National Missions Sunday Church Planting in Jacksonville, Florida

National Missions Sunday – Church Planting in Jacksonville, Florida

Church Planting has always been a primary mission for General Baptists. Our movement was organized by a church planter who established churches on the American frontier in the 1820s.

Our denominational mission to plant churches is underwritten by the general budget through Unified Giving, but it is also made possible by special gifts such as those received on National Missions Sunday. This year the National Missions Sunday Offering will assist church planting efforts in Florida by helping to more firmly establish the new work of All Nations Church.

This ethnic church plant has resulted from the long-term ministry of Missionary Cecil Green who discipled a young believer in the Philippines nearly 50 years ago. In 1977 Pastor Pete Lapaz was ordained by the General Baptist Church of the Philippines and in 2016 he began work to establish All Nations Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

In a recent report Pastor Pete noted

  • the ordination of an associate pastor, Dr. Lito Ibaretta,
  • two more new converts ready for baptism,
  • two Bible study centers now in operation, and
  • two Spanish-speaking families now attending.

A Children’s Ministry will begin soon and the search is on for a larger meeting space. The group has outgrown meeting in homes. A recent attendance of 40 placed them at capacity in their current rented space.

On a recent Sunday in January, those attending worship paused for a photo. Pastor Pete is on the left holding his grandson. Pastor Lito is seated in the front center.

Different churches have different traditions about National Missions Sunday. Some churches include National Missions Sunday in the budget, others take up a special offering to aid these special projects. All gifts received for National Missions Sunday will result in winning many people in Jacksonville, Florida who otherwise will not be won to faith in Christ.

Strong Tower

Strong Tower, Lafayette Campus – GO! Project News

By Travis Stephens, Executive Pastor

Two years ago we at Strong Tower Church got really serious about the idea of going multi-site. When you’re in a town of 2,200 people (like our town of Westmoreland, TN), at some point your growth is going to max out. We felt like we were nearing that point. We also had a large group of people who were coming to our church from a town about twenty minutes away from us. It was time to get started.

We started doing as much research as possible about multi-site, but there wasn’t much information about churches our size that were also in a rural community. So, for the most part we just had to wing it.

The biggest question we wrestled with was whether to do video teaching or live. After many months of preparing to do video, we ultimately decided it wasn’t going to work at the level we desired, so we completely changed directions. Now, our lead pastor, David Mitchell, and campus pastor, Jeremy Meador (pictured above), work together each week to prepare a message that will be delivered at each location. Scriptures and main points are the same; then each adds his own personal stories and touch.

We’re only a few months in, but it looks like we made a good decision.

If you’re thinking of taking your small town church multi-site, here are a few things we’ve learned so far.


The success of any type of church launch is largely dependent upon the size of the “launch team.” Churches who launch campuses often have a huge advantage over church plants because the launch team is largely made up of people already attending the central campus. Our launch team was around 80 people who had mostly been attending and serving at the central campus. They already knew our vision, culture, and DNA.


I’ve heard of churches that launch campuses on a shoestring budget, but for us that wasn’t the case. We wanted to do our best to make sure that the experience at the new campus was as close to the experience at the central campus as possible. This meant spending over $100k to make the worship experience the best it could be in a portable facility.


Lots of volunteers. You’re not only filling positions for a new campus, you’re also replacing volunteers who are leaving to go to that campus. We handled this a couple of different ways. We went from offering three services to two services at our central campus. This cut down on the number of positions we needed to fill, and it ensured that we had critical mass in those two services. We also went on a recruiting blitz a few months before launch asking everyone and anyone to step up and volunteer.


Don’t underestimate the amount of work, time, and sacrifice multi-site is going to take. Portable facilities mean arriving early for set up and staying after services for tear down. Most of us will be launching with one service which means volunteers in the kids’ ministry will be missing service so that someone else can experience it. Just remember we sacrifice so someone else can be blessed.
Since we began the Lafayette campus, we’ve seen fifteen people give their lives to Christ and follow through in baptism. In August attendance reached 200+.

We believe no matter how much money it takes, how early we have to get out of bed in the morning, how many services we have to miss because we’re changing diapers, the sacrifice is worth it.

We would like to thank all of our ministry partners who have helped us along the way, especially the GO! Project and General Baptist Ministries.

Turning Point pastor Steve Gill

Turning Point Update

Turning Point Church in Bonita Springs, Florida launched in the fall of 2015. We asked Church Planter Steve Gill for an update of the early months of that fresh, new work.

This post was originally published in the 2016 Spring issue of the GB Messenger. Don’t receive the Messenger? You can always catch the latest digital issue on the Messenger website,

What has been most rewarding?

Seeing new people come to Christ and come to the first church for the first time is pretty rewarding. We are even seeing people who walked away or have given up on the church walk back after being away from for months and even years.

What has been most challenging?

Someone I know once told me that in ministry, ‘all of it is hard work’. Whether you are planting a church, restarting a church or pastoring an established church, it’s all challenging. It’s hard because we are pushing against darkness and darkness always pushes back! But we all know that it’s worth it because we are pointing people to know Christ.

What kind of life change have you seen?

The life change is the most exciting part! We’ve seen people commit their lives to Christ and even 12 people go public in baptism. We’ve already seen families dedicate their kids to Christ! It’s also fun to see people serve together and begin to build relationships with one another. People are starting to talk about Turning Point not as A church in town but as THEIR church.

One church closed in Louisville because their community disappeared in an expansion of the airport authority. They entrusted Turning Point with a large gift. What’s it like to carry that legacy?

It’s a privilege and an honor! In fact, we are grateful not only to that community of believers for their investment, but for many other churches, families, and individuals who have invested their generosity in this work. To all off them, we are proud to not only be a part of a legacy but proud to be have them help us reach people far from God.

Join us for the 2016 Mission & Ministry Summit

The 2016 Mission & Ministry Summit

The 2016 Mission & Ministry Summit is July 18-20 in Bowling Green, KY at the Holiday Inn University Plaza and the Sloan Convention Center.

Hotel Information

Join us for the 2016 Mission & Ministry SummitBe sure to make your hotel reservations as soon as possible, we have almost filled our hotel room block at the Holiday Inn and have set up a second block at the Hilton Garden Inn. The Hilton Garden Inn is located less than a block from the Holiday Inn and the Sloan Convention Center – just across the street. Our rate at the Hilton Garden Inn is the same as the Holiday Inn, $107 for single or double occupancy.

The New summit website is up and running and has all the hotel and registration information.

Summit Registration Information

We have a new style registration form geared towards young families and makes registration much more convenient and less costly.

Family/Individual Registration

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An Interview with Gary Baldus – Part 2

This is the last of a two-part post of an interview with Gary Baldus, pastor of New Walk Church in Zephyr Hills, Florida.

General Baptist Ministries asked Gary several questions about his walk with Christ, his calling to ministry and church planting, the personal and ministry connections with General Baptists, and the ongoing work of New Walk Church.

General Baptist Ministries (GBM):  You served as Moderator/Host for the Mission & Ministry Summit in 2013. How did this experience impact you personally? How did it impact New Walk Church?

Gary Baldus (GB):
 What an unbelievable experience!  Our church loved it.  They look back on that as one of the coolest things to be involved in that we have ever done by serving all those leaders who traveled to Florida.  It was like a New Walk Event.  We just watched our church rally to the cause. We told them, “We have all these people coming down and these are the General Baptist people who helped us get started.”  They just thought it was awesome that they could serve those people who had invested in New Walk from a distance.

Pastor Gary Baldus

GBM:  As you look to the future what do you see as the greatest challenges for our General Baptist network?

GB:  It all boils down to money and men.  Many are called and few are chosen.  God sifts through people and not all guys are capable to lead church work.  I have people tell me of their call so I give them ministry assignments.  It is not unusual that six months later they are crying because ministry is so hard and they quit.

GBM:  How did your connections with General Baptists aid in the construction of New Walk’s first permanent buildings?

GB:  Our building would not have happened if not for the General Baptist Investment Fund.  This was like when the Kingdom Expansion Campaign was involved at the outset.  This is a faith based thing for us so we had to have someone who believed in us to be the right kind of lender. We are going to spend the next 2-3 years on stabilization and taking care of things to maintain a healthy operational base but if it had not been for a group of people seeing the potential in New Walk we would probably still be in the YMCA setting up and tearing down every time we had a meeting. Continue reading

An Interview with Gary Baldus – Part 1

This is a two-part post of an interview with Gary Baldus, pastor of New Walk Church in Zephyr Hills, Florida.

General Baptist Ministries asked Gary several questions about his walk with Christ, his calling to ministry and church planting, the personal and ministry connections with General Baptists, and the ongoing work of New Walk Church.

General Baptist Ministries (GBM):  How did you come to faith in Christ?  Who/what influenced your decision?

Gary Baldus and family

Pastor Gary Baldus and family

Gary Baldus (GB):  It was probably through the death of my wife’s mother. She had been inviting us to a local General Baptist Church all along in 2001 but I had grown up Christian Science.  Fortunately I didn’t pay too much attention to Sunday School at the Christian Science Church but I paid enough attention to know something about Jesus.  But they so focused on worship of one God and dismissed the Trinity so to them worshipping Jesus as God was a form of idolatry.  When I came into a General Baptist Church that centered on Jesus I was dismissive of it at first.  I remember sitting in the back of the church one day and as I reflected on the death of my mother-in-law and through the preaching of Pastor Bob Harber, I came to faith in Jesus when I was 29 years old.

The teaching of the word was where it happened to me. Then getting the revelation of the truth of the word and getting the whole truth rather than just the segments of Mary Baker Eddy Christian Science teaching, made such a difference for me.  Now, over the last few years I have been able to see several people in my family come to faith in Jesus.


GBM:  What are your earliest memories of the church?

GB:  My background was not conducive to where I am today. My faith journey has always been a sensitive issue in some family settings.  My earliest memories were my parents taking us to that Christian Science church, which was a two-minute walk we made every Sunday.

Some things I learned in that early church experience are a cross over into full-blown Christianity.  I got some foundation there but not the whole truth about who Jesus is and what Jesus does.”

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Life in Those Old Denominations: 3 Reasons for Belonging AND Participating

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

Having just completed our annual Mission & Ministry Summit I have been reminded not only of the history of our own denomination but also the value of belonging and participating in a denominational network. Hundreds of General Baptist leaders gathered in Collinsville, Illinois for Powerful Worship, Practical Training and Personal Missionary Connections.

Powerful Worship was made possible by a Collective Worship Team of musicians and vocalists from several churches. The main sessions were completed by powerful preaching from both General Baptist and guest preachers who obviously had a message to share. Each preacher (Mark Powell, Darren Patrick, Alex Himaya, and Clint Cook) shared passionately and effectively. (Note: DVD copies of the main sessions are available for purchase from Congregational Ministries.)

Practical Training came from workshop sessions offered throughout the week. Workshop tracks allowed participants options to build a series of connected workshops or to enjoy highlights from several workshop tracks. Along with missionary connections, special training came from our own Church Planting Team and guests assisted with rural church, discipleship, personal enrichment, church systems and other topics. To conserve the learning, audio recordings were made of most workshops and access to those downloadable recordings is available through a drop card system that may be purchased from Congregational Ministries.

Missionary Connections were not only available in the workshops but were also part of the main stage event, a featured element of the exhibit hall, and an important part of two very powerful group prayers. On Tuesday evening Executive Director Clint Cook presided over a very moving commissioning service as the assembled leaders laid hands on newly appointed International Missions Director Mark Powell and newly appointed church planter Steve Gill to commission them to their new tasks. On Wednesday evening all the current missionaries, church planters and ethnic ministries were grouped together for a special joint prayer of blessing on their lives and service.

Looking back over the week I was reminded of three very important reasons for being part of a denominational network.

First, we do together what we cannot do alone. No one church can accomplish individually what we accomplish collectively. What one church can supervise the gathering of 42 churches in India? What one church can undertake the management of an orphanage in Honduras? What one church can plant a series of fast-growing, high-impact churches to reach thousands with the gospel? What one church can set the stage for revitalization of hundreds of existing churches? While no one church can undertake these ministries, when we work together they are rather easily accomplished!

Second, as part of a network of churches we are exposed to the help and encouragement needed to be more effective in our local ministries. One of the amazing things about The Summit is that since the meetings were re-engineered in 2007 a broader connection among and between General Baptists from different parts of the nation and different parts of the world have developed. With these new connections there is a synergy of effort as well as a keen reassurance that we are not alone in the struggle.

Third, as part of a denominational connection I can take advantage of services and programs that are offered to assist and expand my own ministry. Conferences and events offered by the denomination are provided at very modest costs and in convenient locations. If I accessed similar services as a private payee I would spend hundreds of dollars more for the same or similar conferences and events. Consultation services, missionary presence and church planter connections are all designed to assist and expand each local ministry to more effectively reach the world.

Executive Director Clint Cook puts it like this, “General Baptist Ministries exists to maximize Kingdom impact by starting, equipping and inspiring local churches to accomplish the Great Commission.”

Brand name loyalty is not what it once was. Markets for automobiles and dishwashing detergent can no longer depend on a buying public that is motivated by brand name loyalty. Church connections, too, are often driven by factors other than brand name loyalty. For me, however, there are compelling reasons for connecting to those old denominational structures, so I want to do my part to establish and improve my connections.


To purchase recordings of the workshops or General Sessions, contact Congregational Ministries at cmofc@generalbaptist or by calling 573-785-7746.