MIAMI (BP) — Under the theme “Faithful,” 827 messengers representing 374 churches gathered for the 157th annual meeting of the Florida Baptist State Convention.
They voted on business, received ministry updates and heard from fellow pastors about some of the ways God is moving to reach Florida with the Gospel through local churches. With the addition of guests at the Nov. 12-13 meeting, the crowd swelled to 1,201 in total attendance at Wayside Baptist Church in Miami.
Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon and outgoing convention president, closed the first session of the meeting by sharing strategies for increasing faithfulness in a believer’s life.
One such indication of faithfulness, Rummage said, is sacrificial giving. He pointed to disaster relief volunteers as people who have sacrificially given of themselves in the wake of Hurricane Michael. He then honored those who had traveled from the Florida Panhandle to attend the meeting and attendees gave them a round of applause.
Tommy Green, the convention’s executive director-treasurer, expanded on the Faithful theme by identifying what faithful ministry is and what it is not.
“Faithful ministry is not building your name, staking your claim, seeking fame or playing a game,” Green said. “It is through [Jesus] and for Him that we lay down our lives for the glory of Jesus Christ.”
Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, said part of faithfulness is being faithful to reach the lost.
“People believe that religious people will push them out and push them down but Jesus pushed back on that narrative,” Scroggins said. “He draws them in and lifts them up.”
Messengers approved a $30 million budget, the same amount as the current year. In keeping with Florida Baptists’ desire to give away more than they keep, 51 percent, or $15,300,000, will go to Cooperative Program causes of the Southern Baptist Convention and 49 percent, or $14,700,000, will stay within Florida for the convention’s missions and ministries.
Mike Orr, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chipley and president of the State Board of Missions, said the generous giving of Florida Baptists is a sign of the maturity of the convention’s churches and their commitment to the Gospel.
“There are people who will hear the Gospel for the first time because people like you gave generously,” Orr said.
Green also noted that 100 percent of all budget overages would immediately be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program national and international outreach.
Erik Cummings, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Carol City and president of this year’s Pastors’ Conference, was unanimously elected as the convention’s 2019 president. In a nomination speech, Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater, noted how Cummings has served his church and Florida Baptists well for many years and now is the perfect time for him to lead the convention.
“Our fellowship is a diverse one and Erik is a voice calling leaders to unite in the Gospel movement of the Florida Baptist Convention,” Rice said. “A nation that is coming apart needs to see a church that is coming together. This is our convention and this is the right leader to serve as president.”
Rice’s remarks were met with applause and immediately following the vote Cummings received a standing ovation.
Mike Wiggins, pastor of Pine Terrace Baptist Church in Milton, was elected unopposed as first vice president. Ralph Alderman Jr., a lay leader from Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church was reelected as second vice president as was Randy Huckabee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dade City, as recording secretary, a role he has held for the last 12 years.
Among notable business, changes to the language of three convention bylaws were approved to make it easier for churches to cooperate with the Florida Baptist Convention.
“The proposed bylaw change responds to decisions being made by our Florida Baptist churches,” Green said prior to the convention. “The desire of the Florida Baptist Convention in this proposed change is to continue to provide a pathway for cooperation and participation for all Florida Baptist churches.” (Background information can be read at https://flbaptist.org/proposed-bylaw-changes-foster-florida-baptist-cooperation.)
A recommendation also was approved to adopt the title “Associational Mission Strategist” to replace the former associational leader title “Director of Missions” in keeping with the change already adopted at the national level.
Throughout the meeting, various groups and ministries gathered for encouragement and refreshment, including Hispanic, Haitian and African American and multicultural church leaders.
Florida Baptist pastors held breakout sessions during each meal break so pastors could learn from each other in areas such as church planting and revitalization, church multiplication, evangelism and baptism. A panel discussion was held, introducing people to Write Beside You, a new public school initiative that would see every Florida Baptist church partnered with a public school in its community. Ministers’ wives gathered for a luncheon and the Clyde M. Maguire Award for Ministers’ Wives was awarded to Gail Heuer, wife of Pat Heuer, pastor of Flagler West Community Church in Bunnell.
The 2019 meeting of the Florida Baptist State Convention will be Nov. 11-12 in Orlando.