By Chris Moon
Florida Church Planters has hired its first full-time director.
Jeff Swearingen will take the reins of the church-planting organization in mid-August. He served most recently as lead pastor at Crosspoint Church, which he planted 17 years ago in Cape Coral, Fla.
His last Sunday service at Crosspoint was July 31.
Swearingen said Florida Church Planters’ need for a full-time church planter—its first in its 25-year history—has been spurred by the state’s population growth. An average of 871 people are moving to Florida each day, he said.
The state’s current population sits at just more than 21 million.
“There are less than 200 Restoration [Movement] churches in Florida now,” Swearingen told Christian Standard.
Florida Church Planters has participated in four new church starts during the past four years. It will launch three churches in 2022, Swearingen said.
Swearingen said the goal eventually is to plant three to five churches per year.
A HISTORY OF CHURCH PLANTING
Swearingen ventured into church planting after serving on staff with First Christian Church in Fort Myers, Fla.
Back in 2006, First Christian was growing. But leaders there sensed the need for a new church in the fast-growing and under-churched Cape Coral, which sits just across the Caloosahatchee River from Fort Myers.
The north side of Cape Coral was expanding. Meanwhile, a small church there was in the process of shutting its doors. It sold off its property and gave the proceeds for the planting of a new church.
Swearingen was tapped to lead it.
“I was very resistant to that for several months,” he said, thinking he didn’t have what it took to plant a church.
But more than 100 people came with him from First Christian Church to help plant Crosspoint.
And it grew.
“It was a huge kingdom move by First Christian,” Swearingen said.
Crosspoint was portable for more than seven years, holding services at a local high school. It then purchased a former Baptist church building, along with 10 acres of land.
The church eventually expanded to four services—two on Saturday and two on Sunday—before building a new 20,000-square-foot building on its property.
The church grew to an average weekend attendance of 850 to 900 before the COVID-19 pandemic, and currently sees 700 to 750 worshipers each week, Swearingen said.
A NEW CHAPTER
The opportunity to lead Florida Church Planters came as Christian Financial Resources provided it a $1 million grant to underwrite the organization’s administrative costs.
Swearingen said the grant came in February as Florida-based CFR was celebrating its 40th anniversary. With the population boom in Florida and the need for new churches, now was the time to hire FCP’s first full-time director.
Today, Swearingen is brainstorming ways to recruit new church planters. Some Florida churches have residency programs to educate their staff members. Could those churches add a church-planting track to their curriculum?
“All that’s just an idea right now,” he said.
For now, Florida Church Planters can rejoice in its financial stability. The grant from CFR enables all donations that come into the church-planting organization to go directly to new church plants, rather than administrative overhead.
Florida Church Planters offers grants of up to $150,000 to church planters to help kick-start their own fund-raising efforts.
“We’re going to focus on walking beside church planters,” Swearingen said.
A FAMILIAR NAME AT CROSSPOINT
Meanwhile, Swearingen can look back on his time at Crosspoint knowing the church he founded is in familiar hands.
The church’s elders selected Swearingen’s son, Matt, to take over as lead pastor. Matt Swearingen has served nine years as Crosspoint’s student ministries pastor.
“There’s real excitement about what he’ll be able to do,” Jeff Swearingen said.
He said over the last several years, Crosspoint’s student ministry has grown to become one of the largest in the area.
Of course, Matt knows the lay of the land. Seventeen years ago, he was a seventh-grader who helped set up classrooms during Crosspoint’s earliest days as a portable church.
“The DNA of who we are is deeply ingrained in him,” Swearingen said.
For his part, Matt Swearingen said he is humbled by the transition.
“To step into my dad’s shoes is not definitely something I was hunting,” he said, “because they were big shoes to fill.”
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colo.