By Noah Jaeger

Pastors across Arizona were encouraged to press on at the second annual Arizona Pastors Conference. The event’s theme, “Press On,” was intended to renew pastors for ongoing faithfulness and connect them to the gospel movement across Arizona. 

“Pastors need to be encouraged,” said David Johnson, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention executive director. “They need to have their souls fed and to hear the Word preached. They need that spiritual nourishment themselves. And they need to connect with other pastors. These things are very essential.”

Foothills Baptist Church hosted the event Sept. 10-11, with the partnership of Valley Life Churches, and through the support and sponsorship of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. 

Philippians 3:12-14 was the primary passage used during the general sessions of the conference.

“Paul’s example in Philippians 3 includes this desire to want to know Christ more, to forget what’s behind him, and strain forward to what’s ahead,” said Tony Merida, author and founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. “So, you have this beautiful, inspiring picture of an older saint who has accomplished a lot and he’s running until he sees Christ. This passage drips with passion and is fitting for this theme of ‘pressing on.'”

Merida preached on “Running the Race” during the first session. Then Steve Timmis, pastor of Crowded Church and CEO of the church planting network Acts 29, spoke on “The Church that Presses On.” Brian Howard, vice president of the United States network for Acts 29, spoke on “The Team that Presses On.” Merida then concluded with “The Leader that Presses On.”

In addition to the general sessions, four breakout sessions were led by veteran pastors and leaders from across the Valley.

Howard led the breakout session “How to Wildly Succeed with Volunteers,” where he coached pastors on how to best utilize their ministry volunteers.

“The key [as a pastor] is to know that I don’t need to do everything myself. I need to build a team. And I need to lead that team effectively,” Howard said.

Dennis Newkirk, who has more than 43 years of experience as a lead pastor and is currently the Theologian in Residence at Cross Church, Surprise, led the breakout session “Leading for the Long Haul.” Newkirk encouraged pastors to minister to their families, establish healthy boundaries and appropriately deal with criticism.

Jared Johnson, worship leader at Valley Life Tramonto, Phoenix, led the breakout session “Building a Healthy Church Staff Culture.” Johnson highlighted many values and strengths of Valley Life Tramonto’s staff team, including praying together, sharing gospel values and holding each other accountable for their work.

Luke Simmons, lead pastor at Redemption Gateway, Mesa, led the breakout session “Soft Heart, Steel Spine.” Simmons led pastors to see how Jesus was both tenderhearted and rigid in his ministry. To follow Jesus, and to teach others to follow Him, one must adopt Jesus’s code: be innocent as doves, and wise as serpents, Simmons said. 

According to several testimonies, the annual Arizona Pastors Conference rekindled a joy for ministry in the lives of dozens of ministry leaders throughout the Valley.

The third annual conference is being planned for the fall of 2020.