- some may give the association the “dead” name without realizing failure to lead their church to be involved locally hinders their own church members from the joy of building meaningful ministry relationships with fellow believers in their immediate area.
- some have experienced an associational leader who lacked the calling, training, leadership ability, or vision to enable effective collaborative mission involvement among the churches.
- some have experienced an associational leader who coasted toward retirement.
- some larger church pastors – and pastors who grew up in mega churches – have falsely concluded that associations are dead because they have not experienced the need for and the benefits of associational missions first hand. They have felt that their church could pretty much “do it all” themselves, whereas the vast majority of churches cannot.
- some pastors and church leaders are not willing to follow the leadership of a DOM/AMS because they are so focused on growing their church that they do not see the importance of growing God’s kingdom – starting in their own Jerusalem (Acts 1:8).
The Baptist association is the earliest expression of local church missional cooperation, predating state conventions by decades. The first Baptist association in America was the Philadelphia Association, founded in 1707. The Charleston (SC) Association was the first association in the south, founded in 1751. Baptist associations are rich in heritage and accomplishments, including the raising up of missionaries and mission organizations, and the founding of Baptist colleges, hospitals, children’s homes, state conventions, and numerous other ministries.
Associations are, likewise, vital partners in missions and ministry still today – the closest Baptist entity to the local church, created by and for local churches to do missions and ministry beyond what the churches could do individually.
No, local Baptist associations are not dead. Many, in fact, are thriving, and there seems to be a renaissance of the importance of associations in SBC life, though some are struggling.
For a local association to not only survive, but to thrive, it needs to be led by a visionary mission strategist supported with the consistent prayers, participation, and provision (funding) of the local churches that created it.
In today’s Southern Baptist ecosystem the need for – and the importance of – effective Associational Mission Strategists (AMSs) who lead their associations well, is becoming more and more valued.
Why? Because strategic associational leaders…
- are able to effectively assist their churches in fulfilling the Great Commission, whereas any one church – regardless of size – cannot do it alone
- see their cities/counties as the local mission field that it is
- foster a sense of churches being on mission together – not islands unto themselves
- believe Acts 1:8 starts at home
- assist churches in Church Planting
- assist churches in Church Revitalization and Church Strengthening
- assist state conventions in credentialing new churches in most states
- assist churches with well-rounded ordination councils for new ministers of the Gospel
- assist churches with Pastor Search Committee training
- coach, counsel, consult, and mentor pastors and church leaders as requested
- have a kingdom mindset, a servant heart, and the best interests of their churches in mind
Is your local Baptist Association dead? I hope not. Is it in need of renewal and a refocus? Perhaps. If so, I hope you will prayerfully consider ways to help it, rather than to bury it.
Some associational leaders have the calling, training, ability, and vision to lead effective collaborative mission involvement among the churches, but they lack the resources to do so.
I hope you will choose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Pastor, staff, church leader – will you make yourself available, your facility available, and needed financial resources available to make your Associational Mission Strategist a success, as much as it depends on you? Your association cannot thrive without it.
To the praise of His glory,
P. S. This article was written for the Fall 2019 edition of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Pastor/Church Relations magazine, and is used by permission.
Quotable Quote: "A habit is a lifestyle to be lived, not a finish line to be crossed. Make small, sustainable changes you can stick with.” James Clear, Thursday 3-2-1, November 21, 2019