New church planting catalysts join Send Network Arizona

By Noah Jaeger | Jan 23, 2024

Like newborn children, church plants need proper support to thrive; the first few years of life are often the most vulnerable. From a desire to see new churches planted and thriving, the North American Mission Board’s Send Network deploys church planting catalysts to facilitate the process.

As of recently, NAMB has appointed two new Arizona church planting catalysts: Pastors Joaquin Vargas of Iglesia Experimenta Vida in Mesa and Brian Hook of Aspire Church in Tucson. Both men will continue as pastors of their churches while also serving as CPCs.

Joaquin Vargas, originally from the Dominican Republic, came to the United States in 1977 as an exchange student to learn English. During his stay, he befriended a Christian girl who repeatedly shared the gospel with him and invited him to church. When he returned home in 1978, he began reading the Bible. In the Dominican Republic, one of his recently converted friends invited him to his Baptist church. There, at the age of 19, he heard the gospel and became a Christian.

In 1979, Hurricane David devastated the Dominican Republic. Vargas could not stand by idly. He urged his church to send relief to the affected neighborhoods near them. After serving the community and making connections with the locals, he felt called to start ministering to them with the gospel.

“I withdrew from medical school,” Vargas said. “My father was upset when I told him I was called to ministry. He thought it was a fad, but 44 years later I’m still doing it.”

After the university where he worked closed, he journeyed to the U.S. to attend Denver Seminary in Colorado and immediately began church planting. After 31 years of service at Missions Door, he founded his own agency, Global One80, and moved to Arizona in 2018. He now leads operations at Global One80, is pastor of Iglesia Eperimenta Vida, has been involved with seven church plants in Arizona, and, as a CPC, leads the Ncuentro network, which seeks to multiply Latino church plants.

Vargas works primarily with minority leaders in Mexican, Dominican and Cuban communities. He is passionately searching for established churches who would financially support church leaders in the Ncuentro network.

“Latino churches do not have the same networks or support as American churches,: Vargas said. “Many Latino church leaders work full time while pastoring because their churches cannot afford to pay them. I would love to see [Anglo] churches help support them financially.”

Brian Hook grew up in the church with his father as a pastor. At age 13, he realized following Christ meant more than performing and surrendered his life to Christ at a camp in Glorieta, New Mexico.

At 18, he experienced a call to ministry at a Sunday night revival at Coronado Baptist Church in Scottsdale. In 1999, Hook planted his first church.

“I believe every healthy church is called to reproduce,” Hook said, “Since our first church plant, I’ve had a vision to see churches multiplied in the cities I live in.”

In 2007, he moved to Texas to plant churches with the Vision360 organization. Six years later, he moved to Las Vegas to join the pastoral staff at Hope Church, focusing on catalyzing church plants. Over the next few years, Hope Church saw 40 churches planted. Their process of multiplication continued after Hook’s departure.

In 2017, Hook planted Aspire Church in Tucson, where he continues as pastor today. His desire for church planting continued in his new role.

“When I got to Tucson, I had a vision to see numerous churches planted in our city,” Hook said. “We started training church planters and working together with other pastors to begin a culture of kingdom multiplication. God is moving through church planting, not only in Tucson, but all throughout North America.”

Hook currently has three active planters in various stages of the planting process. He also hosts monthly meetings to cast the vision of kingdom multiplication to pastors and potential planters in the city of Tucson. At least 20 church leaders attend each month, and their recent ‘Imagine’ training saw 48 leaders attend.

Thanks to the new CPCs, new churches in Arizona have a greater chance to thrive in today’s cultural climate.

Noah Jaeger, a freelance writer and photographer, is a member of North Phoenix Baptist Church and is the launch catalyst with Christian Challenge AZ.

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