By Noah Jaeger
Photos by Kim Ahern

Pastors from all over Arizona attended the Arizona Pastors Conference at Foothills Baptist Church in Ahwatukee Sept. 18-19. The event offered pastors the opportunity to improve their pastoral care and experience encouragement.

Brian Bowman, lead pastor of Valley Life Church Tramonto, fronted the planning of the event along with Nate Millican, lead pastor of Foothills Baptist Church.

“Ministry is famously difficult work,” Bowman said. “Pastoring a church can sometimes add a sense of professional isolation to the difficulty. A conference of this kind allows the pastor a reason to mark a couple of days on his calendar where he can expect to be with friends, hear teaching from the Bible and let his guard down a bit.”

“Life and Doctrine” was the theme of the conference, based upon 1 Tim. 4:16: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (ESV)

Since pastoral positions attract a great amount of stress, ministers must pay great attention to their physical, emotional and spiritual health. Tony Merida, Tuesday’s keynote speaker and preaching pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., understood the pressure from his years of pastoral ministry.

“It’s quite possible for a pastor at an 8 o’clock meeting to be counseling somebody who wants to be baptized, at 9:30 be counseling someone who just got raped, at 11 be in a finance budget meeting. There are waves of emotion in this work,” Merida said. “How we even track progress at our church [is difficult]. It’s so hard to evaluate because so much is invisible.”

During his keynote sermon, Merida also emphasized the gravity of a gospel-centered vision for a pastor’s ministry.

Ron Edmondson, Wednesday’s keynote speaker and pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., warned against the dangers of living for others’ praise and encouraged healthy rhythms of life for pastors.

“When we’re living for likes we often miss out on genuine love,” Edmondson said.

In addition to the keynote sessions, the conference hosted breakout sessions covering several topics. The breakouts were to teach and generate discussion on various matters related to pastoral ministry.

In his breakout, The Pastor and Social Justice, Merida shared his own and fellow Christians’ examples of adoption and hospitality and how they were fueled by doctrine and theology. In his examples, doctrine and life were inseparable. For example, Jesus was constantly practicing biblical hospitality.

“Throughout the gospel of Luke, Jesus was either having a meal, coming from a meal or going to a meal,” Merida said.

Other breakout sessions included: The Pastor and Longevity by Dennis Newkirk, The Pastor and Suffering by Josh Vincent, The Pastor and Changing Culture by Ron Edmondson, The Pastor in Preparation by Noah Oldham and the Pastor and Prayer by Luke Simmons.

The Arizona Pastors Conference provided pastors an opportunity to be shaped by brotherly unity. Pastors had many opportunities to connect with each other and multiple sessions to deepen their intensity for their ministry. Many pastors expressed how refreshing the event was for them.

The Arizona Southern Baptist Convention was one of several sponsors of the event.