Pastor sees need for systemic change

Andre Miller

Andre Miller, founding pastor in 2010 of New Beginnings Christian Church in Mesa, has been working for police reform in Arizona for the last 10 years.

At the same time, the church has grown to a 150-person multicultural congregation.

“As an institution, there are systemic cultural issues in policing in America,” Miller said. “As a police officer, the system is that you have to show force. The system should be that of a peace officer with a desire to diffuse rather than escalate.”

Miller’s interest in police matters stems from his boyhood, when police officers in Detroit were from, understood and knew the people in their community. His father was a Detroit police officer. His cousin was Detroit’s first black mayor. His sons’ mother continues as a police detective in Detroit.

The changes in the culture of policing, the lack of change in the racial divide across the nation, and the growth of his five sons into teens and young adults fuel his desire to be part of the solution, Miller said.
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Arizona Disaster Relief helps residents displaced by fires

The silver lining of any tragic emergency is the moment when the smoke finally clears and the heroes emerge. In the many cases of the large fires moving across the dry Arizona landscape, we can immediately celebrate the efforts of first responders, including firefighters and medical personnel. As soon as the evacuations of residents and their pets or livestock take place, we can thank the interconnected coordination of many hardworking organizations like the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

Patty Kirchner, interim director of Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, created and commanded two dynamic teams in June at two very different locations helping families with very similar needs.
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Gateway recognizes 19 graduates

Despite the lack of a commencement celebration due to COVID-19, the Arizona Campus of Gateway Seminary recognized 19 graduates in the spring.

“In the most difficult of circumstances, these graduates fulfilled their calling to complete their seminary studies,” said Arizona Campus Director Dallas Bivins.
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Baptists rise to the challenge in Navajo Nation

The massive Navajo Nation that covers about a fifth of Arizona (plus parts of New Mexico and Utah) is in dire straits, and Southern Baptists have risen to the challenge.

While the rest of Arizona re-opened May 15 after “stay home” directives had been in place since March 31, the Navajo Nation remains locked down until at least June 7 because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s persistent impact on the reservation.

Food, paper products, cleaning supplies and toys have been donated by Southern Baptists and others from Arizona, New Mexico and across the United States. On-site leaders anticipate the need will continue for at least another month.
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Partnerships form to minister to Navajo Nation:
Arizona boots are made for ministry

Jesse Billy, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Tuba City, who normally delivers firewood to people in his church and community, is now delivering other requested items also.

West Whitecone Baptist Church, a small Navajo church near Indian Wells, is the latest church to have joined in the ensemble of assistance to the beleaguered Navajo Nation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Merle Yazzie and his wife “have been picking up supplies from various distribution points and delivering to remote households in the Whitecone area,” reported Jonathan Hoyt, director of missions for the Fourcorners Baptist Association that includes 11 Southern Baptist Native churches in Arizona. Hoyt is working with several Arizona Baptist churches to bring in supplies so Yazzie and the church can focus on getting the help to families in need.
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DR partnership helps Navajo Nation

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders in Arizona and New Mexico recently set up an informal partnership to provide needed supplies to the most vulnerable and most needy among the sprawling Navajo Nation’s 173,000 native residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DR leaders divided in half – east and west – the 27,413 square-mile Navajo Nation, which, while mostly in Arizona, also splays out across parts of New Mexico and Utah.
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AZSBC staff ministers amid COVID-19

For the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention staff, despite a number of canceled events, ministry has continued in the midst of the stay-at-home order due to COVID-19.

“While the AZSBC offices have remained open, most of the staff members have been working from home since the middle of March and have been relying on electronic means of meeting and working,” AZSBC Executive Director David Johnson said. Biweekly staff meetings have continued by using Zoom.
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The Church at Estrella creatively ministers during COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic began and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued a stay-at-home order, members of The Church at Estrella prayed and asked God how to “do church.” They could no longer meet in Westar Elementary School, where the 2-year-old church had been meeting for regular church services.

Like many churches, they were looking for ways to serve their community and didn’t miss a beat in incorporating the network of contacts that had already been established, and harnessing, organizing and missionizing the wide array of creativity within that network through a strong online presence. After all, the church is not a building – it is the people.
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Churches find new ways to continue

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona Southern Baptist churches found creative ways to continue worship and discipleship activities while starting or ramping up benevolence ministries and outreach.

Here are a few examples. Much more will be shared in the July-August issue of Portraits.
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Churches creatively celebrate Easter

A stay-at-home order because of COVID-19 didn’t stop Arizona Southern Baptist churches from celebrating Easter and sharing the Easter story, sometimes in creative ways.

In their online sermons on Palm Sunday, pastors in the Valley Life network of churches in greater Phoenix encouraged members to “preach” their own sermons for Easter. In their community groups during the week, members were taught how to share their “Before, How, Now” stories by explaining: Before I met Jesus, my life was like _______, (How) Then I repented of my sins and put my faith in Jesus, Now my life is like _______.
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Zona Camp canceled, new resource offered

In the ever-changing times of COVID-19, Arizona Southern Baptists’ Zona Administrative Team announced earlier this spring that Zona Camp, set for late June at Biola University in California, was being canceled but they would offer an alternative resource for churches.

Zona Camp is a collaborative effort of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, pastors, youth ministers from around the state and college students who are recruited through Christian Challenge AZ. 

The decision to cancel was not made lightly, and the team recognized Zona is an important week for hundreds of teens across Arizona.
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Project: Pray for every church

As part of Arizona Southern Baptists’ year of prayer in 2020, a Pray for Every Church Project was launched Jan. 2. The goal is to pray for every Arizona Southern Baptist church and its pastor before the AZSBC annual meeting in November.

“I hope people all around the state will join in the Pray for Every Church Project,” AZSBC Executive Director David Johnson said. “Individuals can participate daily just by using their phone or computer, and churches can publish the list of churches to pray for in their bulletins or newsletters.”

The names of churches and pastors are posted through Arizona Southern Baptists’ social media channels — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. One church is featured on Sunday, two each day Monday-Friday, with Saturday as a review or catch-up day. The entire dated list is available at, where a prayer guide — Praying the 4 P’s (prayer for pastors, God’s people, God’s providence, the perishing) — is also available. Read More →