Carlos is a Hispanic artist who is well known throughout Phoenix for his large murals along ally-ways and high-rise buildings. He is considered, by both the powerful and the powerless, a bridge builder in the gentrified city, where rapid changes are taking place among diverse cultures and peoples. James is an African-American entrepreneur, community developer, and friend to many in downtown Phoenix. James considers himself Agnostic, and shares a common distaste and distrust for religious institutions due to the scorched earth of religious experience of his past. Davida is a single mother who recently went through a difficult season of life. She lost her job and struggled to make ends meet, thus, facing the prospect of homelessness, an experience that was too familiar in her not so distant past.
A few years ago, Karla and I had no idea where it was that the Lord was asking us to go. We were willing to go anywhere. Over a series of events and years of discipleship and mentoring within our local church, God began to stir a passion for making disciples among dense and diverse people groups in the urban city center. However, we still had no idea specifically where God was asking us to go. And then it happened.
Monty Patton, a Send City Missionary, along with Bruce Ford, a Director of Missions for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, visited Raleigh, NC and met with my pastor. They expressed their heart for Phoenix and inquired if our local church had any church planters who might consider planting in Phoenix or come alongside a church in effort to revitalize. It is amazing how the Lord works through Kingdom collaboration! We arranged to meet with those brothers prior to their departure back to Phoenix. Our hearts were compelled to go to Phoenix, to make disciples in downtown Phoenix, and plant a church.
A few weeks ago, I was commuting to a New Testament class that was being held at an extension campus in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. I commuted with my professor and friend, Dr. David Johnson, Missionary Executive for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. He said, “We can do what we do because every dollar comes from a Baptist.” He is right.
God’s grace is evident through partnership of the Cooperative Program. My commute to an ext
ension class through Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention would not have been made possible if it were not for the generous giving through the Cooperative Program. Our family would not be at home in Phoenix today if it were not due to a Send City Missionary and a Director of Missions of a local association of Phoenix churches, who receive funding to do mission through the Cooperative Program. Friendships with Carlos, James, and Davida would not have been built if it were not for the generosity of every partnering church through the Cooperative Program. Most importantly, the good news of Christ’s finished work would not have been proclaimed and demonstrated throughout our community in downtown Phoenix, if it were not in part, by the generosity of every dollar that comes from a Baptist. Indeed, God’s grace is evident through the intentional partnership of the Cooperative Program, which enables the church to have relational and missional presence in the city, and serves as a channel of participation by every person, of every Southern Baptist Church, in every city. That is Kingdom impact.