By Steve Aycock
In a recent conference for Associational Directors of Missions held in Nashville prior to the Southern Baptist Convention, the question was actually allowed to surface.
Why the association?
Is there still a need for the association in Baptist life? Much of the program and talk concerned the purpose and future of the Baptist association. High-powered speakers like Jimmy Draper, George Bullard, Nodell Dennis, D. L. Lowrie, O.S. Hawkins and John Yarbrough addressed the needs of associations and directors of missions.
The results were very informative and inspirational. Some of their thoughts, and my own, appear below.
The association is vital because churches need one another. No church by itself is able to reach its full potential in ministry unless it cooperates with other churches. We need one another for mutual strength and encouragement. We learn from one another's successes and failures what works and what doesn't in our missions and evangelism endeavors. We hold one another accountable for faithfulness to the gospel.
In the Fredericksburg Baptist Association, we are able to start new churches, to minister in economically impoverished areas, to promote and provide mission trips around the world and to do community missions as we work together. In evangelism, worship, ministries, teaching, training and leadership development, we mentor one another based on our successes and shortcomings.
A second value of the association is that we are not separated geographically from our local churches. We are a part of each community 24/7, 365. Because the association is made up of local churches and are led by people who live in the area, we understand the issues we face. We understand the context because we are a part of it. We know your strengths and your challenges as no outsider can. When you rejoice, we are there to celebrate. When you cry, we hurt. The associational leadership knows you and you know them. We don't just know about one another. We have insight about one another that comes from our intimacy. The association is an organism, not just an organization. We are living, changing, growing, stretching, hurting, rejoicing human beings.
A third value of the association is that it provides solutions. Other organizations can provide vital information and knowledge, but the local association exists to help you in your specific situation. In association with one another, we discover a number of tools, skills and ideas that can be used to evaluate your needs and to assist you. Some of these resources come from your associational staff, but most come from your sister churches, their minister-clergy and their minister-members.
God is about association. Consider this: He created the universe to have association-planets, solar systems and galaxies exist in relationship with one another. Each plays a strategic part in the total system. Christian faith can only be fully lived in association with other people. Even God lives in association as a Trinity-Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Associating with one another helps us become more of what God wants us to be-loving, outward-focused, giving, challenging, growing and on mission together.
Special to the Herald
Steve Aycock is director of missions for the Fredericksburg Baptist Association.