David Johnson, Executive Director of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, speaks to messengers at the 2018 AZSBC annual meeting.

By Elizabeth Young

During their 90th annual meeting, Arizona Southern Baptists affirmed an updated vision statement leading up to the convention’s centennial in 2028 and were challenged to love their partners as they advance the gospel together. They also adopted a 2019 budget that will send more to Southern Baptist Convention causes and selected a new president in a contested election.

“Fruitful” was the theme of the meeting held Nov. 16 at Foothills Baptist Church, Phoenix. It was attended by 291 messengers and 44 registered guests from 125 of Arizona Southern Baptists’ approximately 470 churches.

Centennial Vision 2.0

During the single afternoon worship and business session, David Johnson, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention executive director, presented Centennial Vision 2.0, a restatement of the vision originally adopted in 2013 to guide Arizona Southern Baptists’ work through 2028. The previous statement included a number of numerical ideals, while the revised statement is “cast more in terms of core values” and “our big-picture vision for the future,” he said.

With a state population of more than 7 million, 200 people moving into Maricopa County every day, and one Southern Baptist church for every 15,000 people, Johnson said, “The simple truth is that we must have more churches to reach the lost in our state.” The vision statement calls for 1,000 churches by 2028 and states the “impact we want those churches to make.”

The new vision statement is: “By 2028, we dream of 1,000 churches working together to share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ so that the lives of individuals, families, and communities are transformed by the gospel.” The mission statement from 2013 — “working together to make disciples of all peoples in Arizona and around the world” — remains the same.

Centennial Vision 2.0 lists five core values: “With a common commitment to Biblical authority and the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), we will glorify God by cultivating a culture of Godly relationships, healthy churches, proactive collaboration, intentional multiplication, and missional generosity.”

“If we as a convention of churches will develop a culture that reflects these core values, we believe we will glorify God and will be on our way to accomplishing the vision that He has for us,” Johnson said.

Three initiatives will be launched in 2019 to encourage development of this culture, he said:

–Momentum, a church-wide journey from Ramsey Solutions, in cooperation with the SBC Executive Committee, “designed to help people in your church be better stewards so that they are better equipped to be generous with what God has given to them”;

–Engage 24, a North American Mission Board workshop to be held in Arizona in February 2019 designed for pastors and church leaders to discover best practices for sharing the gospel; and

–Every Church Plant a Church, a presentation being developed by Arizona’s NAMB church planting catalysts that they will share throughout the state.

Budget and officers<p>

Messengers adopted a $4,921,356 operating budget for 2019, a $58,340 or 1.2 percent increase over 2018. The operating budget includes a $3,476,000 Cooperative Program budget, up $136,000 or 4.1 percent from 2018.

The Cooperative Program budget allocates $1,173,000 or 34 percent — an increase of 2 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 raised 1.5 percentage points in each of the last three years, and it’s the fifth straight year for an increase.

The remaining Cooperative Program budget will be distributed as follows: Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, $1,794,000 or 54 percent, a decrease of 2 percentage points from 2018; Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries, $241,500, 7 percent; and the Arizona Campus of Gateway Seminary, $241,500, 7 percent.

Income sources in the AZSBC operating budget beyond Cooperative Program giving by Arizona churches include $1,105,000 from the North American Mission Board, $54,996 from LifeWay Christian Resources, and $285,360 in other revenue.

In the first contested election of officers since 2011, Ashley Evans, pastor of Twenty-Second Street Baptist Church, Tucson, was elected president in a ballot vote of 141-87 over Brian Bowman, pastor of Valley Life Church — Tramonto, Phoenix. Elected by acclamation were Eric Gibbs, pastor of First Pima Baptist Church, Sacaton, as first vice president and Robert Waldron, pastor of Christ Community Church, Sierra Vista, as second vice president.

‘A relentlessly optimistic gospel'<p>

Pastor Micah Fries speaks to messengers during the AZSBC Annual Meeting. You can watch his message here.

Tennessee pastor Micah Fries, in the annual meeting’s closing message, urged Arizona Southern Baptists “to celebrate what God is doing, to collaborate together and to look forward with eager anticipation to what God will do.” Watch Micah’s message here.

“There is no longer any excuse for negative, pessimistic, critical or attacking spirits among the people of God,” said Fries, pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. “We know better, our King is better and the world is in need of a relentlessly optimistic gospel.”

Preaching from Philippians 1:3-20, Fries said the primary reason we partner together is not pragmatic — “because it works” — but is theological — “because Jesus tells us to.”

And as we partner, we must love one another, said Fries, lead partner with NAMB for Send Phoenix.

“In my estimation, in Baptist life right now, there’s a significant deficit of love across our denominational partnerships — I mean genuine, heartfelt, affectionate, I-will-give-you-the-shirt-off my-back kind of love for one another,” Fries said.

Joy, which most commentators say is the topic of Philippians, is “the byproduct of partnering together to see the gospel advanced,” which Fries said is what he believes the book is about.

“One of the reasons why we lead such joyless churches is because we lead simultaneously missionless churches, and when we lead our churches to join God on mission, joy becomes the natural and effervescent byproduct of churches that are partnering together to see the gospel of Jesus Christ made known,” 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.

90-mile bike ride

David Johnson leads the team of riders on their 90-mile ride in recognition of the AZSBC’s 90th anniversary.

For the fourth year, the annual meeting was preceded by a bicycle ride. The eight riders included representatives from most of the entities supported through the Arizona portion of the Cooperative Program, including Arizona Baptist Children’s Services, Gateway Seminary Arizona, Christian Challenge AZ and the AZSBC.

The one-day ride was a 90-mile loop from Foothills Baptist Church, in recognition of Arizona Southern Baptists’ 90th anniversary. The ride included stops at Heart Cry Church, Queen Creek; two churches more than 100 years old: First Baptist Church, Chandler, and First Pima Baptist Church, Sacaton; and two church plants: Passion Creek Church, Queen Creek, and Living Stone Community Church, Mesa.

Ninety miles would not be easily accomplished riding alone, Johnson said. But when you’re riding with others, you can go farther, faster and easier.

“It’s a picture of our convention,” he said. “We can  do so much more together than we can by ourselves.”