2022 was designated as a Year of Evangelism. Over half of all Arizona churches participated in the evangelism effort. “Praise God that our church leaders and members are uniting their efforts to reach their communities with the gospel of Jesus,” reflected Arizona Conference Executive Secretary Ray Navarro. “We give all the glory to God and encourage every single pastor and member to fan those evangelism flames!”
Conference-wide, there were over 60 evangelism events that took place in the various churches, including some innovative long-term projects.
In March, the Yuma Spanish church district offered guitar, ukulele, and piano lessons to community members. The students learned worship songs as part of their lesson and then participated in a Bible study afterwards.
In the Chinle church on the Navajo Reservation, JA Kids was a program for children of recovering alcoholics. While the parents attended a 12-step support group, the children participated in a VBS-style addiction prevention program. Once a month, parents were invited to family nights, where they heard their children recite “The Twelve Steps for Kids” and joined in songs like “With Jesus in the Family, Happy, Happy Home.”
The “Renewing Home” evangelistic meetings at the West Valley Spanish church in April and May focused on strengthening homes and families. Several baptisms took place as part of these family-centered meetings, which culminated in a renewal of marriage vows by couples in attendance. Some commented that, after the pandemic, dedicating time for families provided a lot of spiritual strength to their church and family.
The Chandler Brazilian church celebrated Dia do Amigo or Friend’s Day in October. Every church member was challenged by the Personal Ministries and Sabbath School Department to invite one friend to a special day. Nearly 20 visitors enjoyed the worship and fellowship that included delicious Brazilian cuisine.
Traditional evangelism also made an impact across the state and resulted in scores of baptisms in Arizona churches.
Both the Tucson Fil-Am and Chandler Fil-Am churches were active all year as they each held several evangelistic meetings resulting in baptisms after each event. Pacific Union Conference Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Alan Reinach led out at the Chandler Fil-Am church in an October series entitled “How Liberty Dies.”
The Chandler church held a baptism in the Salt River following their community evangelistic series in May. Thirteen people made the decision to be baptized, with 11 entering the river waters on the afternoon of May 21. “We had an 81-year-old marine vet, a former mafia member, an online watcher, and several Pathfinder members who gave their lives to Jesus through baptism,” said Pastor Ed Anderson.
The Phoenix Central Valley Spanish church held simultaneous events in September. One meeting was directed toward the adults while the other was held in the gym and geared toward children. A spiritual party took place on September 10 as eight adults and 10 adolescents were baptized.
Phoenix South Mountain church held “Something Better 22” meetings in October, featuring music, health checks, Bible studies, and food baskets. Several were baptized and several more continue their studies.
Other groups sought to minister to the physical needs of their community. The Casa Grande church district held a community service event, handing out free household items. They also conducted a health expo, which trained community members in healthy lifestyle practices.
The Camp Verde church offers food and clothing distribution every Wednesday. Thirty volunteers, of which 25 are community members, help to distribute items to hundreds of people each week. The Payson church distributes food on Tuesday evenings. “It’s an amazing economic and spiritual outreach, where people are helped physically, socially, and spiritually,” said Pastor Mike Ortel. Referring to the church members’ renewed focus on evangelism, Pastor Ortel commented, “They think it, pray it, sleep it, eat it, smell it, and talk it.”
But sometimes it is simply a one-on-one ministry that draws people to God. At the Grace in the Desert church, a young lady living in the apartments next to the church was invited to attend a morning prayer meeting. Seventeen years old and pregnant, Ceanna was living in fear and anxiety. She returned several times to church, and the church hospitality team organized a baby shower for her. Her family attended the event, along with a good number of church members. After having her baby, she continues to stay in contact with church members.
During the month of December, several more churches conducted evangelistic events. After December 31, when the final membership and baptism numbers are submitted, 2022 will be listed as having one of the largest increases for the Arizona Conference. With over 60 applications for 2023 evangelism events submitted to Arizona Conference administration and four separate project funding proposals for creative evangelism approved by the Pacific Union Conference for 2023 evangelism, church leaders and members are continuing to fan the evangelism flames in Arizona.
By Jeff Rogers