In this book, we have learned about the history, heritage, and hallmarks of associations and associational leaders. Now we come to the hope, the future of associationalism in the Southern Baptist Convention. We must keep in mind that churches formed each association to be a help to them in advancing the Gospel. If an association is not helping, it will sooner or later be perceived as irrelevant (and rightly so).
AMSs Should Be Well-Respected, Growing Leaders
Every Associational Mission Strategist (AMS) should be committed to growing spiritually, emotionally, strategically, and relationally, or he will be left behind. If the leader falls behind, the association will flounder. Too many associational leaders—and one is too many—have coasted to retirement, stopped growing and casting vision, and therefore, have simultaneously hindered God’s work and given associational leaders a bad name. AMSs should lead out of their spiritual gifts right up to their last day on the job. Attitude—not age—is the determining factor for success. With age comes valuable experience and wisdom. That is why most AMSs are over 50. I have known numerous AMSs who have shown exemplary leadership in their sixties and seventies. Their success was not due to their age. It was due to their continued work ethic, wisdom, and forward thinking.
On the other side of that coin, just because they may have had a negative experience with one or two in the past, pastors and denominational leaders should not categorize AMSs negatively. Most AMSs are hard-working servant leaders, and pastors should appreciate and respect the role of AMS. Regardless of the size of the association (a number of associations have more churches than some state conventions), the position is an important one in SBC life.
Associational Search Committees must be careful to keep the bar high - and not lower it -when calling a leader. Whether the AMS is full-time, bivocational, or a volunteer leader, the association needs to pray much and set the bar high. Aim for someone pastors respect, with skill in collaborative leadership, the ability to cast vision, obtain consensus, and carry out a workable Acts 1:8 strategy.
The AMS should be a teachable, humble, servant leader. “Without guidance a people will fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.” [i] “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” [ii] Too many spiritual leaders of all stripes do not continue to seek wise, godly counsel. I regularly tell the ministry teams in my association, “Anything can be improved except the Bible.” Keep improving, AMS! Yourself. Your marriage. Your family. Your association. Your leadership skills. Your preaching skills. Make it a habit to attend the SBCAL Annual Conference and other peer learning conferences for associational leaders.
To the praise of His glory,
Quotable Quote: Leadership requires you to bounce back and forth between different times: past, present, and future. You cannot dwell on past successes to the point that it squashes innovation and room for growth. You cannot live only by the tyranny of the urgent in your everyday work in the present. And you cannot allow the future to become either a daydream or a nightmare that stifles your strategies. Jumping back and forth between past realities, current demands, and future challenges is what leadership is all about (which is why the exhaustion that sets in from all that time travel is a bit like jet lag after crossing the ocean!).
Trevin Wax, 3.26.20, Leadership, Vulnerability, and Living in Three Times
[ii] Proverbs 16:18