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Ariz. Baptists up CP, highlight missions

AVONDALE, Ariz. (BP)–The 82nd annual session of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention began with a mission fair exploring “Opportunities for the Harvest” and concluded with a challenge from state missionary Steve Bass.

During the afternoon meeting at First Southern Baptist Church in Avondale Nov. 19, the 301 messengers, toured 25 booths at the mission fair and ended with an hour-and-a-half business session and report time. The Arizona Southern Baptist disaster relief team served lunch prior to the meeting.

In the first contested election of officers since 2006, James Harms, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sierra Vista, was elected president in a ballot vote of 172-50 over Chad Garrison, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lake Havasu City. Elected by acclamation were Shaun Whitey, pastor of First Indian Baptist Church in Phoenix, as first vice president and Mike Bergman, pastor of Country Estates Southern Baptist Church in Hereford, as second vice president.

Messengers adopted a $3,180,000 Cooperative Program budget and a $5,003,859 state convention operating budget for 2011. Next year’s Cooperative Program budget is a .9 percent increase over the 2010 budget.

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The budget calls for 26.05 percent of Cooperative Program gifts to be forwarded to SBC causes, up from 26.016 percent in 2010.

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 $1,563,013 from the North American Mission Board; $118,800 in church gifts designated for Arizona ministries only; $54,996 from LifeWay Christian Resources; $35,000 in trust income designated for the Cooperative Program; and $52,050 in other revenue.

Messengers approved the report of a 10-member Evaluation Team appointed by ASBC President Steve Ballew in 2009 to study the state convention structure. The structure previously was evaluated in 2005-06.

The team made six recommendations:

— affirming the current structure that works through associations and churches to accomplish ministry.

— stating the ASBC should continue to assist churches and associations in strategic planning.

— proposing that churches be “rewarded” for strategic planning, while also holding additional funds in a “discretionary allocation budget line item” for churches that request funds “as opportunities arise.”

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— while recognizing that the bottom-up ASBC structure is appreciated, suggesting that the ASBC facilitators be more proactive in telling about resources, programs and services.

— stating that the state staff should review the training needs in the state and make adjustments as needed.

— advising that, in light of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report, “an Arizona GCR Task Force be appointed to fully evaluate the impact (and specifically the funding impact) on our state and how the ASBC might proactively respond to this impact.”

The convention’s executive director and state missionary, Steve Bass, said in his report that the ASBC will begin in 2011 to think about changes that will be coming in its relationship with the North American Mission Board because of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report.

“I happen to be in agreement with the North American Mission Board focus giving strong attention to church planting and evangelism,” Bass said. “We will take any help we can get.”

Associations will continue to be part of the ASBC strategy, he said.

“We still want to affirm the important role of associations in servicing our churches,” Bass said. “Our strategy is to work with our associations.”

Noting that 2010 was a year of pauses, Bass said Arizona Baptists must recognize that God is the God of both movement and pauses.

Because of the economy, some churches paused financially, and this was reflected in associational and Cooperative Program giving, he said. Cooperative Program giving in Arizona may finish the year as much as $75,000 behind 2009, he said, resulting in belt-tightening for the state convention during the year.

A pause, though, doesn’t mean God isn’t in control, and things can be done during pauses, Bass said.

We must “recognize our greatest work for the Kingdom is not tied to a national economy,” he said. “How much does it cost you to walk across the street and share the Gospel with your neighbor?”

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 11 at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix.
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Elizabeth Young is director of communications for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.

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