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Associations given 300-yr. celebration

SAN ANTONIO (BP)–Undergirded by 300 years of ministry experience, Baptist associations should move into the future with a willingness to innovate and nurture relationships with younger Christian leaders, local churches and Baptist entities.

Speakers underscored those themes during a 300th anniversary celebration of Baptist associations in America June 10 at First Baptist Church in San Antonio prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in the Texas city.

The celebration was jointly sponsored by the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions and Woman’s Missionary Union.

Jim Henry, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., called associations to face the future with creativity and innovation.

“There are changes in the air,” Henry noted. “Today I call on you as directors of missions … to expand your horizons in a rapidly changing culture. … We are called to move from limitation to innovation.”

With innovation can come penetration of the culture with the Gospel, Henry noted. “What about the future?” he asked. “It’s extinction or expansion. One of the two will happen.”

Change can be positive, Henry told the audience.

“Don’t be afraid of innovation,” he declared. “Change is always happening. Change is not always good, but many times it is something that moves us off the edge and out of our comfort zone and can be powerful and positive.”

Associational ministers should be committed to relationships with younger Baptist leaders who “want to know their DOMs on a personal level,” Henry said. “They do want to cooperate with sister churches.”

Wanda Lee, WMU executive director, told the associational leaders she was glad for the opportunity to hold a joint meeting with them.

“We have strategically decided to begin our meeting celebrating with you,” Lee said. “WMU has enjoyed a long partnership with your predecessors. … Even before WMU was officially organized in 1888, women were working in associations.”

Lee thanked associations for their involvement in missions and predicted a positive future relationship between WMU and associations.

“At the heart of what we do together in the associations has always been a missions purpose,” Lee said. “We look forward to the next 300 years of working together.”

Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board, called associational missions “the first line of Baptist cooperation.”

Hammond said directors of missions “get the privilege of being closest to the churches. … You’re important in missions, evangelism and planting churches.”

Many DOMs are “jointly funded missionaries,” Hammond said. “We have a tremendous interest in this partnership we have together.”

Words of affirmation for associations also were delivered by:

— Hayes Wicker, president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference and pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., who voiced gratitude for “you who have labored in the Lord, and we believe your labor is not in vain in the Lord in local associations. … I thank God on behalf of all pastors for what you do as our friends.”

— Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, who noted LifeWay “is connected at so many points to directors of missions and associations. Let me say on behalf of LifeWay: … Thank you, associations. Thank you, directors of missions … and the best is yet to come.”

— Charles Price, executive director of the San Antonio Baptist Association, who commented it is “wonderful” that the 300th anniversary of associations coincided with the 150th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio association. Price said the first item of business for the newly formed SABA was the planting of a church in downtown San Antonio, which exists to this day as the city’s First Baptist Church.

— O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, who thanked the DOMs for helping them expand GuideStone’s Adopt an Annuitant ministry. Hawkins identified the association and directors of missions as key resources for locating retired ministers in need of the financial assistance provided through Adopt an Annuitant.

— Jim Leak, SBCADOM administrator/treasurer and director of missions for Hill Country Baptist Association in Kerrville, Texas, who reciprocated with thanks from the DOMs for the affirmations offered. “I want to say to all our partners how much we appreciate the partnership. … We can do much more as partners than any of us could ever do alone. … Thank you for all you do for the Kingdom.”

— Stephen Parks, director of missions for Unity Baptist Association in Lufkin, Texas, who served as chairman of the associational directors’ task force that organized the anniversary celebration. During a benediction prayer, Parks asked God to help associations “to be faithful in catalyzing churches to be more effective and … to have a missional focus that we would be faithful in fulfilling the Great Commission.”

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  • Keith Hinson