IMB event challenges Arizonans to address world’s greatest problem

By Lorri Paetz | Nov 8, 2023

Nate Parrow, IMB Church Mobilization Strategist leads discussion with a panel of leaders from around the Arizona Baptist Convention: Jeanne Nation, Missions Director, Foothills Baptist Church, Phoenix, Chad Garrison, Lead Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Lake Havasu, Gary Derbyshire, Lead Elder, Apollo Baptist Church, Phoenix, and David Johnson, Executive Director, Arizona Mission Network.

More than 100 Arizona Southern Baptists heard about the world’s greatest problem and how they can personally be part of the solution at Together for the Nations, held Nov. 2 at First Baptist Church, Chandler.

In 2022, the International Mission Board began holding Together for the Nations events around the country. The purpose is to connect pastors and church leaders with IMB missionaries and IMB leaders. Arizona hosted the last Together for the Nations event for 2023.

Chris Derry, IMB director of church and campus engagement, said the IMB exists to combat the greatest problem the world faces today: LOSTNESS.

After some table discussion on what lostness looks like in Arizona, Miranda McLaughlin, IMB director of training development, shared how the IMB addresses this problem with the world’s greatest solution: THE GOSPEL. She introduced attendees to “The Missionary Task: Entry, Evangelism, Discipleship, Healthy Church Formation, Leadership Development and Exit to Partnership.” She also reminded all that undergirding the missionary task is PRAYER.

“Together for the Nations was an amazing opportunity for us to get an up close and personal view of what our IMB missionaries are doing,” said David Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists. “It was also great to learn what is happening in the different affinities around the world. It was really helpful to see how what we do together as Southern Baptists is penetrating lostness in the world.”

One of the most practical portions of the event was a panel discussion moderated by Nate Parrow, IMB church mobilization and next gen strategist. Panel participants were Gary Derbyshire, senior pastor of Apollo Baptist Church, Glendale; Chad Garrison, lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Lake Havasu City, and Jeanne Nation, children’s minister and missions director at Foothills Baptist Church, Phoenix; and David Johnson.

They shared how they try to keep missions before their church families — making it an intentional focus in morning worship, hosting a missions event each year, promoting the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and how it benefits IMB missionaries, inviting IMB missionaries who are home on a stateside visit to speak during a Sunday morning worship service, and educating church members (including children and students) about missions.

Chris Derry, IMB Director of Church & Campus Engagement, welcomed 100-plus attendees to the IMB’s Together for the Nations event at First Baptist Church, Chandler, Arizona. Derry said 59% of the world today is considered to be unreached — meaning Jesus is largely unknown among 4.6 billion people. IMB Photo

The question was asked, what are the obstacles to mobilization?

“Fear and money” are the two most common responses he hears, Johnson said. “Go — God will use you in spite of your fears,” he said, “and raising the money is the smallest obstacle to overcome. God always provides.”

The biggest obstacle to overcome is often the leadership of the pastor, Garrison said. “Pastors must be committed to missions, go on mission trips themselves and invite their church members to join them,” he said.

One obstacle is often the “busyness of individual and church schedules … having to make time for missions,” Derbyshire said.

The challenge is encouraging everyone to realize that the role of the Great Commission is for everyone, Nation said.

All of the panelists encouraged those in attendance to create partnerships with IMB missionaries.

All that partnership begins with prayer, Johnson said. He also briefly shared that the Arizona Mission Network is creating a missions partnership with IMB’s Sub-Saharan Africa Affinity.
The panel discussion led perfectly into the afternoon breakout sessions.

After lunch, attendees could choose three of 10 breakout opportunities. Seven of the eight IMB Affinities (Americas, Asia-Pacific Rim, Central Asia, Deaf Peoples, Europe, North Africa and Middle East, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa) had field personnel present at the event who were available to talk about their specific work, serving opportunities in their affinity and ways to get involved. Also available was a general overview of the IMB and its work and a breakout on “Becoming a Missions Advocate for your Church.”

Joel Brasher (left) and Michael Ley, IMB missionaries, lead a breakout session describing how missionary presence is transforming lives in Sub-Saharan Africa and how churches can partner with teams in the work.

Cindy Snead, former IMB trustee and member of North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, said it was so strategic to meet IMB missionaries who are currently serving. “Attendees could have actual, face-to-face conversations with our IMB missionaries, learn about their work and discover ways individuals and churches can serve them,” she said.

The afternoon wrapped up with Chris Derry asking attendees to share their “take-away” and next step from the conference. He reminded participants of the valuable resources, such as IMB’s Foundations book, that are available at imb.org.

Four members of the missions team at Apollo Baptist Church, Glendale, attended Together for the Nations. “The International Mission Board did an excellent job facilitating local churches on possible avenues to address lostness locally and globally,” said Apollo member Yvonne Bishara. “We were inspired to develop a Sunday morning small group missions track of four to six weeks.”

Ruth Morrison and her husband, Chuck, who are members of North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, found the conference informative and inspiring. For them personally — both recently retired — they were excited to learn about opportunities for retirees. “Chuck and I are earnestly praying about ‘what’s next’ and how we might go and serve,” Ruth Morrison said.

Lorri Paetz is the missions coordinator for the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists.

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