In Baptist life, a special place for associations

by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Executive Director-Treasurer


Friday, May 19, 2017

As Baptist people who are passionate about missions, we have learned that our churches can accomplish more by cooperating and working together than we can by working alone. A good example of this cooperation is how churches can work together within the fellowship of their local Baptist association. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) calendar has listed May 21-28 as Baptist Association Week, and I would like to share with you why I am convinced that Baptist associations are important.

Though some individuals may not consider local Baptist associations as important as the Southern Baptist Convention or state conventions, I believe Baptist associations are at the “front line,” so to speak with member churches. They are geographically close by, and the associational missionary can have more face-to-face contact with the churches than the state or national conventions do. Association leaders have the potential to develop strong relationships with pastors and people in their member churches. Through visionary leadership, they can help their pastors recognize the opportunities and need for doing missions and ministry in communities and cities around them. It is through associations that a group or network of churches in a geographical area can rally together and make a difference in impacting lostness around them by combining manpower and resources from member churches to do evangelism, disciple-making, church planting and community ministry. They can also help strengthen and revitalize dying churches around them.

Before the existence of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) or state conventions, there were Baptist associations. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) that we enjoy today was birthed by churches within associations in North Carolina who decided to unite their efforts for kingdom advance. They envisioned that in cooperating together, they could achieve more in evangelizing the lost, discipling the saved and starting churches. Among those early churches in this state are Shiloh Baptist Church and Sandy Creek Baptist Church, both of which are still part of our N.C. Baptist family today. What a legacy these churches have!

After groups of churches formed associations, state conventions followed. In 1830, the BSCNC was established in Greenville, and only 15 years later, members from our convention joined with others in Augusta, Georgia to form what is today the SBC.

Before my role as our convention’s executive director-treasurer, I served as executive director of missions (DOM) for the Gaston Baptist Association in Gastonia. During that time, I became aware that some larger churches preferred to function alone rather than cooperate with an association. My encouragement to them, both during my role as DOM and in the present, would be to join with the missionary efforts of other churches in their Baptist association — to give more than they expect to receive. Though larger churches may accomplish more alone than smaller churches, if they combine their efforts with others, they can make a greater contribution than any individual church.

Every church needs to work in cooperation with others if they want to achieve maximum results in God’s kingdom advancement. In Southern Baptist life, we are blessed to have churches, associations, state conventions and a national convention. We pool our resources and combine our efforts in order to be most effective in fulfilling the Great Commission.