A lot of people are asking if there is still a place for the local association in SBC life, and my answer is a firm YES. I am not going to deny the reality that many local associations are virtually lifeless, but I am also not ready to write them all off as obsolete organizations of antiquity. Churches could be greatly benefitted by having a healthy association in their corner.
I pastored a small church in small-town Oklahoma that, when I arrived, was having some very difficult conversations. The goal was to just keep the doors open one week at a time, but when I left, the church was in an entirely different situation. There were several factors that fueled that turnaround, and one of the largest was our local association and director of missions. He believed in me and in our little church. When everyone else thought we were done, he was ready to invest more. He gave us his time and attention. For example, on more than one occasion the association chose to serve our church for their summer mission trip. One summer, groups from the churches came to our facilities and helped us demolish an old parsonage that was becoming a hazard to the community. This was a project that would have cost our church thousands of dollars that we did not have, but the whole thing was done free of charge. Nothing gets a church excited like having heavy machinery on the property. In fact, the local newspaper came out and took pictures of the project and published a story in the paper informing the community about the progress of our church. The community knew that our church was not out for the count, because of the work of the local association.
We need to revive local associations all over the country, because there is no other organization out there that is on the ground serving our churches on such a personal level. Sure there is work to be done, and the system is not perfect, but it will definitely be worth the investment. My story is not unique, and I know there are churches out there who are crying out for help and a dedicated local association might just be the answer they have been looking for. Over the next few weeks I am going to be addressing some issues concerning local associations and my vision for their future. I also want to dedicate these blogs to DuWayne Colvin the director of mission for the North Canadian Baptist Association in Oklahoma.