Southeastern Arizona church expands seminary’s reach

By Francine Biere, Photos by Carla Meyer | Feb 2, 2022

Students attend a Gateway Seminary class in person at Village Meadows Baptist Church in Sierra Vista.

Village Meadows Baptist Church is using the power of networking to bring seminary classes to Sierra Vista, benefitting both the community and the Arizona Campus of Gateway Seminary.

The seminary began offering classes at Village Meadows in January 2021. Two years prior, a conversation between Mark Pitts, Village Meadows’ former senior pastor, and Dallas Bivins, Gateway’s Arizona Campus director, was the catalyst for Gateway offering classes at the church.

“I’m thrilled that because of our location in the outback, so to speak, we could offer more convenient, face-to-face classes,” Pitts said. “We have been blessed by God to have a regional seminary extension that is strengthening the spreading of the Gospel here, as well as training and making disciples.”

Bivins points out that this isn’t just training in the pulpit but training in the pews.

“One reason Gateway is here is to offer seminary classes to those who would never have this kind of opportunity,” he said.

“The face-to-face classes are helping a local church. It would’ve been easier and less expensive to offer remote or online classes, but it’s important for us to meet students and have them together in the classroom instead of remotely. For the benefit of the kingdom, we needed to be there in person,” Bivins said.

According to Mike Sanders, Village Meadows’ new senior pastor, this collaboration has a two-fold value: Gateway’s ability to reach out further geographically and the opportunity for Village Meadows to host the classes for the local community and southeastern Arizona.

“It’s really for anyone who wants to dive deeper into God’s Word,” he said.

Sanders is excited about future networking with Gateway.

“I think when church congregations and members of the community see this collaboration, it will help to open their minds to the possibilities,” he said.

Carla Meyer, a small group leader at Village Meadows agrees.

“This is an amazing collaboration,” she said. “Gateway is a wonderful seminary, with people ready to walk alongside you. The study methods taught and information I have gleaned in class are helping me be ready for our small group study. I am also a deacon’s wife and the ministry assistant at [Village Meadows], so I know how to get an answer for someone.”

While David Johnson teaches a Gateway Seminary class to students meeting at Village Meadows Baptist Church in Sierra Vista, the class is also streamed for students attending via Zoom.

Another class member, Lora Miller, finds this collaboration beneficial.

“For me, it’s the fact that I can take in-person classes in Sierra Vista,” she said. “I appreciate being in the classroom and not relying on online or Zoom classes. I also appreciate the intensive weekend schedule. My teaching schedule as a full-time faculty instructor at Cochise College involves days, nights, and changes every eight weeks, so weekends are the best time for me.”

As the mission action pastor and a Sunday School teacher at Village Meadows, Brian Claassen is learning more about the Bible and how to teach it.

“This will be invaluable,” he said. “Personally, the more I learn about the Bible, the more in awe I am of who God is and how beautiful His Word is.”

But networking doesn’t just happen. Jeffrey Crabtree, Village Meadows’ worship leader, uses his knowledge and technical expertise to provide an almost seamless connection between the live class at Village Meadows and students participating via Zoom from different locations in Arizona.

The definition of networking really describes what is happening between Village Meadows and Gateway Seminary. It’s the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. It’s also the linking of computers to allow them to operate interactively.

These efforts are descriptive of the new name selected to replace Arizona Southern Baptist Convention — Arizona Southern Baptist Mission Network.

Next Steps

  • The Arizona Campus of Gateway Seminary is in Phoenix, but classes are held at several sites. For more information on programs and upcoming classes available at Village Meadows Baptist Church in Sierra Vista, call 602-843-8544 or visit online at gs.edu/about/locations/arizona-campus/.
  • Churches interested in learning more about bringing Gateway Seminary classes to their campus may email Dallas Bivins at DallasBivins@gs.edu.

Francine Biere, a freelance writer living in Sierra Vista, is a member of Village Meadows Baptist Church, Sierra Vista.
Carla Meyer is a ministry assistant at Village Meadows Baptist Church, Sierra Vista.

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