Ariz. Baptists seek church renewal

by Elizabeth Young, posted Monday, November 19, 2012 (2 years ago)

PHOENIX (BP) -- Messengers to the 84th annual meeting of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention heard a call to church renewal and unanimously conducted business in a single hour-and-a-half session.

During the meeting at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, the 252 messengers elected three new officers by acclamation, adopted a 2013 Cooperative Program budget of $3,180,000 and heard a report from the search team charged with recommending a new state missionary (executive director).

Prior to the business session and worship rally Nov. 9, Arizona Southern Baptists strolled through 30 booths in a mission fair presenting the ministries of the convention, along with other opportunities to be on mission.

"It is my view that God would be honored if in 2013 we turn our hearts toward thoughts of church renewal," said Byron Banta, interim state missionary.

Quoting the convention's motto of "Healthy Leaders Influence Healthy Churches to Evangelize and Plant Churches," Banta challenged messengers to "think about ways that we can be healthier churches for the glory of God."

He presented two assumptions about church health. First, he said, "A church is responsible for its own health." Second, "Church health -- church renewal -- is like digging a posthole: it's not that complicated, but it is hard," he said.

Church renewal, Banta said, entails turning to God, seeking His face and honoring Him with acts of obedience. "God wants what we say to Him and how we behave to be in concert," he said.

Emphasizing the need for renewal, he said, "I believe there are hundreds of thousands of church members in the West who have unwittingly embraced American cultural religion that cuts the heart out of biblical Christianity."

Banta quoted John Guillott, director of evangelism and missions for the Catalina Baptist Association in Tucson, who said in a meeting in another association, "If you want to be healthy, you need to do healthy things."

One healthy thing for churches to do is to emphasize stewardship, Banta said.

"If I were a pastor and I suspected that members of my church had been infected with a secular worldview," he said, "I might spend the better part of a year helping them figure out what God says about money."

When secular people hear what God's Word says about money and resources, they are confronted with the lordship of Christ, he said, noting, "Once you learn to trust God with your money, it is easier to trust Him with all other areas of your life."

Another healthy thing a church could do, Banta said, would be to develop a written evangelism and discipleship strategy. "It would challenge secular-minded people to understand and adopt God's purposes," he said.

However, he cautioned, the goal is not to have a program to make your church grow. The point is "doing healthy things as a part of repentance and seeking God for His glory."

Chad Garrison, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lake Havasu City, was elected president by acclamation.

In Garrison's 20 years as pastor of Calvary, the church has grown from an average attendance of under 100 to more than 1,000, said Bret Burnett, pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in Tucson, in nominating Garrison. Calvary, which gives 19 percent to missions and gave almost $100,000 through the Cooperative Program last year, "is known in their city for being a church that loves the Lord and stands for the Lord and cares for their community," Burnett said.

Also elected by acclamation were Randy Mullinax, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Tucson, as first vice president and Paul Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chandler and associate professor at the Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, as second vice president.

The churches of all three officers rank in the top 20 churches in Cooperative Program giving in the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.

Messengers adopted a $3,180,000 Cooperative Program budget and a $4,605,562 state convention operating budget for 2013. The Cooperative Program budget remains unchanged from 2012.

The budget calls for 26.05 percent of Cooperative Program gifts to be forwarded to SBC causes, also unchanged from 2012.

The Cooperative Program budget will be distributed as follows: SBC Cooperative Program, $828,390; Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, $1,913,911; Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, $236,550; Arizona Baptist Children's Services, $125,456; and Baptist Senior Life Ministries, $75,693.

Income sources in the ASBC operating budget beyond Cooperative Program giving by Arizona churches include $999,970 from the North American Mission Board, $118,800 in church gifts designated for Arizona ministries only, $54,996 from LifeWay Christian Resources, $20,000 in trust income designated for the Cooperative Program and $69,550 in other revenue.

ASBC First Vice President Shaun Whitey, pastor of First Indian Baptist Church in Phoenix, presided during the meeting in the absence of President James Harms, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sierra Vista, who had back surgery recently.

Joe Chan, pastor of Tucson Chinese Baptist Church in Tucson, and a member of the state missionary/executive director search team, presented Harms' written report from the search team.

The search team met Oct. 19 and reviewed the presentation of a candidate who did not receive the required two-thirds affirmative vote of the Convention Council in September, Harms wrote. According to the ASBC constitution, a candidate must receive a two-thirds affirmative vote of both the Convention Council and ASBC messengers in annual or special session.

The team also "evaluated the other candidates that had been previously interviewed by the team" and then "voted to begin the search again," he wrote. Recommendations and resumes are being received by email at ASBCsearchteam@gmail.com, and the team also will consider some recommendations received earlier, Harms wrote.

The search team was appointed by Harms in May 2011 when Steve Bass resigned as ASBC state missionary to become the West Region vice president of the North American Mission Board. Members of the original eight-member search team will continue to serve, with the exception of Harms, who was on the team and served as chairman by virtue of his office. Newly elected ASBC President Chad Garrison now will serve as team chairman.

Next year's annual meeting of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention will be Nov. 15 at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Tucson.


Elizabeth Young is director of communications for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.

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