Elder Candidate Profile – Mario Paniagua

Mario Paniagua was presented as a candidate to serve as Foothills Baptist Church 5th Lay Elder. Below you will find his Elder Candidate Profile.

Where do you work and for how long?

City of Phoenix, for the last 21 years.

How long have you been married? When is your anniversary?

On May 29, 2019, Kris and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage.

How many children do you have? Their ages?

Maya, 19; Adam, 17; Jacob, 15

Personal Testimony of Faith in Jesus

I gave my life to Christ at the age of 33, when my previously hard heart was overcome by God’s amazing grace and love. When I was three, I lost my father. A couple years later, my mom began a severe and long-lasting drug addiction that devastated our family. I did not know God, but I often cried to whoever I knew to be God to take away my mother’s addiction and drug dealing. Growing up was a hard road full of shame and pain.

When I was 14, my mom was sentenced to jail for several years. (Looking back, it is clear God protected me from the many dangers and influences that were all around me.) He gave me incredible grandparents who took care of me until I turned 18 when I joined the Air Force (AF). I did very well and promoted quickly. While in the AF, I also attended college and earned a Business Management degree. When I left the AF after seven years, I was hired by the City of Phoenix, which is where I met Kris, who at that time was also not a believer.

We got married and had three great kids and were doing well. I was successful in my career. Life was good, and in my naïve and prideful mind, I was making it all happen myself. I thought, all of my hard work, my self-discipline, my good judgment, my smarts, my grit all brought me out of that difficult life. I didn’t feel I needed God in my life. When the kids were still very young, Kris and I decided we wanted to expose our kids to more moral structure. Church sounded like a good idea, for their sake and not our own, and we went to Arizona Community Church in Tempe. But my heart was hard.

Satan used my arrogance and independent spirit to keep me blinded to the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). Soon after, at a church women’s group, God reached my wife and she turned in faith to Christ, while I still had not. I continued to be skeptical of the pastor’s teachings. I felt I knew better. At one point, with a posture of pride, I decided to read through the Bible so I could come to church at least knowing what it said. I started in Genesis and kept going. Initially, so much of it didn’t make sense, which affirmed my skepticism at that time. But I kept reading. Midway through the book of Isaiah, I started to piece together the prophecies of Christ and who God was, along with the preaching I was hearing each week.

One day, I realized my heart had changed. It was gradual, so I didn’t notice it right away, but I came to see I was believing everything I read in His Word. And not only did I believe it was true, I realized I loved what I was reading! I couldn’t explain it, and I know it was purely a miracle of God. God had made His light shine in my heart to give me “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). I had been reborn (John 3:3) and have joyfully never looked back. By His grace, I love Jesus Christ and always will.

How do you practice personal worship?

Each day, the first thing I do is pray with my wife. Almost every day, before we do anything else, we read from the Psalms and pray together. We pray thanks and praise to God, for one another, for our family, for Foothills and for the people and issues in our lives. I also often pray during my commute to or from work and listen to audio versions of the Word or to teachings and messages from other pastors. Throughout my day I pray, as I depend on God as my source of wisdom, strength and ability. Most nights, before I go to sleep, I am in God’s Word, and listen to His voice through Scripture, meditating on its meaning and how I need to respond.

How long have you been a member at Foothills?

We have been attending and been members of Foothills since 2013. Prior to coming to Foothills, we were members of Arizona Community Church (ACC) in Tempe for about 7 years. It was through ACC that Kris and I were led to Christ.

How do you currently serve at Foothills?

For the last three years or so, I have led a Growth Group each week- I love digging deep into the Word, teaching and facilitating discussion to disciple and help members grow closer to God through a deeper understanding of Scripture.

I also serve on the Welcoming Committee. I enjoy meeting and getting to know my Foothills family. I often serve during service to assist with the offering collection and the Lord’s Supper.

At Foothills, I have:

  • led prayer during service and a prayer and “sermonette” at Family meeting,
  • served in Family Promise for homeless families,
  • delivered Angel Tree gifts and prayed with families,
  • filled in for weekend facilities maintenance/set up,
  • assisted with the new member class check-in,
  • and served as chaperone during youth camp.

For the last 5 years, along with other government officials, I have led a public prayer at the National Day of Prayer event at the Arizona State Capitol representing City government. In my workplace, I serve as the Executive Sponsor for the City of Phoenix Employees for Christ employee organization and regularly speak at their luncheons.

Previously while at ACC, I led a weekly growth group, taught adult Sunday school, helped lead the “Salt and Light” children’s ministry, assisted with VBS, and served as a mentor/disciple to other men.

1 Timothy 3:1 says, “…if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” What is the “noble task” of an elder, and why do you believe you are called to serve as a lay Elder at Foothills?

I was approached by other leaders at Foothills about serving as an elder, to work alongside other godly elders and help shepherd God’s flock. Since then, for more than year, I have been praying about this with my wife and others. After much prayer and consideration, I believe God is calling me and set me upon this path. Acts 20:28 stirs my heart deeply as it says to “…be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

When I read the description of the elder in 1 Timothy 3, I am drawn to the job. The calling to me is persistent and clear. As I examine myself, it does not come from my flesh, yet I still desire it. In my prayers, I feel God leading me to the role. In my contemplation, I consider my Spirit-empowered gifting and abilities to be well-suited for this role. In my conversations with other godly people I trust, I have been encouraged by their support. God has given me a love for deeper understanding of His Word in order to help others know Him more.

I believe I am qualified for the role and that God has been preparing me and will continue to enable me to serve Him in this way. I trust Him. I love Him. I love this Church and want to serve in the way God calls me to.

How do you lead your family spiritually?

I have led my family spiritually in many ways. I have discipled my family in the Word, reading and teaching through books and passages of the Bible. My wife and I pray and read the Word together almost every day, and she works alongside me to lead our family in their spiritual growth. With my boys, I went through “Living by the Book” by Howard and William Hendricks, so they could learn how to study the Bible better on their own.

I (off and on) set aside daily times of prayer for us. We have all served others together in many ways over the years. I disciple and teach them often on the importance of our character and living reflecting the faith we have in Christ and His holiness. I discuss with them essential doctrine to ensure strong understanding and equipping for the challenges they will face.

Who are two or three people you’re praying to know Jesus, and with whom have you most recently had a Gospel conversation?

Corey is someone who we have been praying for some time to know Christ. I have had Gospel conversations with him in the past. He is now serving outside the state. Last week, I prayerfully sent him a letter to encourage him and in which I outlined the Gospel once again.

John is a coworker and friend who I have been praying for years to turn to Christ. I have been meeting with John for months to support him in recent difficult events in his life. As part of that, we have reading the Bible together, praying, and discussing the Gospel. I am praying for him to find and begin attending a solid church near him.

Sarah is a member of my family and for whom I’ve been praying for the whole time I’ve been a Christian. I have had Gospel conversations with her several times, which are not easy conversations, but I continue to show her the love and power of God as much as possible.

Lead Elder Search Team Nominees

Dear Foothills Church Family,

We are grateful for the grace we have received from the Lord in answer to your prayers for us this last month. Please do not grow weary in that good work, and ask God to give us the wisdom and faith necessary to serve Foothills in a way that honors Christ.

Our next Family Meeting is May 19 from 4-5:30pm. During that meeting, and per our Bylaws, we will ask you to affirm the Elder Team Officers and the Lead Elder Search Team. These two groups are related to the next steps in our transition.

Over the last month we have prayed through the process to nominate both of these groups to you, and do so without reservation. We hope you will pray over them and be prepared to affirm them on Sunday, May 19 at 4pm.

  1. The Elder Team Officers (Bylaws section 6.5.2).
    • Gary Plooster, Chair
    • Jon Tso, Vice-Chair
    • David Gantenbein, Secretary
  2. The Lead Elder Search Team (Bylaws section 6.2.2):
    • Kevin Allen, Chair (Lay Elder)
    • Craig Anderson, (Vocational Elder)
    • Jeanne Nation, (Ministry Staff)
    • Ken Boeckler, (Deacon)
    • Kelly Jodon, (Member at Large)
    • Kyle Macleish, (Member at Large)
    • Beth Shook, (Member at Large)

A short-bio on the nominees for the Lead Elder Search Team can be found here.

Because of the resurrection of Jesus let us continue to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Trusting Jesus with you,

The Elder Team

Introducing Dennis Newkirk, Interim Pastor for Preaching

Immediately after we learned that Pastor Nate would leave Foothills to take a role with NAMB in Indiana the Pastoral Team began to pray and plan for our next steps in transition as a church. Per step one, we considered possible men to serve as our Interim Pastor for Preaching. We reviewed their experience in ministry, had conversations, considered their availability and watched several sermons. Today, the Pastoral Team is pleased to announce that Dennis Newkirk will serve as our Interim Pastor for Preaching beginning Sunday, February 3, 2019.

Dennis is the recently retired Pastor of Henderson Hills Baptist Church, Edmund, OK, where he served for 25 years. Prior to that, he served as a Pastor in TN, MO and CA. He is a graduate of GCU, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and California Graduate School of Theology. Marcia is an RN, and over the last 25 years, she has mentored wives of Pastors.

Both Dennis and Marcia are Phoenicians, and enjoying “retirement” here as the Founders of the Pastor Support Network, where they provide mentoring, counseling and other support to Pastors, Ministry families and churches.

As the Interim Pastor for Preaching, Dennis will serve Foothills as the primary preacher in Worship. At the same time, having led Henderson Hills through their transition to become an Elder Led-Deacon Served-Congregationally Governed Church, his experience and insight will be an invaluable asset to the Pastors and Foothills as we move through our own transition.

The Pastoral Team is grateful for God’s providential provision of Dennis Newkirk at this time in the life of our church. Please pray for Dennis and Marcia as they begin their service with us.

What In the World Is Lottie Moon?

If you’ve attended Foothills for more than 12 months, this is not the first time you’ve heard the phrase “Lottie Moon.” But you may not know that it isn’t actually a phrase, but rather, a name.

Lottie Moon is the namesake of the international missions offering that Foothills participates in every Christmas with Southern Baptist’s across the world. Lottie was just like today’s missionaries, laboring tirelessly so that people without access to the Gospel could come to know Jesus.

This is the first time you will hear about Lottie Moon this year but it will not be the last. We are using the next several months to intentionally impact the lives of those in our community and around the world.

As one who calls Foothills your church home, you will be challenged to contribute spiritually, financially and physically to the very same work Lottie dedicated her life to. We could not be more excited to see what God does through all of us this Christmas season.

Our Goal for 2018 = $40,000

What the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering accomplishes is providing direct funding for those who are going to do the physical work of delivering the gift of who Jesus is to people who do not yet know him.

There are opportunities to physically do the work of Jesus and there are opportunities to fund the work of Jesus. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is our way to fund the work of Jesus.

The challenge is clear and over the coming weeks we will continue to show you the work that is being accomplished through this amazing initiative and you are invited to continue the work of Lottie Moon.


If you’ve been attending Foothills for a while, you know we have a big food drive every September for Rio Vista Center. This year we are going to do something different for our local mission partners in South Phoenix: Rio Vista Center and Bridge Church. We are going to assault the problem of hunger to help Rio Vista feed the hungry.

Right here in our city, there are people who are hungry. Aaron Norwood, Director of Rio Vista Center, said that during the month of August, 2018, they served 5,165 food-insecure people. That’s food boxes that supplement SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and a monthly Rio Bag. In Arizona, 46.5% of households receiving SNAP benefits have children. 1 in 4 children in Arizona lives in poverty and is at risk of going to bed hungry. Arizona ranks 47 out of 50 states in the number of children who may not know where their next meal is coming from. These statistics came from FeedingAmerica.org.

But there’s a greater hunger and a greater need

More than a third of the people on the planet have never heard of Jesus. That’s over 2 billion people who live in a very hungry world.

In order to make collecting food more personal, to help you understand what hunger feels like, this year we want to be more intentional about how we ‘feed’ people. In order to help us understand the needs of the hungry in our community and around the world, we would like to connect hungry people’s need for food with our own food needs. To do that, we are unveiling The #HungerWeek Challenge!

For one week eat like the rest of the world. Spend $29 per person for food the week of September 16. On Sunday, September 23, bring in the groceries you would have purchased with the money you saved as an offering to defeat physical and spiritual hunger. Hunger doesn’t end. Will you eat less to feed more?

Make a difference by volunteering

Please consider volunteering at Rio Vista, not just for the month of September, but for three months, nine months or for an entire year. Think about volunteering as a family activity once a week or every other week. You could volunteer with your Foothills Group once a month. How about combining the two? Volunteer with your family weekly AND your Foothills Group monthly.

There will be a table in the lobby to answer any questions both Sundays, September 16 and 23. You could really be a blessing to the Rio Vista Center.

This is #HungerWeek!

Rio Vista Hygiene Kits

Phoenix is a beautiful, thriving city. It’s an amazing place to live. It can also be a tough place to live, especially in the summer with our extremely high temperatures, particularly if you’re homeless.

One simple way we can serve the homeless in Phoenix is by gathering essentials for hygiene kits that will be distributed to homeless people by our local missions partner – Rio Vista!

Over the next three Sundays: May 20, 27 and June 3, please bring travel sized toothpastes, toothbrushes, bar soaps, shampoos, and mouthwash to church; drop your donations in the red barrels on Sunday morning. Our JOY Group will assemble the Hygiene Kits and get them to Rio Vista for distribution!

If you’d like to help with this project, contact Kris Owen at mandcowen@cox.net. If you’d like to learn how you can serve directly at Rio Vista contact Brian McCoy at brianmccoy@foothillsbaptist.org.

Download the Foothills App

We want to take a minute to tell you about some exciting news with regards to a new app we developed for our church family. It’s easy and efficient in terms of how to get information, and we hope, engaging with regard to staying current and relevant with what’s going on in the life of our church.

You can download the app by searching Foothills Baptist Church in the Google Play or App Store.

We want to encourage you to give it a try as this is the member portal where you can access media content such as sermon videos, find information about events, access the directory, give, and much more.

If you have any questions, feel free to call our office at 480-759-2118. We would love to answer any of your questions.

Annie Offering for North American Missions

The Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions enables the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to train, resource and send missionaries to plant churches and help the hurting across the U.S., Territories and Canada.

Every gift to the Annie Offering – 100% – supports more than 5,000 missionaries across North America.

Our Goal for 2018 = $20,000

Foothills chooses to partner with NAMB through our giving because we have a shared faith and mission. To make the Good News of Jesus known to our neighbors across this nation. We partner locally with NAMB sponsored church planters like Anthony Cox at Mercy Hill Church, Phoenix, and Shea Ferguson at Freedom Life Church, Chandler.

Phoenix itself has been designated as a SEND City in recognition not only of the size of our city (#5 in the nation) but also because so many in our city have no relationship with Christ.

How You Can Help Reach The Lost

Over the next few weeks, you will be hearing us speak more about Annie Armstrong and how you can contribute to this offering. We are asking everybody to give above and beyond their normal giving. When you give to this offering, 100 percent of your gift will be transformed into missionary salaries and ministry supplies. Those missionaries and supplies will help others hear the message of Christ and respond in faith to His offer of salvation.

On Sunday, May 6, we will collect this offering during our two morning services. This will be your opportunity to give financially, and help us live out our core value of reaching lost people.

Sacrificial Giving and Lottie Moon

I grew up in Southern California, the third in a family of four girls; only six years separated the oldest and the youngest. Dad worked for the federal government and Mom stayed home and supplemented his income doing in-home daycare and decorating cakes. We lived in the town that my parents grew up in. Until I was nine years old we lived in a 2-bedroom house; in 1968 we moved into what I thought at the time was a mansion, four bedrooms on a cul-de-sac. It was the California Dream.

That cul-de-sac housed nine families, including about 23 children. Gosh, the memories… playing softball until zero dark thirty, using the manhole cover in the middle of the street as home plate, watching the family of teenaged boys two doors down race around the sidewalk on their roller skates, it was our own personal roller derby. But the family we played with the most lived across the street. Nine children were in that family, and I remember looking at my mom and saying, “why do they have a new car, how do they have brand new clothes in the latest fashion?” I’ll never forget her answer, which by the way was a stock answer for many things my sisters and I asked for, she’d say “I have other things to do with our money.” Not a very satisfying answer as far as I was concerned, but later, years later, it made sense.

We were the family that was at church all the time. Dad was Chairman of the Deacons, he was Sunday School Director for several years and always taught a Sunday School class. Mom taught a Sunday school class, Women’s Bible Study, G.A.s and she was in the choir. We were at every Sunday service, morning and night and never missed a Wednesday.

As I grew up into my middle school and high school years, I started to understand what Mom meant when she said “I have other things to do with my money.” Sending four girls to GA Camp, Youth Camp and all the school activities wasn’t easy. But Mom had a plan. In her room in the dresser drawer where she kept jewelry, handkerchiefs and scarves, there were lots of envelopes and all those envelopes had words on them. They would say things like Vacation, Camp, Shoes… some even said Roseanne, Stephanie, Penny or Pam. Those envelopes were filled with $1 bills, $5 bills, $10 bills and occasionally a $20 bill, just waiting to be needed. It may not have been every bit needed, but it was a start and it was planned.

Another envelope was there as well, this one was titled Offerings, not Tithe… Offerings. This was money set aside for the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings. And when those special times rolled around each year at Easter and Christmas, it wasn’t a surprise and it wasn’t a burden. The money was there to support those ministries. Yes, there were other things we could have done with our money, but my parents made the choice to give to missions. So yes, it was a sacrificial gift, but it wasn’t a burden, because it was planned and budgeted for. It was a gift freely given (an offering) because it was given to a ministry that we believed in and wanted to support.

Partnership in the Gospel

In the beginning of the letter of Philippians, Paul thanks God for the saints in Philippi, and in particular for their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul is thankful that the church of Philippi has partnered with him in order to advance the gospel to the nations (The Great Commission). Their partnership probably included a multitude of things but we can narrow it down to prayer and financial giving.

When I was going through seminary, my wife and I were able to pray for particular missionaries that our church had partnered with, but we found it difficult to give directly to that cause. We had been giving joyfully a portion of our income to our local church, but we wanted to come up with a plan to give directly to brothers and sisters on the ground that were doing the hard work of advancing the gospel in difficult places.

We were limited in income and I was limited in time, working part-time ministry and doing full-time school. However, I had a background in landscape design and installation and was fairly handy with doing odd jobs. With that background, I was able to take small landscaping jobs that I could start and complete on Friday’s and Saturday’s in order to bring in income that could go directly to the Lottie Moon offering. I was able to find some other random jobs to give to this effort as well. This extra income was not to make ends meet or to start a savings account or to get the best new product on the market. The goal for doing these jobs was so that I could directly partner with others to advance the gospel to the nations.

The exciting thing about this was that I was able to help some other college students from my church to think outside the box in how they could also take odd jobs to join in on this partnership in the gospel. A few guys helped me do the landscaping jobs, others started picking up extra shifts and over time to give directly to the gospel. Some picked up house sitting and pet sitting jobs to partner in the gospel. By God’s grace in the year of 2016, 30 college students gave over $10,000 to the Lottie Moon offering. This offering is what I prefer to give money to because it goes directly to the men and women on the ground doing the difficult work of advancing the gospel in difficult places.