Super Bowl XLIX Places Spotlight on a City In Need of the Gospel

Phoenix, a Send North America City, plays host to Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1. Send City Missionary Monty Patton hopes the increased focus on the city surrounding the game will spur churches to consider committing to church planting, and supporting church planters, in the city of 5.4 million. File photo by John Swain/NAMB
Phoenix, a Send North America City, plays host to Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1. Send City Missionary Monty Patton hopes the increased focus on the city surrounding the game will spur churches to consider committing to church planting, and supporting church planters, in the city of 5.4 million. File photo by John Swain/NAMB

As Southern Baptists turn their eyes to Phoenix and Super Bowl XLIX this weekend, local Southern Baptists say they’ll encounter a city in desperate need of new evangelistic churches.

According to the North American Mission Board’s Center for Missional Research, evangelicals make up only 12.6 percent of the population of the Send North America: Phoenix region. The metro area also has only one Southern Baptist church for every 19,338 people.

But in the last few years an influx of Southern Baptist church planters has begun to turn those numbers around.

When planter Jason Griffin arrived with his family of six in Phoenix in 2012, he didn’t relocate for the nice weather or the long list of leisure activities. Underneath all the fun and sun, the Griffins found a community named Surprise that needed the Gospel.

“There have been a lot of people who have tried to plant here,” said Griffin, who was sent by First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga. “For whatever reason — whether it was never gaining traction or losing their support — this became like a graveyard for church plants.”

Griffin estimates that 95 percent of Surprise residents are not connected to evangelical churches.

Griffin himself started slow. Nobody showed up for the first Bible study he launched in his home a few months after his arrival. But after starting weekly worship services in January 2013, Griffin has seen Freedom Valley Church grow to an average of 120 in attendance most weeks.

“We’ve seen 15 people come to faith in Christ,” Griffin said. “I’ll tell you, the amount of work to see those 15 people come to Christ is incredible. It takes consistent relationship building, talking about the Gospel and living out the Gospel.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Tobin Perry

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