LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Associational leaders should live as servant leaders and find creative strategies for leading other Christians to do the same, speakers said during the June 21-22 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions.
Southern Baptist leaders O.S. Hawkins, Ken Hemphill and Thom Rainer addressed the DOMs at the Fern Valley Conference Center and Hotel prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Louisville.
Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, pointed DOMs in his message “Servant Leaders Build Relationships” to the New Testament Book of Philemon which he said teaches the servant characteristics of affirmation, accommodation, acceptance, allegiance and accountability.
Recounting the book’s narrative of a first-century runaway slave, Onesimus, who had become a Christian, Hawkins cited the Apostle Paul’s teaching that the formerly useless slave had become useful to his owner, Philemon, as a brother in Christ.
“We were made to connect with each other,” Hawkins said. “Everything in life is about building relationships if we’re going to be servant leaders.”
Hemphill, national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) emphasis, said Christians should be mindful about the importance of sharing in God’s character.
“We share in His holiness,” said Hemphill, preacher for the group’s Sunday morning worship service. “We share in His character in order to join Him on mission…. We are separated into Him for service.”
Christians should be motivated to worship and service by the knowledge that this pleases God, Hemphill said. “We don’t understand how much God loves the efforts and praise of His children,” he added.
Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, addressed recent reports about statistical declines among Southern Baptists.
In his address “Servant Leaders Forgive,” Rainer asked if unforgiveness could be hindering progress among Southern Baptists.
“Maybe one of the reasons is that God is talking to many of us and saying, ‘I can’t use you right now’ … because you’ve got to leave your gift at the altar and go be reconciled,” Rainer said.
Perhaps the anemic quality of recent statistics is because the SBC has “a lot of unforgiveness going on,” Rainer said.
“When we talk about servant leaders forgiving, we don’t look to the left or right,” Rainer observed. “We look deep within our own hearts and say, ‘Lord, what should I do?'”
DOMs chose from five breakout sessions offered twice in successive one-hour sessions Monday morning:
— “Servant Leaders Continue to Grow” led by Hugh Townsend, associational strategies coordinator for the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
Townsend said associational leaders should grow by developing leadership skills and viewing their ministries in new, more effective ways.
“Everything, including associations, exists in a system,” Townsend said. “A leader isn’t simply in the system, he’s working on the system…. As the leader, you are the one who helps set the strategic direction for your association.”
— “Servant Leaders Pray” led by Greg Frizzell, prayer and spiritual awakening specialist of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Noting the frequent involvement of many directors of missions in helping churches seek pastors, Frizzell suggested all adults in a local church — not just search committee members — commit themselves to a process of many weeks that will help them deepen their prayer lives, undergo spiritual cleansing and prepare for united relationships and a united vision.
— “Servant Leaders Are Equipped” led by Ted Knapp, director of missions for the Los Angeles Extreme Urban Center in West Los Angeles, and other panelists.
One conferee asked how to help a local church move from a committee structure to team-based organization.
“Modeling is probably your strongest tool, if they see an effective organization in the association,” Knapp suggested. “Some of them won’t go in and check out what other churches are doing, but they have ownership in your association…. You’ve got to share some stories of success.”
— “Servant Leaders Visualize the Future” led by Mike Day, executive director of missions, Mid-South Baptist Association, Bartlett, Tenn.
Day said there “seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with who we are as Southern Baptists. We’re spreading our missions dollars thinner. We’re not creating more missions dollars.”
The future, Day said, should be “church-driven,” with associations letting churches “tell us what they need. It becomes our business to meet the needs of the churches as they have stated them to us — not as we have stated their needs to them.”
Associations should consider divesting themselves of property, Day indicated. “If we’re really going to be focused on meeting the needs of the churches, we will try to own as little as possible. We will try our very best not to own anything if we can help it. Anything we own takes away from the resources we can provide to the churches.”
He cited associational camps as one example of property that could be sold with proceeds donated, for example, to church planting efforts.
Day also said associations should strive for increasingly lower percentages of budgets devoted to salaries and other personnel costs.
“If we’re really going to focus on helping the churches, then maybe we need to change our focus to material and financial resources,” he said.
Day asked conferees to consider whether the future might eventually bring a time when current state conventions and Baptist associations are replaced by perhaps 50 regional associations.
— “Servant Leaders Stay Informed” led by David Meacham, senior strategist for NAMB’s associational strategies team.
A key to being informed in the 21st century is to stay in touch with pastors, Meacham said. “In associations, you come alongside a pastor and a church and ask, ‘How can we help you fulfill the Great Commission?'”
Meacham suggested the mandate from Christ is still a motivation for service: “In the 21st century, the details may have changed and the methods may have changed, but you associational missionaries still incarnate the Great Commission.”
Keith Hinson is a state Missionary and an associate in communications services for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.