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Ariz. Baptists hear transition report

PHOENIX (BP) — After a call to seek God’s face and an invitation to attend a convention-wide sacred assembly in January, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention messengers concluded the 83rd annual meeting on their knees in prayer.

Preceding the time of what state convention President James Harms called family business, the 244 messengers conducted convention business, including adopting a 2012 Cooperative Program budget of $3,180,000, the same as 2011.

With the theme “Opportunities for the Harvest,” the annual meeting featured a missions fair and a single two-hour session at North Phoenix Baptist Church Nov. 11.

“We think we have an obedience problem,” Byron Banta, the convention’s interim executive director, said. “But here are the facts: People will not obey a God they do not love, and they will not love a God they do not know.”

Citing statistics from The Barna Group that only 19 percent of born-again adults have a Christian worldview, Banta asked if the evangelical church in the western world has let its knowledge of God slip away, just as Israel and Judah did in the 8th century B.C. in the days of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah.

Banta asked, “Is it time for us to go stand before God and say, ‘Father, I want to seek your face’?”

Banta announced that a transition team charged with assisting him as the North American Mission Board rolls out its new strategy had called for a sacred assembly “to seek the face of God for renewal and revival in Arizona.” Pastors, church staff members, key church leaders and their spouses are being asked to attend the event at Mountain Ridge Baptist Church in Glendale on Jan. 15.

“This is about coming to God for who He is, seeing Him as creator, we as His creatures, humbly coming before God and saying, ‘Father, search our hearts,'” Banta said.

Banta presented four declarations included in the report of the 10-member transition team, comprised of pastors, associational directors of evangelism/missions, an associational church planting strategist and state convention staff members, along with Harms and Banta. The team was appointed by Harms in consultation with Banta.

Besides calling for the sacred assembly, the team also affirmed “it is our responsibility to reach Arizona with the gospel of Christ…. (I)t is each church’s responsibility to embrace a culture of accountability, first to God, and then to each other in our endeavor to fulfill the Great Commission.”

While Arizona loves its partners, Banta said, if they all went away, the responsibility to reach the state for Christ would still belong to Arizona Baptists.

“We want to affirm that it is our job, and then we’ll invite our partners to come alongside us and walk with us as we try to be obedient to God,” Banta said.

The team also affirmed the state convention’s belief that “Healthy Leaders Influence Healthy Churches to Evangelize and Plant Churches” and called for a “fresh examination of our church planting, church strengthening, and evangelism processes to promote success and stronger accountability for every dollar invested.”

Finally, the team reaffirmed “our historical commitment to and the value of the local church and the local association” and encouraged “Kingdom partnerships and fellowship in all our Kingdom work.”

Elaborating, the report stated, “We reaffirm our commitment to the Cooperative Program and also acknowledge the value of working with other Southern Baptist Convention churches, associations, the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board, and the Southern Baptist Convention in church planting, evangelism, and leadership development. We acknowledge that we are in partnership together in fulfilling the Great Commission, and, as a faith community, we will work together in mutual love, respect, and vision.”

In addition to re-electing Harms, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sierra Vista, to a second one-year term as president, messengers re-elected Shaun Whitey, pastor of First Indian Baptist Church in Phoenix, first vice president and elected Randy Mullinax, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Tucson, second vice president, all by acclamation.

Messengers adopted a $3,180,000 Cooperative Program budget and a $4,600,062 state convention operating budget for 2012. The Cooperative Program budget remains unchanged from 2011.

The budget calls for 26.05 percent of Cooperative Program gifts to be forwarded to SBC causes, unchanged from 2011.

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 $1,173,216 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 $53,050 in other revenue.

Steve Bass, who resigned as ASBC state missionary in June to become the West Region vice president for NAMB, was recognized for his 15 years of service to Arizona.

“I tell people with Steve in the position he is, NAMB is no longer just a faceless organization,” Banta said. “NAMB has a face, and it is a face that loves Arizona and is committed to us and to what we do here.”

Bass said he is still a part of Arizona Southern Baptists as he pastors a house church that helps plateaued or declining churches to revitalize or “to die with dignity and keep the asset value in Southern Baptist life so we can put it back into a new plant.” Disciples Church gives 15 percent of its undesignated income through the Cooperative Program and 10 percent to Central Association of Southern Baptists, he said.

Reporting for the state missionary search team as chairman, Harms said the group has completed listening sessions with the state convention staff and directors of evangelism/missions and in each association.

The team will begin looking at resumes in January, he said, and they intend to make a unanimous recommendation.

“My prayer is that we can unanimously call this man to be our leader in Arizona,” Harms said, going beyond the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds favorable vote by both the Convention Council and the state convention messengers.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention will be Nov. 9 at North Phoenix Baptist Church.
Elizabeth Young is director of communications for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.

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