New Grace in rural Florida is learning how to love its neighbors

New Grace Baptist Church in rural FlorahomeNew Grace Baptist Church in Florahome loves Jesus and seeks to serve Him by loving its community.

Unfortunately, it appears to be largely an unrequited love—at least for now.

New Grace Associate Pastor Jay Baker said people who settle back in this rural area, located about 30 miles east of Gainesville, typically have picked the location for a specific reason—to stay off the grid.

“Most have purposely moved here to get away in their retirement, and they don’t want to be fooled with,” he said.  “And then here we come.”

I took a ride out to New Grace this week to chat with Pastor Jay and get the lay of the land. Unfortunately, severe weather kept us inside the church building but even driving to New Grace’s tucked away location I could imagine what a good “hiding” place this area could be for someone looking for peace and solitude.

But Pastor Jay and the members of New Grace want the people in the area to know that the church is here to love them and serve them.

Whether they like it or not.

During a door-to-door blitz they had trying to get to know the neighbors and get the word out about the church, Pastor Jay recalled one gentleman who wasn’t in the mood for company. When he decided the church members had overstayed their welcome he invited them to leave—in a hurry.

“He said, ‘I can make it to my house and get my gun before you can get to my gate,’” Pastor Jay recalled.

The church members didn’t stick around to find out if he was only joking.

Want to find out more about New Grace and how God is moving through that congregation? Be sure to check out our May issue!

Nicole Kalil is the Jacksonville-based reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness, the official news source of the Florida Baptist State Convention. She can be reached by phone at 904.596.3169 or via email at

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