Engage AZ: Prayer and evangelism focus
Dec 22, 2020
By Dave Arden
Believers gathered from around the state in person and online for Engage AZ 2020, An Arizona Southern Baptist Convention conference focusing on prayer and evangelism. The conference was held at CalvaryPHX Church in Phoenix and livestreamed on Nov. 12, 2020.
Richard Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International, addressed the two main sessions with words of encouragement and challenge.
“My prayer for you is that God would surprise you today,” Blackaby said. “I know you have come already to be blessed, but God has a way to do exceedingly abundantly more than we thought. I love the surprises of God, where you came expecting one thing, but God did a whole lot more.”
Sharing stories from his past roles in leadership at home and in the public sphere, Blackaby told of experiences that have brought him to a place of great dependence on God.
Speaking about his son Daniel, Blackaby related to the temptation in every family to settle for less than God’s best. Daniel would often say about school grades, “It’s good enough.” Richard would respond, “Never say it’s good enough unless it’s God’s best.”
Challenging pastors and leaders not to settle, Blackaby reminded them how Paul speaks from Ephesians 1, “You’re the church. Do you know what it means to be the church?”
He cited Ephesians 1:17-28 (NIV): “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you will know Him better, I pray that the eyes of your heart be enlightened; that you may know what is the hope which He has called you, the riches of the glorious inheritance in His holy people.”
With Paul’s prayer, “there’s a vision of hope,” Blackaby said. “I just pray you open up your vision and yourself the way God sees you.”
In breakout sessions, Mark Martin, senior pastor of CalvaryPHX, encouraged leaders in how to best give evangelistic invitations, and Brian Bowman, lead pastor of Valley Life — Tramonto, encouraged leaders to challenge their church in making intentional conversations to share their faith. Ashley Evans, pastor of 22nd Street Baptist Church in Tucson, led a breakout on “Leading Focused Prayer Meetings” and Chris Stull, lead pastor of Wellspring Church in Goodyear, led a breakout on “Keeping Urgency in Prayer.”
Stull led a panel discussion with Blackaby; Mark Martin; Jeff Vanderford, pastor of Authentic Life Church in Tucson; and DeVaughn Cunningham, ministry intern at CalvaryPHX. Stull focused the dialogue on what makes a powerful praying church, specifically talking about the relationship with the power of prayer that inspires evangelistic outbreaks.
God-honoring testimonies were also shared by Vanderford and Brian Hook, senior pastor of Aspire Church in Tucson. God has used both churches in Tucson to actively engage their communities and see fruitful outcomes.
In the evening session, Blackaby pressed deeper into the connection of prayer and evangelism.
Drawing from Acts 4:23-31, he highlighted the struggles of the early church and the work of God deploying powerful acts through prayer. Speaking about first-century believers, he said, “They didn’t ask God to make things easier. They didn’t ask God for [people] to stop persecuting them.”
The early church prayed, “God give us boldness to proclaim the gospel,” Blackaby said, and “they prayed, ‘God, do only the things that you can do, such as miracles, signs and wonders.’”
Praying the way God wants you to pray, will embolden your witness, he said.
“Prayer is not a substitute for evangelism, prayer is the power of evangelism,” he said. “Prayer is what multiples the witness and multiplies the fruit.”
Blackaby reminded listeners of the adversarial relationship between the government and the church in the first century. He brought encouragement when he said, “The church has done better when the church has not gotten along with the government.”
The evening session of Engage AZ concluded with prayer time.
“God, I pray you’d give us a holy dissatisfaction with ministry the way we’ve always done it, with church the way we’ve always done it,” Blackaby prayed. “[We] need you to work in power like we’ve never seen before, doing miracles that can only be explained by you. … God give us the boldness in the face of an ever-darkening nation to rise up and do what you’ve asked us to do, to boldly stand for you.”