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Associational directors urged to keep a focus on the basics

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–A renewed commitment to God’s grace and godly living is necessary if Christians are to be effective in reaching their world for Christ, Eddie Miller told associational directors of missions June 11 in Greensboro, N.C.

“We need to remember where we started,” said Miller, director of missions for the Sierra Association in Fernley, Nev. “We need to remember than none of us carry any righteousness worth anything. We’ve got to get back to being men and women of God. That before anything else, we carry about what God wants us to do.”

Miller delivered the president’s address to the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions meeting held June 11-12 prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.

As part of the meeting, directors of missions heard a report about disaster relief efforts, specifically pertaining to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They also elected officers and heard from representatives of various SBC entities, such as the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources and GuideStone Financial Resources.

In his president’s address, Miller challenged his listeners to be faithful in their ministry, even in circumstances that don’t look promising.

Many churches either are holding on or are in a state of decline, Miller said. A cultural emphasis on tolerance discourages the presentation of the Gospel and waters down the exclusivity of Jesus Christ’s claims.

“Young people are staying away from the church in droves because of the constant presence of bickering and gossip,” Miller said. “At every turn, the church faces ‘what have you done for me lately’ mentalities, and it is killing us. Loyalty is at an all-time low.”

Miller decried the number of men graduating from seminary who have no desire to serve as pastors. He argued that churches have abandoned the stewardship of the Gospel, and said that the country has become a place where the gods of the nations have taken the place of the God of the universe.

Such circumstances make it difficult to minister, Miller observed.

“The most successful of us go home every day wondering if we’re really making a difference,” he said.

So, what’s the solution for ministers who are discouraged? Miller said the key to an effective ministry is similar to doing well in sports –- keep doing the basics well, and success will follow.

That means a continued reliance on God’s grace and an emphasis on the exclusivity of the Gospel, Miller said.

“People are saying all roads lead to heaven. There are many ways to God,” he said. “What a bunch of hogwash.”

Lost people don’t need to see that Christians have on clean clothes and are holier than they are, Miller suggested. They simply need to see that Christians are those God has plucked from the fire.

“If you know it is the work of God in your life, you tend to be more gracious,” Miller said. “It is all grace.”

He encouraged his listeners to keep working hard and not to grow weary in their ministry.

“If you are doing the work of God in the strength of God, things may not look all that shiny all the time,” Miller said. “Don’t worry about being small. Remember whose you are. You have been bought with a price.”

Charles Rodgers, director of missions for the Jackson Association in southern Mississippi, reported on how associations helped his churches following Hurricane Katrina.

“God blessed us tremendously and many hundreds of thousands of dollars came from you to us,” Rodgers said. “One of the greatest blessings of my life was to get calls from guys like you.”

Joe McKeever, director of missions in New Orleans, reported that 52 of the 140 churches in his association are now meeting normally, while another 30 churches are meeting in locations other than their former buildings. He said that the relief efforts of Southern Baptists were a tremendous help to the churches in his association.

“We’re on the way back,” McKeever said. “You guys have come through. Southern Baptists have just been heroes to us.”

In officer elections, the following were elected to positions for the 2006-2007 year: Tom Biles, of Tampa Bay Association in Florida, president; Russell Cook, of Pottawatomie-Lincoln Association in Oklahoma, first vice president; Wesley Pitts, of Long Run Association in Kentucky, second vice president; Jim Leak, of Hill County Association in Texas, administrator treasurer; Ernest Sadler, retired, of Jackson Association in Mississippi, recording secretary; and John Brackin, of Palm Lake Association in Florida, editor of “Viewpoint,” the organization’s newsletter.

At next year’s meeting in San Antonio, the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions will celebrate the 300th anniversary of Baptist associational work in the United States. The group will hold a rally at First Baptist Church of San Antonio at 3 p.m. on June 10, 2007, with Jim Henry as the guest speaker.

Sid Hopkins, director of missions for Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association in Georgia, reported on the status of a new organization directors of missions have formed called the Network of Baptist Associations. The organization is designed to help associations serve as a resource for their churches.

The new group will hold the 2007 Associational Summit Jan. 6-8 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and will offer training for directors of missions on such topics as entrepreneurial leadership, establishing strategic direction, achieving kingdom results and facilitative leadership.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›