This megaregion has the most potential right now of being the epicenter of kingdom life in north America. Even so, I'm a little reluctant to write about the Nazarene presence on the Arizona Sun megaregion.
I am afraid people will not like what the numbers say about Nazarene presence in this geographic area, mainly because of the political and ethnic boundaries that traverse the border between the United States and Mexico. I have heard a story from a local church on this megaregion, in which a good number of parishioners got up and left the sanctuary during a worship service when a Scripture passage was read in Spanish. It was a few years ago, but not too long ago to be easily forgotten by the first language Spanish speakers present on that morning.
Nazarene presence in the Arizona Sun megaregion includes several ethnic identities, regardless of national boundaries. Nazarene churches are found in a landmass that stretches not only from the high deserts and extinct volcanoes surrounding Flagstaff but also crosses the U.S.-Mexico border into the Sonora state of Mexico and its capital of Hermasillo.
Add into this mixture the local churches from the Nazarene districts known as Southwest Latin American and Southwest Native American that contribute a portion of local churches to this megaregion, some of these churches are less than a mile from churches on the Arizona district. Same neighborhood, same denomination, different organizational structure and missional strategy. The boundaries of church polity do not easily make sense any more than the national and political boundaries that dissect this geography.
I do not dismiss the ability or necessity for districts that are ethnically identified to self-regulate without intrusion from dominant cultural expectations. I think gathering in this way can be helpful at times, however . . . Geographically, politically, ethnically, economically, and administratively, this megaregion makes for a major headache in terms of missional strategy in local context. The context needs to be regarded as the same place. All local eyes are necessary to localize fully the church's presence there.
All local eyes are necessary to localize fully
I have already analyzed the Arizona district churches as part of the Southern California megaregion. So, as one reads the data analysis of SoCal it will include numbers from the Arizona Sun analysis. It is still important to take a specific look at the Arizona Sun megaregion as a particular context because of its complexity.
This analysis does not include every church from the Nazarene districts found within the Arizona Sun's general and estimated borders. There are a few churches on the southern and northern edges that are outside of the north-south corridor of U.S. Interstates of I-17, I-10, I-19, and Mexican Federal Highway 15. These highways string together the cities (north to south) of Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales, and Hermasillo. There is Nogales, Arizona in the United States as well as a Nogales, Sonora in Mexico.
In this study, I have included some churches as northern boundaries. Along I-40, the northern border of this megaregion includes eastward from Ash Fork to Sun Valley churches (Arizona District) along Interstate-40, including Round Cedar (Native American) as a entrance into the Hopi Reservation.
Show Low traces the eastern border so as to include the several Native American reservations (Fort Apache and San Carlos) in eastern Arizona. The southern churches include Brisbee (Arizona District) and Agua Prieta (Mexico Northwest) along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as Guaymas and Ciudad Obregon to the south of Hermasillo (Mexico Northwest).
In other words, I made a judgment call to not include Yuma, Arizona to the west or the entire collection of local churches in the Hopi Reservation north of I-40, and churches north of Flagstaff, such as Cameron. I needed to be somewhat faithful to the notion that the Arizona Sun corridor unites this megaregion in terms of transportation, commerce, and education.