Associational Mission Strategists (AMSs) are often asked to assist churches when one of their pastors leaves their church. They may be asked to fill the pulpit for one or more Sundays, train the Pastor Search Committee, and/or recommend Pulpit Supply, Interim Pastor Candidates, or Transitional Interim Pastor Candidates. They may even be asked to serve as the Interim Pastor, although some associations do not allow that option.
I am aware that some are of the persuasion that hosting conferences and workshops are passe. I am not saying every AMS needs to do these conferences. I will say that you need to know how God has gifted you and operate out of your spiritual gifts as much as possible. My gifts are administration, exhortation, and shepherding. Therefore, organizing Pastors Conferences, and other conferences and workshops comes relatively easy for me, whereas for others, it would be very difficult. However, if you are not gifted in this area, and yet you see the need to offer what we are talking about, pray and ask the Lord to raise up someone gifted in administration who can help you host a training conference with excellence.
Thank you to those of you who were able to attend our 2021 SBCAL Nashville Annual Conference. We had total attendance of 440, which is the largest attendance in probably 14+ years. Over 50 participated in our Prospective and New AMS Pre-Conference.
Thank you, also, for the privilege of serving as your President & CEO. I consider it a joy, an honor, and a great stewardship responsibility to serve you in this role since July 1, 2015, in addition to serving my own association in metro Atlanta.
The SBCAL is the oldest and largest associational network in the SBC, founded in 1960. We had planned to celebrate our 60th anniversary last year in Orlando. Even though we were unable to do so, we included an historical chart in the Program that we will put on our website. It is the best data we have been able to find, but If you know of any corrections, please email them to me.
In Dallas in 2018, the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL), the oldest and largest associational network in the SBC, adopted a major report issued by a blue-ribbon Study Team. That Report is one of the appendices in the new book, “The Baptist Association,” that I edited for SBCAL. The 17 Proficiencies of an Effective Associational Leader were introduced, and a new descriptor based on those proficiencies was also introduced and unanimously adopted by associational leaders from across the USA: Associational Mission Strategist, or AMS for short.
For some time now, I have noticed that many of my pastors are discouraged and sometimes depressed because the usual metrics of ministry “success” – increasing numbers of bodies, budgets, and baptisms – are not happening. In fact, those numbers – with the possible exception of budgets – are not only not increasing, but they are generally decreasing.
In “The Gospel-Driven Church,” Jared Wilson, Author in Residence, Midwestern Seminary and Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministry, Spurgeon College, Kansas City, MO, challenges churches to measure more than “bodies and budgets” because there is nothing uniquely Christian about these types of increases. He says businesses grow in these ways. Heretical ministries grow in these ways. I think he makes a valid point.
Many of you already know the importance of pastors gathering with pastors in small groups for peer learning. I learned the importance of it from some of you several years ago. But I believe there are a number of Associational Mission Strategists (AMSs) who do not have such groups in their associations yet. I encourage you to prayerfully consider implementing such a ministry. It has been very well received in my association.
Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another. Pr. 27:17 (CSB)
Peer learning groups – usually of 3-5, though that number can vary – are wonderful ways to experience and apply Pr. 27:17 if the focus is on sharpening one another spiritually, emotionally, and missionally.
Have you ever considered the possibility of your association merging with a neighboring association? There are usually good reasons to do so. This month I seek to answer these questions: “Why should associations consider merging?” “When should associations consider merging?” and “What are some obstacles to associations merging?”
I hope you had a refreshing time with family and friends during the Christmas and New Year’s break. I did.
One of the things I have learned and applied from reading James Clear’s blog a couple of years ago is how to become a steady reader instead of just an occasional one. For many years I have wanted to read more books than I have actually been able to do. I would start and stop - perhaps read one book, but then go months before picking up another one. James had the same problem. He found that if he read just 20 pages a day that he would be able to read well over 30 books a year.
I often hear Associational Mission Strategists (AMSs) say they have difficulty connecting and engaging the pastors of larger churches in their associations. It can be difficult – especially if the larger churches feel that they do not “need” the association, or that the association is not “adding value” to them. Sometimes these pastors do not perceive much value being given even to their normative size church peers. What are some ways an AMS can effectively engage his larger churches?
I’m Ray Gentry, the husband of Debra & father of April & Allison. I serve over 80 congregations on the southside of Atlanta as Associational Mission Strategist of the Southside Baptist Network. I am also the President/CEO of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL). I’ve served Southern Baptist churches & associations in various roles for over 35 years.