In a recent Christianity Today blog Ed Stetzer asked whether local associations would have a future in Baptist life since associations, emerging networks, state and national conventions often provide overlapping services. Churches will not want to fund multiple ministries that do essentially the same thing, he argued, so who will survive?
“The key to sustained ministry in associations is discovering the needs of the churches local to your area and meeting them,” Stetzer concludes.
I agree. That's why we are constantly asking pastors and congregational leaders how we could better serve them.
We heard things like “our city is constantly changing. Can you help us understand the city better?” Yes, we can provide your church with some of the best data on our city available anywhere.
“We feel more out of place in our own culture every day. The world today is not like the world I grew up in. Help us learn to be missionaries in our own city.” Whether it is reaching millennials or understanding the Muslim world better, we can help you reach the people God has called you to reach.
Some said “We know we need more churches. Can you help us start new churches?” Our larger churches want to know the best places for them to start new satellite campuses. Whether it’s starting a satellite campus or planting a new church, we can help.
Some language groups told us their pastors had great passion but lacked formal training in how to lead a congregation. Could we provide training for their pastors that honored their unique cultural heritage and would help them be more effective? Absolutely. We provide extensive training to pastors and congregational leaders in how to minister effectively in their community, how involve the congregation in missions, how to make disciples, do Sunday School, hold Vacation Bible School and many other ministries important to our churches.
Churches have asked us to help them find pastors or staff members … to help them resolve conflict or develop a strategy to reach their community with the gospel … to help them reverse years of declining attendance … to help them prepare for mission engagements at home and abroad … to help them develop disciples that live their faith daily rather than are just more knowledgable of the Bible ... to help them recover when disaster strikes.
There’s no end to the things folks ask us to do. We always try to respond with “yes,” but I’ll be honest. We can’t meet every request. One pastor wanted us to help him get chandeliers for his sanctuary. Another congregation thought if they had more flagpoles in front of their church (like Lakewood) they’d reach more people. We couldn’t help those folks. After all, not every idea is a good one.
Union Baptist Association is here to help churches fulfill the Great Commission because we believe making disciples is the central purpose of the church. The association exists to help churches fulfill their God-given purpose and we try our best to do that each and every day.
Your support for the work of the association is what makes it possible for us to help you. Thank you. And thanks for taking time to read my thoughts. For more of Ed Stetzer’s thoughts on the future of the association, click here.