David Johnson, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention executive director, gave an update on Arizona Southern Baptists’ key Centennial Vision goals during his report at the AZSBC annual meeting Nov. 13.
Arizona Southern Baptists have started 34 churches in each of the last two years and are on track to start about 25 in 2015, Johnson said. However, as new churches have been started, others have closed or left the convention, including 17 in 2013 and 15 in 2014.
A church revitalization team is working “to help churches to get off the plateau or decline that they might be in,” he said. Revitalize, a church revitalization conference, was held in 2015 and will be held again in 2016. The team is also working on how they can help individual churches that need assistance, he said.
“We’re working in every way we can to increase what we’re doing helping churches become healthy and strong so they can not only continue … but grow, be vital and plant churches,” Johnson said. “If we’re going to plant churches, we’re going to have to have strong churches to sponsor and to partner together to be able to plant churches.”
In 2014, Arizona Southern Baptists fell behind the previous year in baptisms by about 120, Johnson said. The Convention Council’s Church Life Team conducted a study this year of the top baptizing churches to determine their best practices. The report, compiled by Eddy Pearson, AZSBC evangelism and discipleship facilitator, is available here: 2014 Top Baptizing Churches.
In addition, Arizona Southern Baptists will launch “a major initiative helping our churches train and teach our people to share their faith,” Johnson said. “We simply have to have more of us sharing the gospel with people who don’t know Jesus Christ. The estimate is that 90 percent of the people in our churches are not sharing their faith.”
The MY316 initiative, which uses John 3:16 and a person’s own story to share the gospel, will be launched at the Pastors Summit at First Baptist Church, Chandler, Jan. 29-30.
In terms of missions engagement — another Centennial Vision goal — 500 more people participated in missions, including mission projects and mission trips, in 2014 than did the year before, Johnson said.
Last year, although more churches reported through the Annual Church Profile, about 45 churches that had reported the previous year didn’t report last year, he said.
“It’s really important for us as we work together in this Centennial Vision to know where we are,” he said.“The only way to evaluate our progress is to be able to have churches respond. So I want to encourage you if your church has not yet filed or turned in your Annual Church Profile, what we call the “Centennial Vision Report,” then I would encourage you to do that.”