Each December, we take a look back at the year and celebrate what God has done in and through our church. This year felt like a whirlwind to me as I navigated the release of my first book and then worked with our Elders and staff to plan the launch of our next campus. You can read more about the amazing story behind SBC North Ridge on this page. It’s a story only God could have orchestrated and the result is an even greater opportunity to reach people in our region who desperately need Jesus.
In addition, the Lord continued to expand the ministry of SBC at our Shea and Cactus campuses and around the world. Hundreds made decisions to follow Jesus for the first time. Thousands are growing and sharing their lives in small groups. And we’re increasing our efforts to generously serve our community and support our 50 missionary families who are taking the gospel to unreached places.
This report shares some numbers that reflect our progress, but we must never forget that each number represents a person whose journey God has entrusted to us. You’ll read stories of people of all ages and backgrounds who are finding hope, meaning, and purpose through the ministry and people of SBC. I’m humbled and honored to serve a church that combines radical, unconditional grace with clear, unadulterated truth—the kind of church that leads to transformed lives.
We serve a great God who continues to do more than we can ask or imagine, and I can’t wait to see all He has planned for us in the coming year!
I’m the dad of a six-year-old son, and he and I are the dynamic duo. Over the last 30 years, I treated people terribly and had a problem with being negative. It was a toxin causing me to ignore the emotions of people I love and to disregard the opinions of others. I never had faith. I never had God.
On my son’s fifth birthday in October 2017, we went to the Pacific Ocean and God awakened me to His reality. He shifted my perspective on everything. I picked up a Bible and started reading from the beginning, because that’s how you read books. By early December, I was in 2 Chronicles. Someone suggested I read John for Christmas, to get to Jesus, the reason for the season. So I read the Gospel and came to SBC on Christmas Eve. I started attending services in January and began to see God work in my life.
One Sunday this past year, I felt Jesus’ presence in an overwhelming way and accepted Him as my Savior. I now attest, He lives. He exists and He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. It’s a love thing, and it’s awesome. Through His amazing grace and love I have been transformed. Now, I see the things I overlooked before. It’s a beyond beautiful world and I’m lifted by encouraging others and giving to others. This church, everyone here, and the leaders’ conviction have rooted my faith. When I thanked Jamie for his impact on my journey, he said that he likes to think it’s God. And he’s right! I was recently baptized to show how much God means to me.
I am from Burundi, East Africa, and came to the U.S. three years ago. I decided to follow Jesus in 2011 and ever since, God has been working behind the scenes to help me find a place where I could know and serve Him. When I moved to Arizona last year, I asked God to set me in a place where I could grow.
On my way to school each day, I used to drive by Scottsdale Bible. One Sunday, I decided to try the church and liked it. One of the things I liked most is the way SBC categorizes people depending on their ages and helps them grow together. Back in my home country, I had a small group of people my age who helped me to know God more. Being around peers in College Group who could understand me and relate to my life encouraged me and drew me closer to God. It made SBC feel like a home to me by giving me friends who could shape me to be the person God wants me to be.
My early upbringing was wild and diverse. I always had an interest in spirituality, but could never truly drill down to what felt right and true in my heart. I married my wife Debbie and life was good until 15 years into our marriage, when I made a series of mistakes that would change our lives forever.
Debbie was devastated and reached out to a friend who spoke about God and had a love for Jesus she’d never seen before. The friend suggested Debbie speak with a pastor, and eventually because our marriage was in trouble, we sought the counsel of a Christian therapist. He convinced us we needed to find a church to give us some spiritual roots.
We tried a few but nothing clicked until we walked into SBC and heard Pastor Jamie speak of God’s grace and forgiveness of our sins. This was what I had been seeking for so many years. Deb and I learned to pray and nurture our relationship through the love of Jesus. We began reading the Bible and learning about God’s grace and love for us. Now, God is the center of our family and our marriage.
There hasn’t been a “happily ever after” for us. In fact, we’ve faced even more difficult issues, but with God at the center of my heart, there is always a silver lining. We were both baptized together this October and I thank Jesus for truly saving my life.
We both grew up in a rigid church where we served through worship. A few years ago, despite our passion for worship, we felt a lack of freedom and found ourselves becoming burned out. We stopped going to church, but prayed. One night, we cried out to God asking Him to heal our broken spirits and lead us to a place where we could grow, serve together, and see our three kids be spiritually nurtured.
A month later, we saw an invite to an SBC Prayer and Worship Night on Facebook. We came, and when the choir started to sing, we felt a tremendous sense of peace and joy that we hadn’t felt in a long time. We came back and began attending the Venue regularly and felt like God was pouring into us and showing us His grace and love in a new way. In the past, we always felt we weren’t good enough and had to attain a level of spirituality that was out of reach. But at SBC, we learned we didn’t have to try so hard. We learned to quit judging others who didn’t think the way we did, and discovered God uses ordinary people just like us.
Serving at SBC has brought us so much joy! We’ve made so many friends and have connected to people on a deeper level. We look forward to coming to church each week, and our kids sing the songs from last Sunday all through the week. We are so grateful to God for SBC and for renewing our passion for true and authentic worship. Most importantly, we’ve experienced the joy that comes from serving others. No matter what life looks like during the week, we’re where God wants us to be, and that is an incredible place to be!
In the mid 1990s, we felt called and got involved with SBC’s ministry feeding the homeless “under the 7th Street bridge” in downtown Phoenix once a month. When city laws stopped that ministry, we joined with other Christ-centered organizations who help homeless families transition off the streets. Eventually, we began serving in Awana at SBC because our grandchildren were involved there, but stayed in touch with board members from the Bridge Ministry who introduced us to MentorKids, USA.
For the past five years, we’ve had the privilege of sponsoring and hosting a summer camp with MentorKids that points underprivileged kids to Jesus and helps them learn to swim and build their reading skills during summer break. The Palomino neighborhood where these kids live has some of the lowest income and highest crime in Phoenix. The summer program has grown from a few kids in grades 1-3 to now 72 kids in grades 1-6. As the program outgrew our home, SBC opened their classrooms and VBS to this MentorKids program.
The kids still come to our home for swimming lessons and fun each day, and several have accepted Jesus as their Savior this year. As we look back, it’s clear that God lit our path and carried us through each ministry until we reached these kids at MentorKids and the amazing staff and volunteers. All because we asked Him and stepped forward.
On a recent mission trip to Spain, my goal was to serve people and tell them about Jesus, but also to grow in my walk with God. The trip was amazing because God revealed so much to me about Himself and His plan for my life. Just before the trip, my family had moved to Virginia, leaving me feeling alone in Phoenix. But on this trip, God provided me with a new family in my team and I even celebrated my birthday with them on the trip. I felt God’s hand on my life that day because He made sure I knew I wasn’t alone.
We served many people, and had the chance to pray with one man who was physically healed from his constant back pain, and I believe his eyes were opened to God’s love and power. The day before we left Spain, we had a debrief session with our missionary partners who prayed for our future legacies. As we talked, one team member whispered to me, “I keep getting this feeling you’re going to do long-term mission work someday. Have you ever thought about that?” And I had. Most of the trip, I’d had this underlying feeling that God might be calling me.
I don’t know yet if long-term mission work is God’s plan for me, but through this trip, I sensed His heart for the lost and got a glimpse of what could be His desire for my life. As a bonus, He also gave me a stand-in family so I wouldn’t be alone on my birthday.
There isn’t enough space to express our gratitude to the Lord for bringing us to SBC Cactus. We were at a crossroad of change two years ago and trusted Jesus to lead us to a biblically strong church where we could serve with our whole hearts, love well those He would bring into our lives, and be loved in return. To say that the Lord has answered our prayers would be a huge understatement of His undeserved goodness.
We are privileged to serve in family ministry at Cactus Campus by teaching marriage and parenting classes, but we continue to be the main beneficiaries of God’s Word, renewing our own marriage commitment to Him and one another, even after many years together. As we teach parenting classes, we know we didn’t parent perfectly, yet by the tender mercies of God we have been forgiven for our past mistakes and are still graciously loved by our own kids.
This past year we lost our sister to cancer and have been so incredibly loved and supported by our church family in a season of great sorrow. God has indeed done “exceedingly abundantly above all” by giving us such a beloved church home.
In 2018, attendance at Cactus Campus grew by 26%.
We started a new Cactus Latino class to reach Spanish-speaking community members, and hope to launch a Cactus Español service in 2019.
Cactus’ fall Trunk or Treat community outreach event served 1,047 people.
Demonstrating a strong commitment to community outreach and serving, Cactus Campus continued partnerships with:
This year, we joined with North Ridge Community Church in a merger that birthed our newest campus. Planted by SBC 25 years ago, North Ridge shares a similar mission, vision and values. God’s timing and this shared heritage created a unique opportunity to reach more people in North Scottsdale and Cave Creek with the hope of the gospel.
NRCC members voted on September 30 to approve the merger, and weekend services will begin on January 12, 2019. As we unite together, we will create a stronger, more effective church presence than either of us could have achieved on our own. The story of North Ridge will continue through a new expression and build on their strong legacy of mission and service.
In addition, people who call SBC home and live in N. Scottsdale and Cave Creek will have an opportunity to worship close by and invite their neighbors. We will be better together as we launch a campus with unstoppable potential to impact lives for Jesus Christ.
Before my parents got divorced two years ago, I used to believe in God and sometimes went to church. But after they got divorced, I sank into depression. I believed it was all my fault that my dad left. I thought I wasn’t a good enough daughter and he didn’t love me anymore. I never told anyone about my pain. I faked a smile every day while telling people that I was fine because it would hurt them if I told them the truth. But I wasn’t fine. The sadness inside was building up and was making me feel numb.
I didn’t think I needed someone else to help fight the pain, that I could do it myself. But I now know that I can’t. I realized this at the SBC YTH camp in Williams this fall. During the Sunday night session, our youth pastor, Joel, told us to raise our hands if our parents are divorced. I raised my hand. Joel asked all the people who weren’t raising their hand to find the nearest person who was and put their hand on them and pray. I had so many people who I didn’t even know come around me.
It was only afterward that I realized I had been crying the whole time. I finally realized I am loved—truly loved by God and that He will always be there for me when I need Him. That night I gave myself up to God, trusting that He will take away my pain and suffering. I feel as though a great weight has been lifted off of me, and I now know He will be there for me forever.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family and found myself pregnant at 17. This world and the enemy told me that abortion was my best choice. I was told I’d never have to think about it again. Walking out of the clinic, an anti-abortion picketer called me a murderer and told me I was going to hell. Those words stuck with me for 20 years. I turned to partying and put on a fake mask. After I graduated from college and got a good job, I was convinced I had conquered my past.
I got married in my early 30s and got pregnant right away, but lacked joy and connection to the baby inside me. I didn’t believe I deserved a child and feared he could be taken away from me. After the birth, I suffered postpartum depression, was cruel to my husband, and exploded in anger with anyone who got in the way of me caring for my child. During my second pregnancy, I still felt something was wrong and knew I had to dig into my past for restoration and peace. I didn’t want to raise my children in anger, shame or fear. I enrolled in Bible studies, volunteered at church, got mentoring, but was still hurting and living with a dark cloud over me.
God eventually led me to SBC’s post-abortion Bible study, Surrendering the Secret. Through the study, I realized the enemy had me in bondage and I had to share my secret, confess my sin with trustworthy women, and accept God’s forgiveness. It was a beautiful healing journey and the walls I had built around me and my family were kicked down! I finally knew my true worth and found freedom. I’m so grateful for SBC and this healing class, and am now pregnant with my third child, fully embracing it the way God designed me to.
Although I was raised in church and trusted Jesus many years ago, I didn’t always follow Him. I married in 1989 and we raised our two girls in the church. We were happy at first, but slowly our marriage deteriorated. I started using alcohol to cope with my sadness and fear. When we separated in 2011, my drinking escalated. After a pastor’s visit where I confessed everything, he said my marriage was over and I needed to move on. I left feeling ashamed, abandoned and lost, and I walked away from church.
In early 2013, I sought help for my addiction and eventually decided to visit SBC in 2016. One Sunday this past year, Pastor Jamie invited forward those who wanted to trust Jesus as Lord or recommit to Him. I ran to the front, sobbing through the whole prayer, and felt such peace wash over me.
I’m currently 5 1⁄2 years sober and have laid all shame, guilt and sadness at the cross knowing God forgives me. I have gained so much more than I lost, believing God has a greater purpose for me. Whether or not others love or accept me, God loves me unconditionally. I want to inspire others who are struggling with hopelessness, and was baptized this October to demonstrate my commitment to following Jesus wherever He leads me.