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‘Empowered’ theme underscored at Ariz. Baptists’ convention

PHOENIX (BP)–With the theme “EKG: Empowered Beyond,” business at the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting was overshadowed by report after report of how God is at work across the state.

The 320 messengers who gathered at Twenty-Second Street Baptist Church in Tucson heard how Arizona Southern Baptists have been “Empowered Beyond Our Ability … to Plant Churches, to Strengthen Churches, to Lead, and to Evangelize.”

“We live in a state where this group called Baptists have a passion for missions,” state missionary Steve Bass told the Nov. 15-16 gathering.

In the last 60 days, he noted, Arizona Southern Baptists have given more than $500,000 to missions, including $200,000-plus to disaster relief, while at the same time exceeding last year’s total for the Willis J. Ray State Mission Offering by about $15,000 and “not dropping an inch” in what has been the strongest year ever in Cooperative Program giving.

Challenging messengers to hear each report as “an invitation for some of you to get involved,” Bass explained that “a healthy church gives itself away for the Kingdom.”

An Acts 1:8 church builds a foundation for missions by giving through the Cooperative Program, he said. However, he added, “If all you’re doing is paying for missions, you’re not benefiting from the total joy [of participation].”

Bass told about a mission trip he took last summer as part of the Arizona convention’s church-to-church partnership with Baptists in Mexico. Bass recounted that his church helped Primera Iglesia Bautista in Nacozari, Sonora, Mexico, with Vacation Bible School and he then introduced Nacozari pastor Ramón Rodríguez.

“We have just realized we don’t have a little family but a huge family in Christ,” Rodríguez said through a translator. Because of the Arizona team’s help, he said, his church members are more committed to share Christ, two families were reached when their children attended VBS, individuals gained eternal life and the church reached out to families who are prominent in the town’s government.

In his president’s message, Dan Coker, pastor of Love Baptist Church in Phoenix, exhorted the messengers to be giving and going.

“Mission trips are great, but if we don’t underpin it with the Cooperative Program, it will fail,” he said. “Through the Cooperative Program, we can do together what we can never do apart.”

Coker asked that churches, in undertaking short-term mission trips, “send out people on fire for missions, not in the hope they’ll catch the fire.”

While some might prefer to delegate the task of missions to others, Rob Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., reminded messengers that the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18 is given to every Christian.

“We are all called to missions,” he said. “Some are called to leave Jerusalem, but all are called to missions. Just because you give to Lottie Moon [the SBC international missions offering], it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.”

Following the example of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting last June, each session included at least one baptism by a Tucson minister. The baptism of several from The Sober Project in Tucson, which teaches that the “higher power” in 12-step programs comes through a relationship with God through Christ, drew enthusiastic applause from convention-goers and even a few hoops and hollers from the excited pastor, Larry Munguia.

Business at the annual meeting was conducted quickly, without a single negative vote.

Elected to second one-year terms by acclamation were Dan Coker, president; Charles Tyson, first vice president, pastor of Immanuel Southern Baptist Church, Yuma; and Jim Loui, second vice president, a member of First Chinese Baptist Church in Phoenix.

Messengers adopted a $3,350,000 Cooperative Program budget and a $4,086,598 state convention operating budget for 2005.

The 2006 Cooperative Program basic budget, a 1.6 percent increase over the present budget, continues the present state-national distribution formula, with 75 percent being used in Arizona and 25 percent being sent to the Southern Baptist Convention for allocation to national and international ministries. Among the Arizona allocations is 7.5442 percent for the Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Income sources in the ASBC operating budget include $2,014,856 in anticipated Cooperative Program receipts, $1,594,596 from the North American Mission Board, $54,996 from LifeWay Christian Resources, $376,000 from conference fees, and $46,150 in other revenue.

Messengers adopted resolutions recognizing the 80th anniversary of the Cooperative Program and expressing appreciation upon the 10th anniversary of the Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Seminary.

Another resolution recognized help received in Arizona through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in previous years, the work of Arizona Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers who served following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the more than $234,000 Arizonans gave to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief as of Oct. 3. Messengers further pledged to pray for and support disaster relief ministry in Arizona and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Other resolutions committed to pray for military personnel and extended sympathy to families who have lost loved ones in military service; expressed support of military chaplains, including Arizonan Matt Weems, who recently returned from Iraq; acknowledged the service of a number of state convention, association and church leaders who died in the past year; and expressed appreciation to Twenty-Second Street Baptist Church for hosting the annual meeting and to Catalina Baptist Association for assistance in preparation for the meeting.

At the close of the meeting, Coker appointed a nine-member committee to evaluate the current state convention organizational structure and make a report with any recommended changes at the 2006 annual meeting. The report of the “Vision Task Force” that recommended reorganization of the convention in 2001 called for an evaluation of the organization at the five-year mark.

Members of the committee are John Elder, past ASBC president and pastor of Green Valley Baptist Church, Green Valley, chairman; Joe Chan, pastor of Tucson Chinese Baptist Church; Julie Evans, Baptist Collegiate Ministries associate director at the University of Arizona; Matt Gaston, director of evangelism/missions for Desert Pines Baptist Association; Hector Llanes, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central, Phoenix; Rodney McCarty, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Morenci; Jerry Martin, director of evangelism/missions for Valley Rim Baptist Association; David Mann, director of evangelism/missions for Catalina Association; and Twila Grantham, office coordinator of Estrella Baptist Association.

The 2006 annual meeting will be Nov. 14-15 at Foothills Southern Baptist Church in Phoenix.
David Daffern also contributed to this story.

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  • Elizabeth Young