What’s your next step?

Jan 4, 2021

By David Johnson

What’s your next step?

It’s a simple question. It begins a conversation that leads to more questions. What problems are you trying to solve? What challenges are you facing? What are your dreams for the future? The answers to those questions will vary greatly depending on many different factors in each individual setting.

When it comes to churches, that can involve anything from size to space to culture to location. The answers to those questions will be as varied and unique as the churches themselves.

Gone are the days when the denomination can prescribe a prepackaged program or approach that should be done in every church the same way. The convention is no longer the dispenser of information or expertise on all matters relating to churches (if they ever were). Churches can get information or resources from any number of places in this digital age.

So, what is the value of being part of an organization like Arizona Southern Baptists? Aside from traditionally strong biblical doctrine and cooperating together for missions (neither of which should be underestimated), there is great value in being part of a network of churches that can help each other discern and take their unique next step toward accomplishing the mission God has given them.

The truth is, there is rarely a problem or challenge or dream that another church somewhere in our network has not faced or worked through. The answer is often found within the network itself when churches and leaders work together to help one another.

What does this mean for the work of Arizona Southern Baptists?

The convention is going to have to change the way we have traditionally done things. Instead of offering conferences and events that may or may not hit the target of what a local church needs, we want to have conversations about what is happening at the local church level. Our posture will be learning through asking probing questions and listening for what is going on in the life of that church.

Instead of recommending programs that were designed somewhere else for another time or place, we want to invite churches into a process of discovering what their next step should be. Instead of trying to meet all the needs or come up with all the answers, we want to convene leaders who can collaborate to discover solutions instead of working in isolation.

What do we hope will come from all this?

We want churches to be healthy so the number of churches that are plateaued or declining will be reduced. We hope to enhance the ability of our churches to reach people with the gospel so that baptisms are increased.

We dream of pastors who are strengthened and re-energized for the work God has called them to do. We envision more disciple-makers being developed and churches planted around our state. And we aim for greater mission impact in Arizona and around the world!

All this means we will function more like a network than a convention or denomination. That is the reason we are talking about changing our name to Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists. This does not mean we are changing our theology or missions focus. It just means we function more like a network to help each other accomplish the vision God has given us.

That is how being a part of the network adds value to your church. We can take advantage of each other’s strengths in the network to strengthen our own work. We are better together than we are by ourselves.

What if you could identify what the next step is for your church?

Maybe you already know what it is, but you aren’t quite sure how to get there or make it happen. Maybe it is starting another worship service. Perhaps it is starting a ministry to reach unchurched people in your community. Or it could be breaking through an attendance barrier by adding space or enlisting a ministry leader.

What if you had a coach who has already worked through the issue you are facing? What if you could connect with a church that has already solved that problem and can share with you how they did it? Or, what if there are resources available to help you that you are not aware of?

This is where being part of a network can help you. This is how leaders in the network can be instrumental in helping you take your unique next step.

But it goes beyond just coming up with strategy and resources. Sometimes you need another perspective or someone who can see issues from the outside. We all have blind spots or get tunnel vision from time to time. That is another way being part of a network can help.

Whether it is a coach who can ask the right questions or a leader who has faced similar circumstances, we can help one another take the next step toward fulfilling the vision God has given us. After that is done, we come back to the same question again, “What is your next step?”

David Johnson is the executive director of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.

Next Steps

–What do you think is the next step God wants you to take in your personal life for your spiritual growth? For your physical health? For your family relationships?

–What do you think is the next step God wants your church to take to fulfill its mission/vision? Who can help you take that step? Who can you talk to about it?

–What action can you take this week toward your next step? Do you need to set a 30-day goal? Do you need to make a phone call or send an email?

–Who will hold you accountable for taking your next step? A coach? Leadership team?

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