Pastors’ Conference: A message of hope, a challenge to community ministry
By Philip W. Calvert | Nov 16, 2022
Noe Garcia, pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, delivered a powerful message of hope, and Jack Marslender, senior pastor of Avondale Baptist Church, challenged churches to meet the unique needs in their community during the Arizona Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference.
The conference was held at Avondale Baptist Church in Avondale the morning of Nov. 11, prior to the afternoon annual meeting of the Arizona Southern Baptist Mission Network.
Garcia encouraged churches to teach younger believers biblical stewardship. One example of this is the Hope Center at North Phoenix, which offers relief — such as clothing, food and haircuts — in times of crisis as well as guiding people toward long-term solutions that transform lives.
Garcia challenged attendees to consider their “Red Sea Moment,” which is a point in time when, in our own power, we cannot part the deep waters in front of us. These obstacles can only be moved by the Lord. Pastors can find themselves in a place of anger and despair if they allow the challenges of ministry to take their focus off their heart for ministry, he said.
Ministers must not rely on their own experience, skills and charisma to solve their Red Sea Moment but must rely on the Holy Spirit, Garcia said. God’s calling is far more important than man’s approval, so we are to avoid falling into the trap of being jealous about other pastors’ successes.
Man cannot change God’s plans for your life and ministry, Garcia said. God doesn’t want to write someone else’s story through you. He wants to write your story in your life.
Using Exodus 14 as his text, Garcia argued that only the Spirit of God can resolve our Red Sea Moment. We cannot part our Red Sea, just as the Israelites could not part the literal Red Sea.
At their Red Sea Moment, the people of God feared the Egyptians more than trusting in God. We, too, can fall into the trap of fearing man more than God. This causes us to doubt ourselves in our Red Sea Moment.
We must focus on our obedience and not the depth of the waters and the strength of our enemies in our Red Sea Moment, Garcia said. Faithfulness is our responsibility, but fruitfulness is God’s responsibility. Only God can do what He can do in our Red Sea Moment.
Jack Marslender, senior pastor of Avondale Baptist Church, taught from the Gospel of Luke. Marslender emphasized community ministries, which is how his church ministers to others.
Avondale Baptist Church meets needs in the community by offering free medical care, a basketball league, food distribution and housing for the homeless, among many other ministries. Their members love God, love people, and follow Jesus.
Marslender’s challenge for attendees was for churches to address their community’s unique needs. This can be accomplished with a six-point focus:
- Look to Jesus (Doctrine). Jesus showed the Father’s love in practical ways. We are likewise called to show God’s love, which earns us the right to share the Gospel. Social ministries can be Gospel ministries.
- Look to your community (Needs). There are numerous ways for churches to feed, heal and help people. Offering a basketball league is a great way to reach people who otherwise may not attend church.
- Look to yourself (Reputation). Christians must do everything with integrity.
- Look to your members (Gifting). Every Christian has a gifting. Empower believers to serve.
- Look to partners (Cooperation). Many organizations partner with churches to help those in need. Medical care is one example. There are good-hearted people in the community. Partner with them to extend the church’s reach.
- Look to the reason for your focus (Jesus). Don’t lose sight of the church’s purpose, which is to share Jesus and to make disciples.
Philip W. Calvert is senior pastor of Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Casa Grande.