FIRST-PERSON: Pastor, love your Baptist association
NASHVILLE (BP) -- The missions strategy for Southern Baptist Convention ministry through our churches is found in Acts 1:8, in which Jesus states:
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
-- "Jerusalem" is missions through our local churches and Baptist associations to our "Jerusalem."
-- "Judea" is missions through our state Baptist conventions to our states.
-- "Samaria" entails missions through our North America Mission Board to unchurched areas of the United States and Canada.
-- "The uttermost part of the earth" encompasses missions through our International Missions Board to unreached peoples in all nations of the world.
In tandem with our churches, the Baptist association is the first line of biblical missions. In this season when many local associations are holding their annual meetings, it is an opportune time to lovingly encourage pastors to be active and supportive. In other words, love your association.
By way of testimony, God has allowed me to serve as a Baptist pastor since 1969, such a holy honor. In each ministry, the director of missions/associational missionary and associational relationships have been a strength and blessing to my walk with Christ and ministry. Thank you to the DOMs who have led those associations -- Robert Mizelle, Wesley Pitts, Dennis Pulley, Rick Stevens, Robert Tyson, Rusty Sumrall.
Pastor, here are a few reasons for being active in support, involvement and attendance in our local associations.
Missions vision begins at home. Your associational DOM will be a great guide and resource as churches do local missions. Every DOM wants to be a help to the churches and a catalyst for new church plants and reaching souls for Christ and the Gospel. As we unite with the vision of our state conventions, the association is more important than ever. As the late British missionary C.T. Studd once said, "The light that shines farthest shines brightest at home."
Continuing education is a great benefit of attending associational meetings and pastors' conferences. We must be lifelong learners. Each associational gathering teaches us about missions, Bible study and church leadership, thus aiding us to be more effective pastors.
Doctrinal issues in Baptist life have been best addressed by the local association, which predates both the state and national conventions. Great doctrinal statements like the 1742 Philadelphia Confession of Faith guided Baptist churches long before other great statements came along. The 1925 Baptist Faith and Message is modeled after this 1742 associational confession. When doctrinal issues arise among Baptist churches, the local association can address and handle them in an efficient manner better than at a state or national level.
Relationships we build in the association will make us and the church we serve stronger and more fruitful. Younger pastors need the wisdom of seasoned veteran pastors. Veteran pastors need the bright spirits of the younger pastor. We need each other. The "Lone Ranger" pastor is not the biblical model. We are soldiers together in Christ's army. The DOM will be a friend and counselor for pastors. "Together for the Gospel" is our motto.
Prayer support is our continual need. We are to "pray one for another" (James 5:16), and associational relationships give us many prayer partners. The sincere fervent prayers of fellow believers will carry the pastor as we fight the battles of life and ministry.
So, pastor friend, let's love our association. We will be better laborers for God and our people. The local Baptist association is a blessing to the life and work of a pastor and a strength to the mission of our churches.