Arizona pastors headlined the Pastors Conference prior to the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting Nov. 17 in Tucson. Speakers included Jackie Allen, Mark Martin and Brian Bowman, who led a panel discussion on multiplication.

“I get it. Life and ministry is really hard. It can chew you up and spit you out,” asserted Jackie Allen, lead pastor of Cross Church. Teaching from the “first pastors conference,” where Jesus spoke of hard times to his disciples (Matt. 16), Allen encouraged pastors and leaders “to love deeply” and “trust God boldly” when times get rough.

Allen shared his own difficult experience in Arizona in 2008, when the economy fell hard right in the middle of a sanctuary construction project. Through harsh circumstances, he had to relocate back to Oklahoma with his family.

“I had lost everything. My house. My life savings. … I had lost my dream of starting a church and lost my aspirations. … But then we discover what’s important,” he said.

Allen called upon leaders to “pray earnestly” in the middle of hard times and “be filled completely” with the Holy Spirit (John 14).

“You can grow a bigger organization with systems and process, but it may not be of God,” he said. “You need the Spirit and the power more than the systems and process.”

Brian Bowman, lead pastor of Valley Life Church Tramonto, led a panel discussion focusing on multiplication with Nathan Millican, lead pastor of Foothills Baptist Church, Ahwatukee; Tony Valenti, lead pastor of The Bridge Church, Phoenix; and Jeff Vanderford, lead pastor of Authentic Life Church, Tucson.

“Are you moving the needle of lostness?” asked Millican.

“People are going to freak out when you’re sending people outside your doors,” said Valenti. “Multiplication is not about looking inside the walls, giving money, or building our kingdom.”

Vanderford called on churches to have compassion for their communities.

“It doesn’t matter what size of church, you can be involved in multiplication,” Millican said.

Mark Martin, senior pastor of Calvary PHX, challenged the leaders to create a culture of evangelism in their churches.

“The Word of God does the work of God,” Martin said.

Following Paul’s example of testifying about Christ, Martin highlighted his method of going to those who are ready, reasoning with the Scriptures and then explaining the Scriptures (from the book of Acts).
He cited Acts 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

“I get nervous every time I give an invitation,” said Martin, who has made a deep impact upon the community during his 35 years as pastor.

Yet God reminds him, he said, “This isn’t about you.”

“Don’t be afraid of rejection,” Martin said. “We do not take the credit if they said yes, so we do not take the credit if they said no.”

He concluded his message focusing on four basic problems all people have: essential emptiness, loneliness, sense of guilt and fear of death. He called on pastors to communicate these underlying needs in order to draw people to Christ.

The Arizona pastors shared the huge burden upon their hearts for the millions in Arizona who still need Christ.

Calling on Arizona Southern Baptists to pray for revival, Allen cut to the heart: “Don’t give up. Keep going forward. Your ministry is like a marriage. ’Til death do you part.”