SPARKMAN, Ark. (BP)–Earlier this month I had the great privilege to serve as a messenger from Sparkman First Baptist Church to the annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. What a great joy and great honor to be involved with what the Lord is doing through Arkansas Baptists.
I sense grumblings in parts of the Southern Baptist Convention about the state conventions and about the validity of their work. I have heard a few even equate current support of the state conventions with a lessened desire to share the Gospel with the nations. With that in mind, I’d like to express a few thoughts about what the Lord did in my life through our annual meeting.
First, I was reminded of the partnerships between our state conventions and the International Mission Board. Listening to the report of the Missions Ministries Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) was moving and gave the messengers a passionate reminder of what God is doing through Arkansas Baptists all over the world and all over North America. We were reminded of our partnership with Baptists in “frontier” states. We were reminded of our continued partnership with New Orleans and the continued recovery. We were reminded of our continued work in Haiti. We were reminded of what really makes Southern Baptists different. Southern Baptists cooperate when it comes to missions. Our state conventions links churches, especially smaller churches, with the work of the Spirit all over the world. If anyone is confused about state conventions and international mission work then they need to come to one of our annual meetings. They will find that support of the ABSC is support for what God is doing all over the world.
Second, I was struck by the deep desire of Arkansas Baptists to reach the people in Arkansas. I was reminded that the majority of people in Arkansas — 57 percent according to the latest stats — are without Christ. Wow! Personally, I felt and still feel a deep conviction to be more intentional about the relationships our church develops for the glory of God’s kingdom. But I also came to a realization — If Arkansas is to be reached for Christ then we need each other. We need partnership, cooperation and the willingness of Arkansas churches to work together for the work of the Gospel. We need ways to work together like the “Across Arkansas” campaign coming for Easter 2011. Our goal, our commission, is to make disciples. It starts at home and Arkansas Baptists have a lot of work to do. We do that work together. When we stand before the presence of the throne of God I have a feeling that we won’t be divided by individual churches and their respective ministries.
Third, I was reminded why Southern Baptist work has been de-centralized. There are things that happen in the Arkansas Baptist State Convention that probably wouldn’t happen through a centralized national entity. I think of things like our pregnancy crisis centers, children’s homes, summer camps, missions education for the church and countless other ways that our state convention helps churches to do the work of the Gospel.
Finally, I was encouraged by the preaching of God’s Word in my own life. I feel that we are at a point in our conventions (state and SBC) that we have firmly set our foundation on the Word of God and now is the time to move forward with this good theology as our centering. We can cooperate and work together. Will we choose to continue our partnership? If you are confused about what our state convention in Arkansas actually does, begin making plans for our meeting next year. I think you will find that Arkansas Baptists are being good stewards with what God has blessed us with.
Eric Moffett is pastor of Sparkman (Ark.) First Baptist Church and second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.