PHOENIX – The
future of the Baptist association is on solid footing, a Southern Baptist
leader said, because the organization of churches within regional groups is
based on a biblical model.
“The future of the association is bright,” Ken Hemphill said. “I believe it’s a
biblical model,” therefore “survival is solved.”
“The question is, will it thrive or survive?”
Hemphill asked at the June 12
plenary session of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Director of
Missions at North Phoenix
prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 14-15.
Hemphill, who has served as the Empowering Kingdom Growth strategist for the SBC
Executive Committee, addressed about 80 directors of missions at meeting, with
an overall attendance of about 135.
Citing 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 8, Hemphill said the Apostle Paul
first organized a regional association of churches when he encouraged the seven
churches of Revelation to collect money for the Jerusalem
With this, Hemphill said, Paul “knit together” the church and the association. “Outside
the local church, the association is the only clear pattern found in the New
Hemphill said the local church is “God’s divine plan for the advancement of His
work on earth,” which can best be done through churches organized in regional
“No church is big enough to complete this task, but all the churches together
can,” Hemphill said.
Also addressing the conference were:
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, urged the associational leaders to “provoke”
churches to learn the cultural context of their communities.
Knowing the community leads to opportunities to pray for it, Stetzer said,
which lead to reaching and loving it. However, he said, “You cannot love a
community unless you know a community.”
Stetzer encouraged the director of missions to become experts of the community
for their congregations. “Raise the level of commitment of your churches to know
their communities” by knowing the community’s demographic makeup and pockets of
affinities as well as the size, age, affluence, worship styles and evangelistic
methods of other churches, he said.
Churches should engage their neighborhood through ministries and involvement,
Stetzer said, adding that the future of the association will best be
demonstrated by churches “taking the focus from ‘us’ to the community around
Acknowledging the days of uncertainty within the SBC,
“wondering how it’s going to shake out,” O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone
Financial Resources, told director of missions to adopt a “different spirit” by
looking at the glass as “half full” instead of “half empty.”
He reminded the DOMs of the 10 spies who returned from the Promised Land
discouraged, saying because of that attitude, the 10 are now anonymous. But
Joshua and Caleb demonstrated a “different spirit” and a determination to see
the Promised Land’s potential.
Living “life half empty,” always results in playing defense, Hawkins said, and
destined the children of Israel
to spend the next 38 years without any direction.
“You play offense when you see the glass half full,” Hawkins said.
Telling DOMs they can have “the greatest impact you’ve ever had in history if
you fear the Lord and serve him with certainty,” Hawkins urged them to “finish
the race with a different spirit.”
The annual meeting provided the associational leaders their first opportunity
to hear from and ask questions of the recently elected presidents of the SBC’s
two mission boards.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said a strengthened
emphasis on church planting is designed to give the board an identity and is
the “best way to revitalize” the SBC.
Affirming their role, he told the DOMs there was “not a better way to start
churches than the association and churches working together.”
Ezell said in addition to the number of church plants, NAMB will focus on the
quality and five-year survivability of the churches.
“We believe in evangelism and church planting,” Ezell said, adding, “We are not
taking one step back from evangelism.”
Ezell admitted that since he was employed nearly a year ago, he had struggled
with sorting out the “complex” nature of the board’s work and relating to 42
unique state conventions and 42 state executives, unable yet to focus fully on
But he promised the DOMs, “We are for you. We will never be all we can be at
NAMB without you. If you think for one moment we are overlooking the
association, we are not.
“Give us the benefit of the doubt,” he implored, “Round up rather than round
Answering questions, several DOM’s expressed
a frustration in not knowing the board’s expectations of their work, especially
those receiving NAMB funding.
“We’re having a tough time understanding what we are supposed to do,” said
Duane Davis, a DOM from the East Central
Illinois Baptist Association.
Again, Ezell asked for patience. “We have to get to some truth. It is hard. It
is very difficult. We’ve got to do something to get us moving in the same
Tom Eliff, the new president of the International Mission Board, asked the DOMs
to assist in a new IMB initiative “Embrace” which will encourage local churches
to adopt one of 3,800 unengaged people groups in the world.
While an “unreached” people is defined as being less than 2 percent
evangelical, Eliff said an “unengaged” people group is “totally pagan. Not one
entity, including the IMB, has a strategy to reach them.”
Churches will be asked to “get a burden” for one of these people groups and
make a commitment that will last a lifetime. Ultimately, he said, the IMB hopes
someone in the church will be called as a missionary to that group.
Eliff said the association can serve as a “red hot training center for people
and churches who want to engage these people groups.”
Margaret Slusher, president of Lead Plus and former associational staff member,
shared insights on conflict resolution and remediation, encouraging the
directors of missions to have “ears and eyes to listen.”
The most successful type of conflict intervention is transformational, Slusher
said, “not about winning, but about God winning and getting down on our knees
and seeking God.”
Transformation is about change of heart, she said, which results in issues
Despite God’s call for the believer to be a peacemaker, she said a fourth of
churches, when surveyed, reported conflict in the past five years, with hundreds
of pastors being forced to leave their churches.
“Until we learn to deal with conflict through transformation, we will never be
able to penetrate the darkness,” Slusher said.
SBCADOM officers elected for 2012 are:
president, Johnny Rumbough, Lexington Baptist Association, S.C.; first vice
president, Rick Robbins, Northern Kentucky Baptist Association; second vice
president, John Brittain, Arundel Baptist Association, Md.; recording
secretary, George Berger, Lebanon Baptist Association, Miss.; “DOME Light”
editor, Glen Hickey, retired, Ark.; retired associational staff committee, Jim
McCaughan, retired, St. Louis Metro Baptist Association; “DOM
Viewpoint” editor, Ben Chandler, St. Clair Baptist Association, Miss.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida