Originally Published in Arkansas Baptist News
Associations have had a tremendous impact upon
Baptist life for more than 300 years. Through them,
regional churches meet for partnership and fellowship.
Associations enable local churches to encourage and assist
one another in reaching their region for Christ. The heart
of associational work has always been missions, whether
it is local, state, national or global.
The association is a lifeline for small and rural churches.
It allows them to participate in programs that they could
not do alone. The association is a repository for materials
and equipment that member churches can use.
It provides educational opportunities for pastors and
lay leaders. It enables children to attend Christian camps,
and it networks with area churches for various programs
(vacation Bible school, evangelism, etc.) It facilitates
partnerships for national and international mission trips.
The director of missions (DOM) or associational missionary
is a vital link between the member churches of the association.
He has a multifaceted task. He encourages pastors and
church leaders in their ministry. He facilitates churches by
providing statistics for churches and the state convention.
He trains ministers and lay people in their tasks. He promotes
a wide range of mission opportunities. He serves
as an example of what a Christian leader should be.
Modern times have not always been kind to the association.
Many churches find the association irrelevant. Mobility
and electronics have moved churches from interdependene
to independence. At times, it is easier to contact a specialist
than to find the DOM. These changes may have affected the
association, but its mission remains the same: partnership
Though times have changed, the association can still be an
important and vital part of Baptist life. It is up to the member
churches to decide how important and vital it is.