Baptist associations have been around since 1707, and there were already 125 local associations of Baptist churches established by 1814. Over the years, associations have served a variety of purposes and still do today because each association operates autonomously from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) or state convention. The direction and mission of each Baptist association is determined by messengers from churches that are members of the local association. Most associations have a Director of Missions who is responsible for leading the mission and ministry of the association as determined by messengers from the churches in regular meetings. Although associations function in many different ways as determined by the churches, there is one primary purpose that should not be overlooked– and that is, that they function missionally or as a catalyst for missions. When you consider all that your local association does, would you call it missional? I hope so, but I suspect that in some cases, that is not the word that comes to mind. What does it mean for an association of churches to function as a missions organization with a leader they refer to as a Director of Missions (or DOM)?
Johnny Rumbaugh, who is a well-respected and excellent DOM in South Carolina, recently shared what he thought were the Four Functions of a Missional Baptist Association. I want to share them with you for your consideration as you think about the association that your church is part of. If you’d like to see your association more missional, get busy. Churches that participate in the association are positioned to create change and give new direction to the association. Get involved and serve as a catalyst for the kind of change needed to make your association function in a more missional way.
1. Plant (Start) – “Start something new”
Here are a few basic starter ideas for planting something new:
- Identify communities where your churches can be on mission
- Offer training for churches to start missional community groups
- Lead churches to participate in planting a new church(es)
2. Strengthen (Nourish) – “Strengthen something old”
Here are few basic starter ideas for strengthening churches:
- Coach churches in developing a plan for leading toward spiritual health
- Introduce struggling churches to the missional concept of merging or restarting
- Lead in developing a plan for connecting healthy churches with unhealthy ones
3. Partner (Collaborate) – “Partner with someone somewhere”
Here are a few basic starter ideas for missional collaboration:
- Enlist churches to collaborate to meet significant local mission needs
- Encourage churches to partner with a plant/planter somewhere
- Lead churches to connect to national and international mission opportunities
4. Multiply (Produce) – “Produce disciples somehow”
Here are a few basic starter ideas for a greater harvest:
- Continuously cast a vision for churches to make disciples who make disciples who plant churches
- Equip churches to have a disciple-making-disciple plan
- Lead in creating a culture conducive for churches to embrace a disciple-making and church planting multiplication movement.