Most Southern Baptists are familiar with the term “Association” since each church is typically part of a local Association of Baptist churches, historically because of geographic location, but sometimes because of theology or doctrinal positions.
Associations of Baptist churches have been around since 1650 and their purpose has changed over the years to reflect the needs of member churches. The first Associations in England existed to encourage fellowship and assistance between member churches. Some of the first Baptist Associations in America were instrumental in developing a broader concern for missions. Decades to follow saw Associations change from a focus on their congregations to being program promoters of the SBC and state conventions. Years later another philosophical shift took place and the role of the Association was to develop a local missions programs with local strategies.
The role of the Association over the years has also been to:
- lead and assist churches to impact lostness through church planting, community ministry and evangelism.
- support and assist churches in the making of disciples through leader development, training and resources.
- lead churches to cooperate and accomplish what one church cannot do alone.
- provide strength and support for needy churches.
- commend individuals to ministry at other churches.
- maintain doctrinal and moral integrity of churches.
What do you believe should be the role of the Baptist Association today?
The role of the Baptist Association will continue to change and must, if it is going to endure and remain relevant in our constantly changing world.
Josh Ellis, Unity Baptist Association, Houston, Texas, has said that:
“If an organization is relevant, it will endure. If not,whatever replaces it will demonstrate what was needed.”
What is needed in your Association and will your church commit with others to that purpose? In light of our current reality, there’s never been a more critical time for Association’s to re-dream and evaluate their role. I challenge Associations to assess and review their current strategies and organizational structure to ensure they are providing value and effective ministry assistance to their member churches.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention offers assistance to Associations wishing to review current structure, evaluate effectiveness or develop new strategies. I believe strongly that Baptist Associations today must be functional, streamlined and practical in their approach to strategically challenge and assist member churches in fulfilling the Great Commission.