“From time to time, associations have been guilty of telling churches what they need rather than asking them what they need, sometimes simply providing churches with whatever the state and national denominational entities were offering. Too often, associations viewed the denominational stamp as the sign of relevance and then reacted in horror when churches did not demand the product they were selling.” (SBCLife; Baptist Associations, page 17, Pre-Convention Special Issue, 2013)
May is typically a month that receives attention to association life in Southern Baptist history. Emphasis is placed on SBC calendars every year. An association of local churches has been important to me in all of my ministry years. They’ve not all been pleasant, but the local association is vitally important to me. Because they have been vitally important, they have been extremely painful when relationships suffer.
My observation over the past two decades have left me on the verge wanting to walk away from the association as she seems to have become more of a non-functioning non-profit than a helpful partner in the gospel work of the the church. There has been a tendency, from time to time, for the association to view itself as an authority rather than a servant to the Lord’s bride, the church. I think this can be said of state conventions and national denomination agencies as they become more corporately structured and less of a roadway for partnership.
I have respect for association and denominational leaders. I think the motivation of the men and women I know personally desire to live out their role as a helper to churches and not as regional bishops or pastor to pastors. Without meaning, local pastors begin to look at association or denominational leaders as pastors to their church some how. This is not the fault of the association or denominational leader alone; I think the one that opens this door is the local pastor or church. Rather than looking to Christ, the head of the local church, the pastor or church begins to look to another.
9Marks has just published their May/June journal, and the topic is associations. I highly recommend it to all of my pastor friends and church members. The journal is lengthy as a whole but full of short articles on various helpful conversations on the need for churches to associate with churches. Enjoy…