Arizona Southern Baptist Convention President Chad Garrison, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lake Havasu City, described the ASBC's single afternoon session Nov. 15 as "more like a revival" than "a giant business meeting."
During their meeting at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Tucson, messengers elected three officers by acclamation and adopted a 2014 Cooperative Program budget of $3,180,000, which remains unchanged since 2011.
The 288 messengers and 56 guests representing the convention's 445 churches unanimously affirmed the mission and vision statements presented by David W. Johnson, who became the state convention executive director in June.
The adoption of the mission statement -- "working together to make disciples of all peoples in Arizona and around the world" -- comes at a critical time for Arizona Southern Baptists. Statistical studies conducted earlier in the year show "we have more resources, more churches and more people to reach and are less effective than any time in our history," Johnson said. "Something has to change if we hope to reach our state for Christ."
With a theme of "Arizona: our mission field, be a part of it," Johnson called for Arizona Southern Baptists to take responsibility for their state.
"Instead of making excuses about why we cannot act or grumbling about a lack of funding, it is time for Arizona Southern Baptists to step up to do what is necessary to reach our state for Christ," he said.
The vision statement paints a picture of Arizona Southern Baptists in 2028, when the group will celebrate its 100 anniversary. It calls for:
-- 1,000 churches with an average attendance of 150, with 100 in Bible study, baptizing at least 12 persons per year and giving an average of 10 percent or more to missions through the CP.
-- over half of the churches being Hispanic or non-Anglo.
-- at least 52 churches per year being started by the growing number of healthy and revitalized churches.
-- the ASBC giving 50 percent of its CP receipts to missions outside Arizona through the Southern Baptist Convention.
-- the ASBC working together to support a seminary campus, ministries to children, youth, college students, families and senior adults, in addition to counseling and disaster relief to help fulfill their shared mission; and
-- churches sending out 5,000 people on short-term or long-term missions and 500 people entering full-time ministry each year.
The centennial vision includes core values of biblical authority, the Great Commission, the local church, diversity in unity, innovation, relationship and prayer.
"With the Bible as our authority, we believe the Great Commission is our mandate and the local church is God's instrument," Johnson said. "We must reach out to all peoples in our state if our churches are to reflect the population, so diversity in unity is crucial. To do that, we will need to be innovative and place a high value on relationship with each other. We recognize that nothing of eternal value can ever be done without divine empowerment, so prayer is of utmost importance."
Johnson described the vision as "our marching orders for the next 15 years" and "our mandate for what we do." The vision belongs to the churches, not just the Convention Council or staff, he said.
"There is no convention without the churches," he said. "Our churches must come together to work on this vision to accomplish what God has for us. If we agree that this is the vision God is leading us to embrace, then I will do everything I can to lead us to accomplish it."
Johnson introduced SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page, guest speaker, whose church donated a van to Johnson's church years ago when both men were fellow pastors in Texas.
"When I think about working together, I don't just think about what we give," Johnson said. "I think about churches helping churches. I think about this family relationship. ... I want to tell you Arizona Southern Baptists, it is time for us to work together."
Stating "that which we do best we do together," Page challenged churches to "do more than you've ever done before working together." He encouraged churches to accept the challenge to increase their CP giving by one percent.
"When we ask you to give more," Page said, "we want you to be a part of something that is greater than you are. We want you to be a part of sending missionaries to places ... where you will never even visit. ... We're looking at starting 15,000 churches across this continent in the next 10 years. You, together with other Southern Baptist churches, can plant churches in places you'll only see on a map. I ask you to be part of a movement of God."
Chad Garrison challenged leaders to be champions in their churches for missions and the CP.
"As a pastor starting off in a little church in Lake Havasu City 21 years ago, I know how tempting it is to say we can't afford to do it," he said. However, through the years, his church has increased its missions budget from 12 percent to 20 percent and the church has grown dramatically, Garrison said.
"There's a direct correlation from our generosity to the blessings of God flowing through our ministry," he said. "If we actually believe that we can't afford to give more away to the work of God, to His kingdom's purpose, we don't understand how God's grace flows in His work."
Messengers at the Nov. 15 meeting adopted a $4,500,612 ASBC operating budget for 2014. The budget calls for 26.05 percent of CP gifts to be forwarded to SBC causes, a percentage unchanged since 2011.
The state's CP receipts will be distributed as follows: SBC CP, $828,390; ASBC, $1,913,911; Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, $236,550; Arizona Baptist Children's Services, $125,456, and Baptist Senior Life Ministries, $75,693.
Income sources in the ASBC operating budget beyond CP receipts from Arizona churches include $988,367 from the North American Mission Board, $118,800 in church gifts designated specifically for Arizona ministries, $54,996 from LifeWay Christian Resources, $20,000 in trust income designated for the CP, and $59,560 in other revenue.
During worship, two pastors talked about how God is blessing their churches.
When he preached on baptism and presented the plan of salvation on a recent Sunday, said Ben Barfield, pastor of Common Ground Church, Sahuarita, the church planned to baptize seven but ended up baptizing 31 as the response to the invitation grew. On another Sunday, more than 700 New Testaments were distributed during the two morning worship services. Church members were asked to write the name of the person with whom they would share the New Testament.
"God is moving in Sahuarita, Arizona," Barfield said.
Josue Castro, pastor of Tierra Fertil in Yuma, told how two-and-a-half years ago, the church, now 11 years old, decided it was time to be on their own and remodeled a rented commercial suite for worship. Now the space, with a capacity of 200, is too small for the two Sunday morning worship services.
Castro requested prayer as the church decides whether to add a third service or rent a bigger building requiring a large financial commitment. Although the church dreams of owning its own building, Castro said, it is "neither dismayed nor discouraged."
"We know who is by our side, and He has been with us always," Castro said. "We will not cease in sharing the Gospel with our city and those who need it."
Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., was recognized for their ongoing partnership with the ASBC. The church "has poured many dollars and people into our state, coming here to do ministry and to encourage work and now are partnering directly with here in Tucson in the start of a new church," Johnson said.
Representing Englewood were David Taylor, associate pastor of education and outreach, with his wife Stephanie and church members David and Tracey Holmes. He is Caribbean partnership coordinator with the ASBC.
Prior to the worship and business session, Arizona Baptists participated in a mission fair with 25 booths presenting the ministries of the ASBC and other opportunities to be on mission.
Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 14, the location to be determined.
Elizabeth Young is director of communications for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, on the Web at www.azsobaptist.org.
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