|The Baptist association has been an important part of our history as Southern Baptists. It has been described as “the oldest cooperative unit in Baptist life tracing its existence back over 300 years.” Therefore, because of its long history, one could assume that the association must be effective in networking and helping churches in missions and ministry. But longevity of an organization doesn’t guarantee its relevance and value. |
I have participated in associations that were effective and viewed as important by member churches. However, I’ve also seen associations where the focus had subtly shifted from serving and assisting churches to maintaining the associational staff and budget. So, what determines the effectiveness of an association? While the answer to this question is in some part determined by the context of the association and its member churches, there are some basic principles that can be applied to any association of churches.
Several years ago, Hugh Townsend (North American Mission Board) and others presented a model for a 21st Century Association known as the Four F’s: Fast, Focused, Flexible, and Friendly. It’s something that I have referred Kentucky associations to on numerous occasions. I would suggest that the leadership of every Baptist association or network of churches evaluate their effectiveness through the lens of these four F’s. Consider building the association’s structure and documents around these as well.
Fast – How long does it take your association to make a decision to spend $1,000? If a church has a need to be met, or the association has a ministry opportunity for its churches that it is made aware of, how fast can you meet it? Can you do so within hours or days, or does it take weeks and months? Effective associations are able to minister effectively in a short period of time.
Focused – Priority-based core values, mission, vision. Focus on taking the association to the churches… and when they need it. Customize what you do. Is the association’s focus on serving the churches and assisting them in advancing the Gospel, or is there a mindset that the churches are there for the association? The focus of the association should be on assisting the churches in their mission of reaching the lost and discipling the saved.
Flexible – How do you respond to immediate or emerging opportunities and needs? Is your structure flexible enough to meet church needs and conduct mission and ministry opportunities as they arise, or is it necessary to wait three or more months until the next Executive Committee or Annual Meeting to get approval? An Administrative Team or other committee/team should have the ability to adapt and readily meet the needs of the churches and the community. The structure should be simple, effective, and welcoming to new pastors and churches as well as to existing ones.
Friendly –Do the churches find the association ready and able to provide assistance and resourcing at their point of need and in a timely fashion? Is your association staff and leadership pastor/church friendly, or are they more concerned about not being inconvenienced? Is it relatively easy and simple for a pastor/church leader to contact the person needed and access the info/material that is available, or is it difficult?
Based on the Four F’s, how effective is your association? If associations aren’t effective, they will cease to exist because they are no longer of value to local churches.
by Eric Allen, Leader, Missions Mobilization Team, Kentucky Baptist Convention, June 2019.
Linda Otterback’s ministry has taken a lot of different turns. In early 2001 she was scheduled for a mission trip to El Salvador. When the trip had to be cancelled, Linda received a phone call asking if she would like to go to Fleming-Neon instead. “What country is that in?” Linda asked.
Linda soon learned that Fleming-Neon is in Eastern Kentucky. She said “yes” to that mission trip, which began the Eastern Kentucky SONrise ministry that is still active today. Linda and her husband Larry poured their hearts into the Eastern Kentucky area, where they have led prayer meetings, women’s and men’s conferences, gathered much needed resources (clothing, diapers, household furniture, Christmas gifts), and led mission teams to the EKY area. They have also been such encouragers for many residents, as well as missionaries that serve in eastern Kentucky.
Larry and Linda were married 52 years, grew up in church together, and served together as North American Mission Board MSC Missionaries. Larry served in this position for 12 years until health issues forced him to step down. On September 30, 2016 Larry went to his heavenly home and Linda was left to serve alone.
After Larry went “home” Linda felt her life was over. “I couldn’t sleep or eat for almost a year,” she said. “I cried every night and much during the day. I put on a great face to others, but really had hit the bottom. My kids were concerned that they had lost me also. But, PTL for friends, family and God who didn’t let me stay there. I started reading the Psalms in detail after Larry passed. I believe God wrote them for me especially!! They hadn’t meant as much before, but now I see how HE spoke to me through my trials and valleys. I still miss my man so very much but have found that God has much yet for me to do.”
The summer before Larry passed, God spoke to Linda in a dream saying she would be doing a widow’s ministry. So, in the midst of her grief, God led Linda to use her experience and her role as a “widow” to begin a ministry to others who had lost their husbands. Thus, “Kentucky Joy in the Mourning” was born.
Widows all across Kentucky have challenges and are in need of God, our churches, and each other to help them through this journey. “Kentucky Joy in the Mourning” reaches out to them to share stories, encourage, minister, and give insight on how to navigate this season of life.
Linda, along with the “Kentucky Joy in the Mourning” team, is available for church workshops, retreats, speaking engagements, luncheons and conferences. If you know a widow who is struggling, or if you feel led to begin a widow’s ministry in your church, please contact Linda at [email protected]. Visit their website (www.kybaptist.org/widows) to download resources, or connect with “Kentucky Joy in the Mourning” on Facebook.
Praise be to the God… who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
Their smiles, colorful outfits, upbeat music, movements and songs had the crowd captivated. While the room was filled with likely 1500 guests, everyone’s attention as they filed toward their tables was on the children. The IMB hosted dinner at the SBC annual meeting began with the beautiful Swahili children’s choir singing in their heart language. We then saw the gospel in sign language and later prayed for soon appointed IMB missionaries. All these special treats represented the importance of numbers for the SBC.
Every year Southern Baptist churches compile internal stats in order to report for the Annual Church Profile (ACP). Each church sends these numbers to their state convention—numbers which cover multiple categories like membership, worship attendance, small group attendance, baptisms, mission participation, etc. These numbers intend to represent, for the most part, the health of the local church in a given year. Numbers represent health ultimately because they represent people. The SBC is ultimately about people—making disciples of all peoples (Matt 28:16-20).
While numbers do not tell the whole story, they do reveal an important part of the life of the church. To minimize numbers is to ignore the importance of numbers in the Bible. After all, a whole book in the Bible is called Numbers in order to number the people of Israel after their wilderness wondering. So, while we don’t place all our emphasis upon numbers, we dare not overlook the importance of numbers.
In fact, the Bible speaks of a great multitude (of people) so large that no one could count the number. John the revelator wrote in Revelation 7:9-10 of this “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . . crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
John’s words in the last book of the Bible remind us that numbers matter, massive numbers at that. This great multitude gathers around the throne of God and the Lamb declaring that salvation belongs to our God and the Lamb. To be sure, these around the throne are around the throne because salvation brought them there, salvation from God through the Lamb.
Our new IMB president, Paul Chitwood, reminded us so well this week at our annual SBC meeting why we exist as a denomination (Rev 7:9). The work is still not complete. John did not promise an incalculable number from some nations nor a few tribes, peoples and languages, but all! Jesus will not be worshiped by some peoples of the world and praised by many languages on this planet. He will be praised and prized by all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages.
We exist for this reason as the Southern Baptist Convention. Under the “big tent” of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, though differences remain, our common doctrinal commitment allows us, rather compels us, to work together for Revelation 7:9.
Let’s not forget that numbers matter. Though not telling the whole story, numbers tell an important one. We aim for a number so large that no one can count. We long for people from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. To this work we set our sights because numbers matter.
When disasters strike, we must avoid the urge to throw out pat answers or offer flippant explanations. So how do we answer those struggling in the aftermath of disasters?
- We grieve with those who suffer. Suffering causes us to pause, to look at the hard questions, and should move us to weep with those who are weeping. Grieving hearts need someone to come alongside them. They do not need pat answers and simple explanations. Followers of Christ should be the first to respond with grace, love, and generous help. Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are often among the first to respond in the aftermath of disasters, and seek to bring help, healing, and hope to those affected.
- We should be reminded of our many blessings. Life is a gift. Even the air that we breath is a gift from God. We should never trivialize the suffering, but we should also not forget all the goodness that we have been blessed with in life. God is good every day and even in the trying days, He has blessed us greatly.
- We must decide how we will respond to God. We can be angry with God or we can trust Him. We can question His goodness, or we can worship Him. Disasters remind us that tomorrow is uncertain, so we had better be prepared for eternity. The only way to be prepared for the uncertainty of life and for eternity is to know God in a personal relationship through Jesus Christ.
- We must rest our lives on a solid foundation. The Bible encourages us to build our lives on a foundation that cannot be shaken. Disasters remind us that this earth as we know it now will not go on forever. There is a time coming when time will cease, and this world will be gone in the twinkling of an eye. Tragedies teach us that the only sure hope is to know God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to have the assurance of the life that He alone can give. The uncertainties of disasters remind us to prepare for the certainties that are to come. The only sure foundation to build one’s life upon is to know God and to rest our lives in His truth.
2 Corinthians 6:2
” For He says: I heard you in an acceptable time, and I helped you in the day of salvation. Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.”
If you would like to know more about how you can become a disaster relief volunteer or how you can know Jesus Christ in a personal relationship, contact us at [email protected] .