By Dave Arden
Church leaders from around the state gathered for the Pastors’ Conference prior to the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at Foothills Baptist Church, Phoenix, on Nov 16.
Arizona pastors focused on the theme of Jesus’ call to fruitful ministry: fruitful evangelism, fruitful preaching and fruitful leadership. Inspirational worship was led by Nathan Haskins and the team from Cross Church, Surprise.
Trey Van Camp, pastor of Passion Creek Church, Queen Creek, led the charge by encouraging leaders to persevere through lean seasons in reaching their communities.
Citing 1 Samuel 1 and the story of Peninah and Hannah, Van Camp acknowledged that pastors can also be rather envious when sharing the company of another who is more fruitful than they are.
“Hannah is in the story of God as she helps point to salvation,” he said. “Hannah gave birth to Samuel, Samuel anointed David, and David points to Jesus.”
In the story, the fruitful Peninah taunted Hannah and created a painful relationship. Hannah cried bitter tears. Hannah surrendered her insecurities before she conceived and was able to rest before she had the fruit.
“She trusted in the Lord’s plans,” Van Camp said. “It’s not about you making it work. It’s about you making way for God to work.”
In closing, Van Camp prayed passionately, “Lord shower down upon your churches salvation after salvation.”
Nate Millican, lead pastor of Foothills Church Baptist Church, Phoenix, challenged the pastors and leaders to excel in fruitful preaching of the Word.
Expounding from John 15, Millican painted a vivid portrait of the lush vines of the Garden of Gethsemane. There, where Jesus was surrounded by vines, He pointed people to “The Vine.”
“In order to have fruitful preaching, we have to point people to Jesus. Connect people to the Vine. Jesus needs to be the center of all our preaching,” Millican said.
“What does fruitful preaching look like?” he asked. “Fruit is when people come to faith and believe.”
He read 1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
“It’s not ‘abide in education, networking or charisma,'” Millican said. “Remain tethered to Christ.”
Understand that perseverance is vital to this ministry, he said, challenging leaders to endure.
“Play the long game,” he said. “The work of bearing fruit takes time. Fruitful preaching means continuing to encourage people to abide in Jesus. We have to remain connected to Jesus every waking minute.”
The Phoenix pastor asked, “Are we leading others to regularly abide in Christ?”
Another part of fruit bearing is clipping the branches that are not needed and that get in the way.
“The Father, who is the Vinedresser, cares for the branches,” Millican said. “He trims the branches. The Father prunes so that even more growth can occur. Trees that are not trimmed become a tangled mess.”
Chad Garrison, lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lake Havasu City, challenged leaders to bear fruitful leadership.
“How is your love life?” Garrison asked. “Do you love people, or do you love the position and the church more than people? Do you love the people for who they are, or love who they wish they were?”
Garrison shared his story of how his church went from “collecting Christians” to impacting the community through connecting with people outside the church family.
“Do you live grace?” he asked. “Living grace means not controlling people. This is the Holy Spirit’s job. Living by grace means allowing the Holy Spirit to do His job. If you want your people to be full of grace, you be full of grace.”
Garrison frequently challenges pastors and speakers to connect in the language of the common soul to be able to connect relationally.
“To whom are you preaching?” he asked. “When you’re writing your sermon, do you have the seminary preaching professor in mind or are you speaking to the unchurched visitor who just had a devastating event in their lives?”
The Lake Havasu City pastor encouraged the pastors to know their audience.
“The best compliment I receive is when I hear people say, ‘I don’t like going to church, but I understand you. I want to come back,'” he said.