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Sermon in Spanish marks a first for Fla. convention

BRANDON, Fla. (BP) — With the theme “Eyes on Eternity,” messengers and visitors at the Florida Baptist State Convention heard testimonies of the cooperative work taking place across the state.

Many were grateful for the disaster assistance that quickly came following hurricanes Irma and Maria while others expressed their gratitude for Florida Baptist Convention partnerships that led to ministry and revitalization in communities around the Sunshine State.

For the first time in the history of the Florida Baptist Convention annual meeting, the convention sermon was preached in Spanish with simultaneous English translation. Carlos Tellez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Coral Park in Miami, preached a sermon encouraging Florida Baptists to place their eyes on eternity and focus on sharing the Gospel with as many people as possible.

“What Florida needs the most,” Tellez said, “is Christians who will look to eternity and, before leaving this world, will say to God, ‘Give me one more for You.'”

Emanuel Roque, the convention’s Hispanic church catalyst, translated for Tellez, conveying not just his words but also his passion.

Tommy Green, the convention’s executive director-treasurer, has emphasized and encouraged this display of Florida Baptist diversity and the annual meeting in Brandon was a celebration of that initiative.

Hispanic, black, multicultural and Haitian pastors and leaders met during the annual meeting and celebrated new partnerships among themselves and with the convention.

During his sermon, Green also encouraged Florida Baptists to join in prayer with those whom they did not yet know and were culturally different from themselves.

The convention’s 156th annual meeting, with a registered attendance of 1,319, was held Nov. 13-14 at Bell Shoals Baptist Church.

An ongoing budget of $30 million was unanimously passed for 2018, with 51 percent of Cooperative Program receipts going to the Southern Baptist Convention for ministry and missions and 49 percent staying within the state for Florida initiatives.

The State Board of Missions (SBOM) reported that 100 percent of the Maguire State Mission Offering would be used to fund the Send South Florida church planting and church revitalization initiative. Mike Tatem, president of the SBOM the past three years and pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Lake City, also reported that items previously funded through the Maguire State Mission offering would now be funded under the Florida convention’s budget.

“We are committed to pray, give and go to South Florida and will focus in this area over the next five years,” Tatem said. “This does not mean there is a lack of need in other areas,” he noted, “but it is a recognition of the international need in our own backyard.”

Business items approved by messengers included adding Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center as a cooperating ministry of the convention and removing the Florida Baptist Witness as one of the FBC’s cooperating ministries and bringing it under the umbrella of the convention’s communication department.

Barbara Denman was honored for serving as communication director for the Florida convention for 30 years, retiring at the end of August. Denman’s work has been honored by the Baptist Communicators Association nine times, signifying the impact her service has had on Florida and beyond.

Glenn Owens was honored for 27-plus years with the convention, serving in numerous roles, including assistant executive director, interim executive director-treasurer and most recently as catalyst for the north ministry region of the state. Upon his retirement from the convention, Owens continued to serve as interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach.

Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church and current president of the Florida Baptist State Convention, was nominated by Bobby Lewis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Middleburg, to serve a second term as president. No other nominations were presented and Rummage was unanimously reelected, as was the first vice president, Javier Sotolongo, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Estrella de Belen in Hialeah Gardens.

Ralph Alderman Jr. was elected as second vice president. Alderman has been a lay leader for more than 15 years at Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church. Rounding out the slate of 2018 convention officers is Randy Huckabee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dade City, as recording secretary.

Messengers were inspired by sermons from Rummage and Green as well as Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church; Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board; H.B. Charles Jr., lead pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville; and Rick Blackwood, lead pastor of Christ Fellowship in Miami.

The 2018 annual meeting of the Florida convention will be in Miami on Nov. 12-13.