Scottsdale churches connect and cross barriers of language, culture

By Noah Jaeger, Photos by Nancy Patton | May 23, 2024

Chad Murrell (right), pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Scottsdale, and Fernando Amaro, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Resurrección, which meets at First Southern, are leading their churches to cross cultural barriers and work together.

Churches connecting despite cultural barriers have the potential for great kingdom work. The relationship between First Southern Baptist Church of Scottsdale and Iglesia Bautista Resurrección represents this bond well.

Shortly after the COVID-19 quarantine, Iglesia Bautista Resurrección, a Spanish-speaking church led by Pastor Fernando Amaro, began meeting in the fellowship hall of First Southern. After several months of their arrangement, Chad Murrell, pastor of First Southern, and Amaro, current president of the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists, discussed how they could improve their partnership.

“After speaking with the church’s leadership, I proposed to Fernando that Resurrección begin meeting in the mornings at the same time as our service, and our kids and students could meet together after our services,” Murrell said. “This has continued to grow as we are partnering in churchwide outreach projects and fellowship.”
Cultural and linguistic differences between churches forced them to be creative in how they connected.

Students from First Southern Baptist Church of Scottsdale and Iglesia Bautista Resurrección meet together following the Sunday morning services and on Wednesday nights.

“Fernando and I discussed what our churches could do together to have a greater impact for the kingdom of God,” Murrell said. “We began working to share some ministries where the language barrier would not be problematic. We have worked together on several community projects with the city of Scottsdale and [held] a churchwide breakfast together on Christmas Eve.”

One of the most beneficial connections is their unity within children’s, youth and young adult ministries. The combined ministries are a joy to both churches.

Cultural and language barriers require the churches to be extra thoughtful in their planning. Murrell and Amaro meet regularly to ensure both congregations experience unity, and their unity has spread joy.

“It is great when the whole congregation of Resurrección feels accepted and included through the communication of both leaderships,” Amaro said. “For us, that is the main blessing. If a church is trying to build a bilingual or bicultural ministry, that is important to keep in mind.”

Churches from different cultures face unique challenges when joining together. However, both pastors have witnessed increased maturity within their congregations.

Josh Kerr, family pastor at First Southern Baptist Church of Scottsdale, teaches students from First Southern and Iglesia Bautista Resurrección on a Sunday morning.

“This partnership has challenged our church to be more kingdom-focused rather than self-focused,” Murrell said. “This partnership has forced us to think outside of our cultural traditions, assumptions and expectations. We have been challenged to love our neighbor in ways we hadn’t before, which has stretched and grown us.”

For churches considering a partnership with a differently cultured fellowship, communication and self-sacrifice are necessary. These pastors report when churches lay aside their wants, stop seeing others as competition, and receive one another as partners, God can do anything through them.

“Fernando and I are both very intentional in considering the unique needs, cultures and traditions of both of our churches,” Murrell said. “If a church is partnering with another, neither church can consider themselves more important than the other. They must remember that both churches are Christ’s body and hold equal value to Him, His kingdom and its mission.”

Despite the challenges, a cross-cultural partnership has been a blessing for First Southern, Scottsdale, and Resurrección. The churches continue to dream, plan and execute ways they can display the greater family of God to the world.

Next Steps

  • Are you a church member who is interested in seeing your church partner with another congregation? Talk to your pastor.
  • Are you a church leader interested in partnering with another church but need help getting started? Email Monty Patton, Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists associate executive director, mpatton@azmn.org.
  • Are you a church leader interested in partnering with a Hispanic church for ministry? Email Josue Castro, jcastro@azmn.org.

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

Nancy Patton, a freelance photographer living in Peoria, is a member of Mountain Ridge Church, Glendale.

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