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention by naming an endowed faculty chair to be known as the John Sullivan Chair of Cooperative Program Ministries.
The Board will next meet Sept. 18-19 at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center.