Baptist associations: ‘a biblical model’
Barbara Denman, Baptist Press
June 23, 2011

Baptist associations: ‘a biblical model’

Baptist associations: ‘a biblical model’
Barbara Denman, Baptist Press
June 23, 2011


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

Baptist Church,

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

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


O.S. Hawkins

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.”

Kevin Ezell

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

1,100 associations.

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

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

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

fading away.

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

Baptist Convention.)