Arizona Mission Network annual meeting focuses on international missions
By Elizabeth Young | Nov 9, 2023
With an annual meeting theme of “Open Your Eyes,” Arizona Southern Baptists were challenged by an International Mission Board missionary from their state to join God in His work and heard about a new Arizona partnership with the IMB’s Sub-Saharan Africa Affinity.
The 232 messengers from 121 churches in the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists quickly dispensed with business, re-electing all three officers by acclamation and unanimously adopting a 2024 operating budget that reflects reduced Cooperative Program giving by AZMN churches in 2023.
The annual meeting, with a single afternoon worship and business session, was held at First Baptist Church, Chandler, Nov. 3.
Preaching from Psalm 67, Dr. Doug Derbyshire, IMB missionary to Thailand from Arizona, presented a missions challenge in the annual meeting’s closing message.
“Let us open our eyes to see that God has blessed us and promises us that He will bless us still, not just so we can have more stuff or have a little less aches,” he said. “He promises to bless us so that His name will be revered in all the earth, so that souls will be saved and His name will be praised.
“Let us join Him in the greatest work in the universe, to do all that we can to pray and to go and to send, so that we can have a part in this great work of seeing God’s name revered in every corner of the earth.”
AZMN Executive Director David Johnson pointed to the “Open Your Eyes” theme verse, John 4:35.
“I believe Jesus is saying to us, open your eyes and see that 59% of the world’s population has little or no access to the gospel,” he said. “Open your eyes and see that there are 3,000 unreached, unengaged people groups in our world today. …
“Open your eyes to 8 million people that now live in our state. And if statistics are correct, 80% of those are unchurched. … That means about six and a half million people in our state are going to spend eternity without God if we don’t take the gospel to them.”
Johnson conducted a panel discussion with IMB representatives Chris Derry, Joel Brasher and Michael Ley about the Sub-Saharan Africa partnership. He noted that several missionaries from Arizona serve in the affinity.
The panel discussed the IMB pathways through which people can serve, the kinds of jobs available for volunteers and volunteer groups and how churches can get involved.
Sometimes praying, giving, going and sending can be “like a check box [with] this transactional mindset to it rather than this relational mindset,” said Ley, an IMB representative sent from Arizona. The partnership gives churches “an opportunity to get to know the actual faces and the names of the people on the field. You get to know their families, you get to know the work that they’re intimately involved in and that changes everything.”
In addition, Ley said, “You actually can put a face to lostness. It’s no longer just this vague idea of people who don’t know God.”
Messengers approved a 2024 operating budget of $4,166,040, which includes $3,495,260 in anticipated Cooperative Program giving from churches. The Cooperative Program portion of the budget is a decrease of $151,740, or 4.16%, from the 2023 budget. The operating budget also includes an additional $128,000 in designated giving from churches, unchanged from 2023. Because of other sources of income, including individual donors and interest income, the operating budget is a $9,370 increase from the 2023 budget.
For the first time in 10 years, the percentage of Arizona’s Cooperative Program giving to the Southern Baptist Convention will not be increased in 2024. Arizona Southern Baptists’ Centennial Vision goal is to give 50% of Cooperative Program receipts to SBC national and international missions and ministries outside the state by 2028. Since the launch of the Centennial Vision, the AZMN’s total rise in giving to the SBC is 14 percentage points, and a 40-60 split between the SBC and Arizona, respectively, was reached this year.
With the 2024 budget, Cooperative Program funds remaining in Arizona will be distributed according to the 2023 formula: Arizona Mission Network, 46.9%; Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries, 7%; and the Arizona Campus of Gateway Seminary, 6.1%. When the value of campus expenses covered by the AZMN is included, Gateway receives an amount equal to ABCS. Included in the AZMN portion is 4.8% for Christian Challenge collegiate ministry.
Elected by acclamation to second one-year terms were President Fernando Amaro, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Resurrección in Scottsdale; First Vice President Shawn Buckhanan, pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sierra Vista; and Second Vice President Paul Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chandler and professor at Gateway Seminary — Arizona Campus.
Sexual abuse prevention and response report
At least year’s annual meeting, messengers voted to receive a report by a Sexual Abuse Response Team, but recommendations that included 12 standards for churches were referred to the AZMN Executive Team.
Earlier this year, Amaro appointed a Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response Implementation Team to continue the work. Johnson presented the team’s report, saying, “We really decided our best role as a network is to provide resources for churches that will be helpful to them in preventing and responding to sexual abuse.”
The 12 standards have been renamed “recommended practices” and are posted at azmn.org/sexual-abuse-prevention/ along with other resources, including links to the SBC Ministry Toolkit, online training providers and sample policies and procedures from Real Life Church in Yuma.
In addition, Johnson said, the AZMN will be partnering with Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries, which will offer in-person abuse prevention training for churches.
Centennial Vision report
In his annual Centennial Vision report, Johnson, who celebrated his 10th anniversary as AZMN executive director this year, presented statistics covering the past 10 years, including:
- 462 churches in the Arizona Mission Network currently, with 52 having been added since 2012
- 182 churches planted
- 135 churches closed, merged or left the network
- 1,993 baptisms in 2022, down from 2,694 in 2015
- Cooperative Program giving increased $626,000 from 2012 to 2022
- the percentage of Cooperative Program gifts sent to the Southern Baptist Convention for missions and ministries increased from 26% to 40%.
At the end of the third quarter in 2023, Arizona Southern Baptist churches had given $2,826,565 through the Cooperative Program, Johnson said. This was $163,457 less than the same period in 2022 and was $18,559 below budget. However, he said, income was $61,305 over expenses at that point.
Johnson presented an analysis of 2023 Cooperative Program giving, noting:
- Overall, Cooperative Program giving by Arizona churches is down about 4%.
- Churches have given less consistently throughout the year.
- Churches have given less across the board.
- While about a dozen churches have left the AZMN in the last year and half, their giving does not represent a big loss.
- Economic factors seem to be affecting churches.
A number of resources are available on the network’s website, azmn.org — which launched the day of the annual meeting — to help churches share about the Cooperative Program, Johnson said. A new 52-week Arizona prayer guide for Cooperative Program missions will be available soon and will be accompanied by downloadable bulletin inserts and slides.
Coaching for pastors
Monty Patton, AZMN associate executive director, and Chad Garrison, lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Lake Havasu City, and AZMN pastor coach/consultant, shared about Church Boom, which offers a 10-month coaching cohort for pastors. As a pilot project, Patton and Garrison will lead two cohorts of 12 pastors each, one for churches of less than 100 and another for churches over 100.
“It’s designed for churches that want to get better, that feel like maybe they’re stuck — they’re facing some challenges they don’t know how to deal with,” Garrison said. Once a month meetings will be conducted by Zoom, with assignments in between.
There is no cost for churches under 100, and the $500 cost for other churches will be reimbursed when the course is completed, Garrison said.
To register, go to azmn.link/churchboom.
Johnson recognized the service of several Arizona Southern Baptists.
Gary Dodrill, who died earlier this year and had served as director of missions for Estrella Baptist Association for 28 years and an Arizona Southern Baptist minister for 55 years, was honored with a lifetime achievement award. It was accepted by his wife, Leslie, and son, Scott.
Other recognitions included:
- Roland Pierce, pastor of Broadway Missionary Baptist Church in Phoenix, who was recently installed as the Arizona president of the National African American Fellowship, SBC;
- Terrie Sullivan, who retired this year after 18 years as the executive director of Arizona WMU;
- Marc Hill, for 35 years of service with Christian Challenge, including the last five years as state director; and
- Lainee Pegelow, for 20 years on the AZMN staff with Christian Challenge, including serving as a campus missionary at Northern Arizona University and as statewide missions director of Christian Challenge.
In a surprise, Monty Patton recognized Johnson for his 10th anniversary as executive director.
The annual meeting was bookended by other events that also challenged Arizona Southern Baptists to “open your eyes” to international missions. The International Mission Board held Together for the Nations for pastors and church leaders at First Baptist, Chandler, Nov. 2, and REV7:9 for 18- to 25-year-olds at Foothills Baptist Church, Phoenix, Nov. 4. This year’s Pastors’ Conference featured Brian McCoy, lead pastor of Foothills Baptist Church in Phoenix, and Gary Derbyshire, senior pastor of Apollo Baptist Church in Phoenix, both of whom have led their churches to be involved in international missions.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 14 at Cross Church in Surprise. In conjunction with the annual meeting, a Culture of Evangelism Gathering with the North American Mission Board evangelism team will be held at Cross Church Nov. 13.
A video of Doug Derbyshire’s message may be viewed at azmn.org/annual-meeting/.
Some names may have been changed for security purposes.