ST. LOUIS (BP)–Author and conference speaker Anne Graham Lotz said directors of missions are God’s messengers who should stay “focused, fired-up and faithful” to the Bible and the ministry God has for them. Lotz delivered her remarks to the 41st annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions June 9-10 in St. Louis.
Also speaking at the conference was Gary Gearon, SBCADOM president and director of missions for the Dallas Baptist Association.
Reflecting on the conference’s theme, “The Association: Still Southern Baptists’ Best Strategy for Great Commission Fulfillment,” Lotz challenged DOMs to concern themselves with their commitment to public ministry and depth of spiritual practice.
Speaking from Ezekiel 1, Lotz said DOMs are God’s messengers who should stay “focused, fired-up and faithful” to the Bible and the ministry God has for them.
But, she reminded, “Sin can quench the fire of God in your life.”
Lotz, who faced a walkout of several audience members after describing homosexuality as sin in a speaking engagement, said she has been accused of being divisive in some of her public comments, but she said her views are based on the Bible.
“God is a gentleman. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t mock his children. And he says this is his Word,” Lotz said, lifting her Bible in the air.
She said the Bible “came through fallible men, but God is so great that he can preserve the integrity and truth of his Word. … So would you choose to believe that God’s Word is true, because it’s based on God’s character, and it is his Word?”
Hearon said in his remarks the association stands as the “front-line facilitator” to help churches reach “every ethnicity” through evangelism, church planting, fellowship and missions.
Shifting from the focus of evangelism, Hearon warned, “We live in a new and different day. Everything that has been nailed down is coming loose. … Other denominational entities are now reverting to the old societal method for funding and are thereby effectively dismantling the funding of the association.”
Associations must be “creative about funding possibilities,” Hearon said.
“It is a day when other Baptist entities need to affirm the importance of the association,” he said. Going beyond other Baptist entities, he said, “We welcome all who come alongside us Baptists, as well as all true Christians of the ‘Book’ who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to help us fulfill the Great Commission in our lifetime.”
He described this “new day” as “a day of division among moderates and fundamentalists, churches and leaders over issues of theology and practice” and also of ignorance and apathy toward Baptist associations, as well a day of technological overload and multiple ministry demands.
Hearon cited a meeting of Texas DOMs last August during which former BGCT Executive Director Bill Pinson characterized the role of future associational staff as evangelists; missions strategists; lay mobilizers; team builders; vision casters; network agents; harnessers of diversity; transmitters of Baptist heritage; servant leaders; encouragers; consultants to and for pastors and staff; administrators; models of spiritual maturity; change agents; trust builders; truth tellers, who effectively counter rumors, half-truths and misinformation; and courageous leaders who stand for conviction, even against friends and supporters.
“To such a list I say, no timid or easily discouraged persons need apply.” In such a climate, Hearon said, the association must “navigate our priorities.”
“The real test of everything we do is, Does it bring glory to God? Does it advance the kingdom of the Lord Jesus? If it does not, we better rid ourselves of it and find what does and latch on to that. To do this, there are four basic values to pursue: pursue excellence, pursue mastery, pursue purpose, pursue total stewardship.”
Concerning mastery, he said the association “must be the best resource to meet the church at its point of need.” He said associations can no longer be the controllers of information, because the Internet has made information available to everyone.
“In a day when the middle-man continues to be displaced, you put yourself in a dangerous position if that’s all you are,” he said.
He warned DOMs to redefine and rethink their purpose “before some other agency or entity of Baptist life does it for you.”
“Conventions are now putting regional offices all around their respective states to promote the work of the convention. I would suspect they are not there to promote the work of the association.”
Hearon said with regard to stewardship, “This is not our work; it is God’s work. It requires supernatural power, the Holy Spirit’s power.”
Concluding his remarks, Hearon asked, “What are you willing to die for? What are you willing to live for? What are you willing to settle for?”
DOMs were also introduced to electronic ministry resources from Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, and Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board.
Reccord introduced a software program named ARMS-Associational Relationship Management System. Based on NAMB’s Church Planter Management System, the new software will be customized for use by directors of missions.
Now entering the testing phase, DOMs will help fine-tune the software to meet associational needs. Features include demographic data, calendar, a bulletin board system and a library of legal documents to help churches develop covenants and constitutions.
The projected cost for the association will be less than $30 per month, with churches having free access.
Reccord reflected on the transition of the former Home Mission Board into the North American Mission Board. “If during that time you felt suspended in the air, I am sorry. It’s now five years down the road, and we’re ready to roll.”
Michael Lindsay of the Princeton Religious Research Center shared statistics and observations from the New Jersey-based Gallup organization.
“Religious beliefs shape Americans’ opinions more than politics, economics” or many other factors, Lindsay said.
America suffers from “a superficial spirituality and a thin theology,” Lindsay said. “The problem is not that Americans don’t believe anything — they believe everything.” But he added that only one in four people believe that their own faith system is the best way to heaven.
He encouraged DOMs that there was never a better time to share the gospel than the current “burgeoning interest in spirituality” in America, especially reflected in recent college graduates.
Lindsay’s findings are detailed in his new book, “Reality Check for 21st Century Churches.”
In business actions, SBCADOM members:
— unanimously adopted a budget for next year of $23,400;
— elected by acclamation their officers for next year: president, Don Reed, director of missions from Kansas City, Kan.; first vice president, Jim Freedman, director of missions for Nashville, Tenn.; second vice president, Nodell Dennis, director of missions from Kansas City, Mo.; and editor of the association’s newsletter, DoM Viewpoint, John Brackin, director of missions from West Palm Beach, Fla. Ernest Sadler, director of missions from Jackson, Miss., remained as recording secretary.
— received the resignation of administrator/treasurer Charles Nunn of Pawleys Island, S.C., which will be effective next year, and elected a search committee to find a successor for Nunn. Nunn, 71, said he was “resigning to retire” and to spend more time with his wife. “I love this job,” he said, “but I love my wife more.”