Is Florida the Next California?

I was born in the great state of Georgia and moved with my family to Florida when I was six years old. I grew up and now reside in the Sunshine State of Florida. Other than my time away at college I have spent my entire life minus a few early years as a Floridian or as we are often called a Florida cracker. Florida typically plays a pivotal role in Presidential elections. Over the past twenty Presidential elections, Florida has been a pivotal state in determining the outcome. Who among us can forget the battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore and the infamous hanging chads?

According to the Orlando Sentinel, “Since 1936, Floridians’ pick for president has lined up with the overall winner in 18 out of 20 elections. That track record, the state’s growing diversity and its 29 electoral votes make the Sunshine State a perpetual target of campaigns. The last time Florida’s pick for president didn’t win was 1992 when Florida voters picked incumbent George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton. The only other difference in the past 80 years was when voters picked Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy in 1960. Republicans have a slight edge in this time period, winning Florida’s electoral votes 11 times, while Democrats have won nine times. Geographically, the support is spread across each region of Florida. GOP candidates have won more than 75% of the state’s counties since 2000. However, Democratic candidates perform better in voter-rich urban areas such as Orlando, Miami, and Tampa.”

Florida is a pivotal battleground for preserving Christian values in our country.

However, I fear that Florida could possibly become the next California. California has basically become a lost cause for conservatism. In fact, the entire West Coast can be counted on to elect not just democratic candidates but far left leaning ones. We are dangerously close to losing Florida as a conservative bastion and I foresee the possibility in ten to twenty years of Florida leaning nearly as left as California does now. If that happens it will be devastating to the possibility of electing conservatives in this country.

Texas similarly faces the same danger although not nearly as much as Florida. However, there are similarities in the two states which should cause concern to both. In this article, I want to identify two things.

First I want to identify what I consider to be the causes of this potential shift. Secondly, I will deal with the solution that could prevent it from taking place any further.

First, consider the causes.


Typically immigrants who come to our nation are not born-again Christians. In fact, in many cases, they represent non-Christian religions. The Muslim population has exploded in many places and is doing so in Florida. In fact, in the past decade, the Muslim population in Orlando has increased ten times from 1.3 out of every 1,000 inhabitants to 13.1 out of every 1,000 inhabitants. Many Hispanic immigrants have Catholic backgrounds which means they are not born-again Christians.

Immigration plays a huge role in a region or state changing. Typically liberals appeal more to immigrants than conservatives. While conservatives are trying to maintain the purity of immigration laws Democrats are trying to win elections. Therefore immigration typically liberalizes a region and eventually the state itself.


People who went to California and other places on the West Coast did so for opportunistic reasons. The two states in this nation which offer the greatest opportunity because of conservative politics are Texas and Florida. The very benefit of conservatism creates the danger of attracting a more liberal population. Business-friendly states like Florida and Texas, with no state income tax, attract many individuals and businesses to relocate from liberal-leaning states, thus changing the demographics of many cities.

People are coming from all over the country who are not Christians. Tragically most pastors do nothing to keep up with the growth that is taking place in their areas. Cities which were once hotbeds for Independent Fundamental Baptist churches have virtually dried up as the area has grown.


The more prosperity an area experiences the more danger there is of it becoming liberal. Churches try to change to appeal to the prosperity rather than continuing with their soul winning efforts. Once vibrant soul-winning churches have tried to keep up with the fancy churches and in so doing lost their soul-winning zeal. When they quit soul winning they quit having standards. They were not reaching people with Christ so they had to reach them by appealing to their flesh.


This is different than prosperity, in fact, it could be called consumerism. The more an area experiences success the more materialistic the people become. Materialism has caused people to be more concerned with the pursuit of wealth, possessions, bigger homes and fancier cars than they are in the things of God. Once again our churches are trying to appeal to that materialistic mindset.


As population centers grow we see more and more ethnic diversity. That is not a bad thing as long as the church sees these ethnic groups as their mission field. Ethnic populations explode in growth while many churches do little to reach them. The average Independent Baptist Church is not welcoming to a vast array of ethnic groups. In a sense, our gospel has become too white.

We have ministries to these individuals but still maintain some separation from them which prevents them from growing as Christian leaders within our churches and allowing us to reach more of their ethnic demographic. In addition, we are sending our missionaries south of the border rather than to those within our border. Dade County which encompasses Miami, Florida is over 63% Hispanic, yet there are very few thriving Hispanic independent Baptist churches there.

Florida as a whole is now made up of almost 25%  Hispanics and has the fastest growing Asian population of any state in the country.


People want to live in the suburbs, so middle-class families leave the urban areas for the tidy suburbs. Our churches are not urban minded other than sending buses into the ghettos. We focus on the smaller populations in suburban areas to the expense of the greater urban populations. Yet these urban areas continue to grow and threaten to dominate national elections. Not only did our people flood to the suburbs but many of our churches did likewise, leaving the urban areas as a battleground for paganism and false churches.

Perhaps there are other factors but what matters is that we as churches must decide to get busy winning the lost.

What can we do? What are the solutions? Here are a few.

1. We must get out of our comfort zones for the sake of the cause of Christ.

To reach these areas and these people we must feel the urgency enough to step away from the norm and launch out into the depths. Those who go to the foreign mission field make incredible sacrifices to help us fulfill our responsibility to get the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world while many of us stay here and make a little sacrifice to reach the mission fields near us. That is a shame and we must not complacently sit by while our area and our nation perish without Christ.

2. We must believe that God is able if we are willing.

In most cities, there are people of every language and dialect. The secret of finding those who can reach a group is a commitment to reach that group and praying for the laborers. We can reach the Muslims. We can reach the Hispanics and Latinos. We can reach the urban areas. God wants to give us the workers we need because it is His harvest we are to reach. There are men in many churches who if challenged could leave the comfort of their pew and go out and plant churches in this state.

3. We must take “ownership” of the mission fields near us.

What are these mission fields?

-Housing projects

-Low-income apartment complexes

-Nursing homes and mental health facilities


-Colleges campuses

-Military Bases


-Spanish neighborhoods (or other ethnicities)

-Inner City areas

Are we taking responsibility for reaching these people?
If not, why not?

I sometimes hear the excuse that you cannot build a church on these types of people. Let me remind you of something. It is not our job to build a church. That is Jesus’ job. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

Our job is to obey Acts 1:8 and Mark 16:15. If we do our part, He will do His part. We must stop worrying about building a church and start worrying about winning a world to Christ. There are mission fields we drive past on our way to and from church and never stop and consider the souls who are perishing in those places. We may sincerely weep over the lost in China or another part of the world, yet not even notice those places right within our reach. Take ownership of those mission fields near you.

4. We must recognize the population centers near us and determine to evangelize them.

What does “near us” mean? It means that when you are reaching your Jerusalem and Judea is there a Samaria near enough where you could have an impact. Do you have a vision for these places? Are you praying and asking for God to help you to reach them? They will not vote right if their hearts are not right with Jesus.

5. We must commit ourselves to plant churches in these regions beyond our neighborhood.

For many years independent Baptist has embraced the bus ministry and have even been identified as being churches which reached their community with bus routes. I have grown up with the bus ministry and believe strongly in its benefits. However, for many, the bus ministry has been the extent of our outreach. Unfortunately many of the people we reach through the bus ministry are not given the opportunity to be more involved in a local church. They are for the most part limited to Sunday morning attendance. The distance often makes it prohibitive for them to truly involve themselves in the church. What would happen if we planted churches in some of these bus route areas?

Consider the possibilities.

  • There would be a pastor committed to that community who stands for the same principles and truths we do.
  • There would be the opportunity for people to attend services more regularly.
  • Those we reach would have the opportunity to invite friends and neighbors to come with them to their local church.
  • Our facilities would be less strained as we sought new facilities in which to plant churches.
  • Some within our own church could be those who plant the new church including the one who becomes the pastor. We recently commissioned our Spanish Pastor to plant a church in a diverse part of our city. This new church is already reaching more Spanish speaking people than we were reaching when bringing them to our church.

These are but a few of the benefits that would come about as a result of planting churches.

Let me illustrate this by using my own Jerusalem as an example.

Jacksonville Florida is the largest city in the United States with over 840 square miles. The population of Jacksonville is approximately 850,000 people. Greater Jacksonville which extends just under 1.5 million people. It is the 40th largest county in the United States. This would encompass our Jerusalem and some of our Judea. It would be virtually impossible for Immanuel Baptist Church to adequately reach and minister to all of those within that area. In fact, it is not unreasonable that there could be twenty or more churches established within our Jerusalem and Judea. However, there are other areas that could also be added to that.

To our east is the Atlantic Ocean, however, there are several beach communities with substantial populations such as Jacksonville Beach with 21,300 population and Atlantic Beach at almost 13,000.

To the south of Jacksonville are communities that are rapidly growing such as Middleburg 13,000, Green Cove Springs 7,000, and Lakeside 30,000. Further south you will find a rapidly growing area in Saint Augustine with an area population of over 30,000.

To the west, before getting to the Ocala National Forest there are small communities but their populations would be in the range of 10,000.

Finally to the north you have Fernandina Beach with a population of over 12,000.

Even considering the fact that Jacksonville is surrounded by ocean, forests, and large segments of undeveloped areas the total population for our Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria would be in the range of over 1.7 to 2 million people spread out over several thousand square miles. If you drew a circle around our community and region and put a dot where our church is located you would see the massiveness of the opportunity.

Most of those people will never drive to Immanuel Baptist Church. Most of them will never have a member of Immanuel Baptist Church living next-door or attending school with them or working with them. The only opportunity most of those people have to be a part of a conservative independent Baptist church is for Immanuel Baptist Church and others like us to get out of our comfort zones and plant churches in these communities.

Unlike many places in this country, Jacksonville is not a densely populated area. We are also a mostly red region. Throughout this country, there are places where the need for churches is evident even more than it is in our region, yet as I see it the need here is daunting.

6. We must recognize that the time is now.

Florida is rapidly changing. America is likewise changing demographically. Many once conservative areas are experiencing an influx of immigrants whose religious background are not Christian. Christians must not see these immigrants as merely a threat to our nation. We must embrace the fact they are our mission field. There are places in this country where the Muslim population is exploding.

Are we going to merely wait for the immigration laws to stop them from entering our country, or will we take responsibility for those who are already here and reach them with the Gospel? This is more than a political issue. While I am for controlled immigration I am also for winning these people to Christ. Washington cannot stem the tide of what is happening in this nation. Only born-again believers can do that. There are three things we must do if we are to preserve our nation.

Stop fleeing from areas which are changing demographically. The trend among many of our churches is to relocate when the community has changed. Unfortunately, we often surrender the people who come to these areas to Satan and false teaching. Rather than relocating and selling our church to another congregation.

Why not plant a church in another area where your people are moving while continuing to operate the church where you are already located? It would seem logical that abandoning an entire demographic show that we are concerned more about being demographically pure than preaching the gospel to every creature.

Target the blue regions of our state. For the most part, liberalism abounds in large population centers like Miami, Tampa Bay, Orlando and others. With all the different nationalities populating the greater Miami area we could touch the world by reaching Miami. We need fully supported missionaries in Miami NOW. Church planting must be a part of our mindset for these areas. There is a mission field in places all across this nation where populations are the greatest but independent Baptist churches are the fewest.

Be willing to be scattered. The gospel was not spread throughout the world by bringing the world to Jerusalem but by scattering the church of Jerusalem throughout the world. Many of those who left Jerusalem went to places like Judea and Samaria. The gospel was spread not just to the furthermost parts of the world but to places within reach of that church. Pastors must be willing to send their people, not try to keep their people. The question should not merely be what are we running in our church but how many people are in church as a result of those we have sent.

What is the answer?

We must get a burden again for our cities, towns, and counties. It is impossible for a true burden not to expand. Many pastors have neglected Jerusalem first and substituted that responsibility with a heavier emphasis on world missions. While I am all for world missions and am actively involved in them I have a passion most of all for the greater Jacksonville Florida area. That vision has caused me to expand my vision for the state of Florida. I love Texas just fine. I love Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Maine.

I even love California because that is where I found my wife. But my great vision today is for my own state of Florida. The need is great. What America needs are men of God who have a burden for their area first which expands to their entire state and becomes a cause to them. That is what will stem the tide in this country more than anything else.

Immanuel Baptist Church has started a church planting ministry with the purpose of starting churches in the city of Jacksonville, Florida. CPR, or Church Planting Recruiters is actively recruiting church planters to work from the Immanuel Baptist Church and plant a church in the Greater Jacksonville area. For more information contact Pastor Neal at [email protected].

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by pastor greg neal

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