LEESBURG, Fla. (BP)–Florida’s Imagine If Great Commission Resurgence Task Force delivered a one-hour report to the State Board of Missions Sept. 24, explaining its recommendations that will be considered by the Florida Baptist State Convention in November.
After eight months, the 30-member task force is seeking to advance “in a very aggressive fashion” a state convention model that has at its core four priorities, chairman Danny de Armas said.
Crediting task force members for their “enormous amount of effort,” de Armas, administrative pastor at First Baptist Church in Orlando, said the report was “bathed in prayer.”
“I could not be prouder of the people on this task force,” de Armas said.
Pausing, before offering remarks about Florida Baptist Convention staff gathered at the meeting in Leesburg, de Armas referenced his last visit to the SBOM in May when he delivered an update on the work of the task force, calling the time “somewhat awkward and difficult.”
“I owed you a response from my last visit,” de Armas said. In May, de Armas told the SBOM he had felt “tremendous opposition” from unnamed FBC staff and SBOM members. John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida convention, rejected de Armas’ claims.
Since then, de Armas said he and Sullivan met with a third party “chatting and talking and doing the business that God’s people do when there’s a challenge.”
As a result, the two better understand each other, de Armas said.
“We left there with a renewed commitment to work together … to advance the Kingdom in the state of Florida through the Florida Baptist Convention,” de Armas said. “Our relationship is mended. If it was not perfect then, it is great now, and I really appreciate that.”
Sullivan joined de Armas at the podium when the younger man said it would be appropriate to “rebuff or echo” his statements.
“I would kiss you, but it would be awkward,” Sullivan joked, to loud laughter, while affirming de Armas’ characterization of the meeting. “This is my brother in Christ,” Sullivan said.
Affirming the work of Florida Baptist Convention employees who stand to be impacted by the task force recommendations which will go before messengers to the FBSC Nov. 8-9 in Brandon, de Armas told staff members attending the meeting the report was not an attempt to be “critical” but “we think we can accomplish more.”
“I imagine this is probably the way the convention started,” de Armas said, characterizing the work of the task force he said is representative of churches from across the state.
Reminding members of the board and convention leaders “we are not the experts,” de Armas said the task force nonetheless is comprised of those who know “what compels our people to participate.”
To that end, he said, the task force wants to join with Florida Baptists in asking the question: “How can we be the best stewards possible of advancing the Kingdom of Christ here in Florida together.”
After an introduction, de Armas led task force members to present each of six recommendations. Following the hour-long report by the task force, de Armas, Sullivan and other members of the task force engaged in a 45-minute question-and-answer session with the SBOM (see related story).
Citing the national recognition of the state convention and its churches in Florida for a high number of baptisms, Rodney Baker, pastor of Hopeful Baptist Church in Lake City, said he is “proud to be a part of the Florida Baptist Convention” and proud of its evangelism and other departments.
Still, he said as a pastor he is “disheartened” over the number of lost people and believes that unless God’s people heed the first recommendation, for “Spiritual and Leadership Renewal,” Florida Baptists and those on the national level who were behind the Great Commission Resurgence will not see “the great reaping of the harvest that God desires.”
“My prayer, as is this committee’s prayer, as is I believe is your prayer, as I know is God’s heart, is for us to become broken — and be moved with compassion for the lost who only have to hear, who only have to see Jesus, Jesus, that we love,” Baker said.
Jimmy Scroggins, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, in presenting recommendation two on “Funding Global Missions,” said the recommendation flows from the national GCR report passed by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June. Recommendation two calls for a 50/50 split between Cooperative Program income to SBC and state convention causes within four years.
Acknowledging the difficulty and challenging job of the SBOM to balance resources between the lost in Florida and throughout the world “because lost people are lost people wherever we find them, and lost people are all lost and they need Christ,” Scroggins said there are more than 5 billion lost people in the world and more than 1.5 million who have no access to the Gospel.
“So these passions for the Great Commission, for the global Great Commission, have to be considered all the way around,” Scroggins said.
In outlining a plan for Florida Baptist churches to increase giving by .25 percent a year as part of the recommendation for funding the increase in CP to national causes, Scroggins said the task force believes CP is the “central means by which Florida Baptists should seek to pursue the Great Commission.”
“We know that we can’t ask the Florida SBOM or the convention staff to do more with less. That does not work. The only way we are going to do what we need to do in the state of Florida, which is a huge task, and also do our part to give the Gospel to the nations, is for Florida Baptists to dig deeper and give more sacrificially to the CP,” Scroggins said.
Pointing out that some churches are already “giving a ton, percentage-wise,” Scroggins said “other churches, like my church, need to do better.” In 2009, according to the Annual Church Profile, First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach gave $30,000 to the CP. The church did not report the amount of their undesignated receipts. (For more on what Scroggins views about CP, see his Sept. 14 online column in the Florida Baptist Witness, “Pastoral Economics: Compelling vision, not guilt, will build Cooperative Program.”)
Presenting recommendation three on “Planting Evangelistic, Reproducing Churches in Florida,” James Ross, pastor of Mosaic Church in Crestview, a two-year-old church plant, said he had “no idea going into this how much togetherness, how much connectedness there was between our church planting departments.”
Recommendation three calls for combining all church planting efforts into a Church Planting Division within the Florida Baptist Convention. Currently, language (ethnic), Anglo and African American church planting efforts are under three separate divisions within the convention.
“We believe as a task force and speaking to our state convention staff that a division will allow Florida Baptists to proceed more clearly with the priority of church planting,” Ross said.
Speaking on recommendation four, “Developing Evangelistic Pastoral Leaders,” Robin Jumper, dean of faculty at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, said that task force recognized support of BCF and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has long been a priority of Florida Baptists and asked that the emphasis continue.
“We see this as a long-term approach. No flash in the pan plan,” Jumper said. “It’s something that helps us long-term.”
Tommy Green, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brandon, and a past president of the Florida Baptist State Convention, said in introducing recommendation five, “Providing Missional, Compassionate Ministries,” the task force is “very grateful” for the work of the convention. He said Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, of which Florida Baptists are a part, is the third-largest disaster relief organization worldwide.
The Florida Baptist Convention is a leader among state conventions and in the world in caring for those who are hurting, Green said, thanking the convention staff and the SBOM for their leadership.
“Baptists have a heart for loving people and helping people and reaching people and we’re grateful for those in our convention who lead us in that way,” Green said. “If there’s a hurricane coming, we’re already there, before it gets there, to be able to meet the needs of people.”
Recommendation five suggests continued funding for the Florida Baptists Children’s Home, disaster relief, Florida Baptist partnerships (current and future) and partnership ministries with Haiti and Cuba.
In introducing recommendation six, “Reorganization and Restructuring,” Willy Rice said the proposal “is where the proverbial water hits the wheel,” if the recommendations are accepted and adopted.
Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater and a past president of the Florida Baptist State Convention, said the report assumes organizational change will be necessary on the part of the Florida Baptist Convention. “No one should misinterpret that message,” he said.
“If we decide to send 50 percent of our Cooperative Program monies to the cooperative ministries to the Southern Baptist Convention and if we decide to target the priorities that these other recommendations have targeted, then some things are going to have to change,” Rice said. “We need to be prepared to look at our organizational model and make the changes that are going to be required.
“That is not the purview of this task force, to try to recommend what all of those changes are gonna look like,” Rice continued. “It is outside our scope of our assignment to go inside our budget, inside our staff directory and say this program must be downsized, this position must be reassigned, this resource must be reallocated. What we are doing in this recommendation is acknowledging that that difficult work will have to be done. And we are putting the baton in the hands, appropriately, of the State Board of Missions and of the staff of the Florida Baptist Convention.”
In addition to naming two of the Florida Baptist State Convention entities funded by CP gifts from the churches, the Florida Baptist Children’s Home and The Baptist College of Florida, in previous recommendations, as well as pointing to certain aspects of current ministry assignments receiving priority funding, the task force report in recommendation six further requests that the SBOM continues to evaluate all “convention-owned properties.”
John Cross, FBSC president and pastor of South Biscayne Church in North Port, praised the work of the task force and asked for 40 days of prayer and fasting in advance of the annual meeting, beginning Sept. 30.
“I believe that our greatest days are ahead of us,” Cross said. “Let’s just pray for a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God that produces supernatural results.”
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, on the Web at www.goFBW.com. For an initial recap of the recommendations of the Florida Imagine If Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, see Sept. 4 Baptist Press story, http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=33751, “50/50 CP urged in Fla. GCR report.”