The importance of the local association in church revitalization
The first Baptist association was formed in 1707 and represents the oldest form of cooperation in Baptist life in the United States. Now, some 312 years later, local associations are still the primary place Southern Baptist churches cooperate together.
As a church replanter or church revitalization pastor, your local association is one of the first places you will experience fellowship with co-laborers in ministry. Many local associations continue to meet monthly for worship and fellowship. If yours does, I would encourage you to get involved early in your ministry and attend as often as possible.
I had the privilege of serving on the Executive Board of the local association when I was a youth pastor in Texas. The pastor I served with believed strongly in the work of the association and made sure to take me along for pastor fellowships and monthly meetings. At the time, I didn’t understand why. Now, as a pastor, I understand. I’ve had the privilege of serving Vice-Moderator and Disaster Relief Coordinator for our local association in New Mexico, and now I’m serving as the Moderator and Discipleship Coordinator.
If you are a young pastor, the local association will provide you a wonderful opportunity to glean from the wisdom of older pastors. In many cases, they can help you understand the dynamics of your community. Your Director of Missions/Association Missions Strategist can often give you important insight into the history of the church you now lead.
Here are three reasons the local association should be your first level of cooperation in church revitalization.
1. The pastors in your local association are your closest brothers in ministry. I mean this in the most literal sense possible. They are the closest SBC churches in proximity to you. In some cases, you might be able to see other churches in your association from your church’s front door. Wouldn’t it make sense for us to partner with churches in our community? Perhaps the church you now serve even planted — or was planted by — another church in your community. If you have begrudged another church of like faith and practice for infringing on “your territory,” you need to repent before the Lord and that pastor. You are not competing with one another; you are on the same team, working to push back the darkness and see the kingdom of God expand!
2. The pastors in your association bring a wealth of ministry knowledge to the table. I recently had coffee with a retired pastor in our association and I realized that, by himself, he had more ministry experience than myself and another pastor my age combined! When the pastors from your local association gather, it’s likely there are hundreds of years of combined experience. It would be arrogant and foolish of us to think we don’t have something to learn from one another.
3. When we partner, we communicate to our churches and communities what we believe about the gospel. If we don’t partner, we also communicate something. What do you want to communicate?
Brothers, I cannot encourage you enough to be involved in your local association. If the pastors from the churches in your association don’t gather often just to fellowship and pray, I would encourage you to contact your DOM to set that up. (If you’re in an association without a DOM, you make that call to the other pastors!)
As we move from a post-Christian to a pre-Christian culture in the United States, we will need brothers in ministry more than ever.
That reminds me: I have some phone calls to make.