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Arizona Baptists emphasize evangelism and missions

In the second year with a one-day revamped annual meeting schedule, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention messengers conducted business in less than an hour and focused on evangelism and missions during a mission fair and concluding rally, reports Baptist Press.

Meeting at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Tucson, Nov. 13, the 290 messengers, along with 44 registered visitors and others who did not register, toured booths at a mission fair, attended small-group presentations and ended the afternoon with a mission rally focused on the "God's Plan for Sharing" nationwide evangelistic emphasis. The Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team reported that it served lunch to 435 people.

Steve Ballew, pastor of Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Casa Grande, was re-elected president by acclamation. Also elected by acclamation were Chet Anderson, associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lake Havasu City, as first vice president, and James Harms, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sierra Vista, as second vice president.

Messengers adopted a $3,288,800 Cooperative Program budget and a $4,964,678 state convention operating budget for 2010. Next year's Cooperative Program budget is a 13.05 percent increase over the present budget, which was revised downward after the first quarter of 2009, and a 9.07 percent decrease from the original 2009 budget.

The budget calls for 26.016 percent of Cooperative Program gifts to be forwarded to SBC causes, up from 25.88 percent in 2009. While the ASBC allows churches to designate the percentages used in distributing their Cooperative Program gifts, 95.78 percent of Cooperative Program gifts are sent undesignated and will be distributed using the new formula.

Despite convention messengers in 2006 adopting a systematic plan to increase the percentage of Cooperative Program gifts forwarded to the SBC, Ballew told messengers the Convention Council in May "had a very animated discussion" about increasing the SBC percentage in 2010.

"I want you to understand that even in the midst of a reduced budget time, your Convention Council [voted] to continue," Ballew said. "It's not a significant percentage [increase], but it's more than it was the year before."

Ballew, who is pastor of the top Cooperative Program giving church in Arizona, challenged other churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving.

"We need to figure out ways within our own church contexts ... to continue to forward more on to the greater work of God beyond just our local areas," he said. "Our state convention has taken that challenge, and I hope that we as local church people will do exactly the same."

The total $3,288,800 Cooperative Program budget will be distributed as follows: SBC Cooperative Program, $824,707; Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, $2,005,459; Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, $247,865; Arizona Baptist Children's Services, $131,455; and Baptist Senior Life Ministries, $79,314.

Income sources in the ASBC operating budget include the $3,288,800 from Cooperative Program giving by Arizona churches, $1,563,832 from the North American Mission Board, $57,996 from LifeWay Christian Resources, and $54,050 in other revenue.

Ballew announced the appointment of a 12-man team to evaluate the structure of the state convention and make recommendations for any changes at the 2010 annual meeting. When the ASBC was reorganized in 2001, plans were set to re-evaluate the organization every five years. The last evaluation team reported in 2006.

Messengers approved a report from the two teams charged with guiding construction of a new facility for the Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Joe Chan, chairman of the fundraising team, said progress was made by the building project team in 2009. During the year, Scottsdale's Development Review Board approved an application for a permit for the new building.

However, "due to the unfavorable economic circumstances, we're not being as successful in the fundraising," said Chan, pastor of Tucson Chinese Baptist Church.

At the start of the year, $350,000 had been committed to the project, with $100,000 of that having been received. A total of $83,475 has been spent so far, Chan said. No additional funds were raised in 2009, he said. In 2008, messengers approved a budgeted base amount of $2 million, with a $2.5 million challenge goal for the building.

In his state missionary report, Steve Bass said the convention is standing by its initial commitment to build debt-free.

"We're not going to use Cooperative Program money, and I guarantee you we're not going into debt.... So that means we're going to have to raise the money," Bass said. "God is trying to show us something in this time, and we're going to continue to make contacts and continue to cultivate for a time of giving."

Looking forward, Bass said, "My greatest point of joy for 2010 is God's Plan for Sharing." He asked all Arizona Southern Baptists to join him in his commitment to share the Gospel with someone once a week for 52 weeks.

"If we have 100,000 Arizona Southern Baptists and each one of us will share the Gospel once a week for 52 weeks, in one year we can make 5.2 million Gospel presentations," Bass said. Noting that the population of Arizona is 6 million, he explained, "In 18 months we can sow down this state with the Gospel of Christ."

During the mission rally, keynote speaker Thomas Hammond, associate to the vice president of evangelization and team leader of the personal evangelism team at the North American Mission Board, supported Bass' challenge.

"I believe with all my heart there are enough here to get the Gospel to everybody in Arizona," he said.

Hammond urged churches to be creative and "do some things differently" to reach more people.

"The reason why we're plateaued in our baptisms is because we haven't done anything new in 50 years," he said. "There's nothing wrong with change."

Mitch McDonald, Arizona's church evangelism facilitator, acknowledged that the task is intimidating for the state's Southern Baptists.

"Ninety-five percent of Arizona, if they were to die right now, would spend an eternity in a sinners' hell," he said. "It's a huge task. It's a God-sized task. Arizona Southern Baptists, I believe we're up to the task."

Next year's annual will be Nov. 12 at First Southern Baptist Church in Avondale.

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