By Elizabeth Young

During their 89th annual meeting, Arizona Southern Baptists were challenged to multiply disciples, leaders and churches for the sake of the lost in their cities. Looking beyond Arizona, messengers adopted a 2018 budget that will send more to Southern Baptist Convention causes.

David Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.

“Multiply” was the theme of the meeting held at First Southern Baptist Church of Tucson, Nov. 17. It was attended by 243 messengers and 36 registered guests from 99 of Arizona Southern Baptists’ 460 churches.
Messengers adopted a $4,779,764.71 operating budget for 2018, a $23,705 or . 5 percent increase over 2017. The operating budget includes a $3,320,000 Cooperative Program budget, up $90,000 or 2.8 percent from 2017.
The Cooperative Program budget allocates $1,062,400 or 32 percent — an increase of 1.5 percentage points — to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministries.
The percentage increase represents another step in reaching Arizona Southern Baptists’ Centennial Vision goal of giving 50 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to missions outside the state through the SBC by 2028. The SBC percentage was also raised 1.5 percentage points in 2016 and 2017, and it’s the fourth straight year for an increase.
The remaining Cooperative Program budget will be distributed as follows: Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, $1,792,800 or 54 percent, a decrease of 1.5 percentage points from 2017; Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries, $232,400, 7 percent; and the Arizona Campus of Gateway Seminary, $232,400, 7 percent.
During the single afternoon worship and business session, messengers elected three officers by acclamation. Jackie Allen, lead pastor of Cross Church (formerly Palm Vista Baptist Church), Surprise, was elected to a second one-year term as president. Brian Bowman, lead pastor of Valley Life Church Tramonto, Phoenix, was elected first vice president, and Eric Gibbs, pastor of First Pima Baptist Church, Sacaton, was elected second vice president.
David Johnson, AZSBC executive director, presented a progress report on the Centennial Vision and called for a reality check. Four years into the Centennial Vision, with a goal of having 1,000 churches by 2028, Arizona Southern Baptists have planted 89 churches but lost 83 churches since 2013, he said.
“Arizona Southern Baptists, we will never accomplish our goal of reaching our state with the gospel of Jesus Christ as long as we don’t make progress in this area,” Johnson said.
“The church is God’s instrument to be able to share the gospel, make disciples, send out missionaries, plant more churches. It is the instrument, the vehicle, that God has given for the Great Commission.”
Johnson said he had reached the conclusion that “we will never effectively penetrate lostness, push back darkness in Arizona as long as all we’re doing is adding churches.”
The real goal is not to have 1,000 churches, he said, but to have “churches that multiply, reproduce themselves, create a culture of reproduction — reproducing disciples and leaders and churches. Multiply. That’s why that’s the theme of this convention: Multiply.”
If every Arizona Southern Baptist church would reproduce itself just once in the next 10 years, there would be 920 churches in 2027, Johnson said.
“Could your church in the next 10 years plant at least one church?” he asked. “Maybe you can plant two churches. Maybe you can plant three churches.”
To those who say their church doesn’t have enough people to plant a church, Johnson said, “That’s why we have to multiply disciples.” And to those who say they don’t have enough leaders, he said, “That’s why you need to multiply leaders, so that you can multiply churches, so that we can get the gospel to people … and penetrate lostness in Arizona.”
Johnson called to the platform the North American Mission Board church planting catalysts and Send City missionary serving in Arizona, the associational directors of missions and the AZSBC facilitators.
“With a team like this working all across our state, there is no excuse for us not to plant churches and in the next 10 years for every one of our 460 churches to be able to plant a church,” he said. “And I can promise you something, if you’ll do it one time, you’ll want to do it another time and another time and another time, until this state is filled with thousands of churches sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, making disciples, sending out missionaries and planting churches. That is what the Centennial Vision is all about, and that is why we are working together to make disciples of all peoples in Arizona and around the world.”

Noe Garcia, senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church.

Preaching from Nehemiah 1, Noe Garcia, senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, asked in the closing message, “Are we burdened more for our ministry success or for the lostness of our cities?” Because Nehemiah had spent time in the presence of God, he had a God-given burden for the brokenness of the people and the dishonoring of God’s name, he said.
For the kingdom of God to advance, leaders must create a culture of confession and repentance, Garcia said.
“If God wants to work through us, He first has to work in us and usually He can’t work in us until He breaks us,” he said.
It’s good to be reminded that success doesn’t come from our skills, programs and abilities, he said. It only comes from God. When we give everything to God and don’t try to use His glory to glorify ourselves, He works in unexpected ways that are always better, he said.
Nehemiah, cupbearer to the king, “left the comfort of the palace to attend to the discomfort of the people,” Garcia noted. God can work mightily through people who don’t care about the seat of honor and leave to tend to broken people, he said.
Prior to the afternoon session, Arizona Southern Baptists participated in a mission fair and heard from Arizona pastors in a morning Pastors’ Conference.
At the meeting’s end, AZSBC President Jackie Allen noted a recurring theme throughout the day. “We need to leverage our lives for the good of the lost in the Lord,” he said. “I hope that you will leave here with a burden for your city like never before.”
For the third year, the annual meeting was preceded by a bicycle ride from the site of next year’s annual meeting to this year’s meeting. Nine men participated in the two-day, 130-mile ride from Phoenix to Tucson.
The riders wore jerseys inviting people to text CARE to 73256 to help hurricane victims. Proceeds will be divided among Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief, and Baptist Global Response.