South Roanoke Baptist Association keeps pursuing its mission and vision statement. Even though there was a leadership change in 2014, the drive to impact lostness, strengthen churches and be relevant continues.
“I’m still learning,” said Scott Setzer, South Roanoke’s associational missionary since November 2014. “I learn something new all the time. I had to get out of pastor mode” and start thinking like a catalyst.
Setzer pastored a church within the association – Second Baptist Church, Washington – prior to taking this position. While leading Second Baptist for 5.5 years, he served on one of the association’s leadership teams.
South Roanoke association covers seven counties in eastern North Carolina and includes 74 churches.
“We have to show churches that we are relevant,” Setzer said. “We do have something to offer to help you.”
Phil Frady, who was associational missionary for nine years prior to Setzer, saw the association almost close.
A group trains for a prayer walking event in South Roanoke Baptist Association.
While the association was in dire straits financially, Frady believes South Roanoke’s true problem stemmed from relevance. “The churches weren’t … sure if there needed to be an association,” Frady said, which spurred the creation of DARTS (an acronym for discovering associational realities through spiritual journey).
For a year he and other DARTS leaders examined what the Bible had to say, trying to answer the question, “Why did we need to be there?” he said. “The real burning problem was not the association but the … churches. They hadn’t paid attention to how much the churches were in decline.”
Citing the percentage of lostness, Frady stressed that “the churches were not in good shape. We needed to exist [to help] the churches get healthy. We needed to help the churches reach the lost.”
At the time, Frady believed his association was competing with the churches instead of helping the churches grow stronger.
The process was deliberate but slow, Frady said.
“We stopped doing everything else we were doing,” he said. “We stopped doing the community ministries. We put that back in the hand of the churches. In a lot of ways we were taking away things that put health in the churches.”
Asking a few questions, the DARTS team narrowed down some key issues churches thought were important: aging membership, loss of leadership, lack of workers and cultural issues. Those answers helped shape what teams the association created: church strengthening, impacting lostness, prayer, missions ministry and administration.
DARTS was made up of about 24 people. Frady asked pastors for a name of someone in their church who cared about the association. At the time, the association had 64 churches. While Frady didn’t ask pastors to serve on the team, some asked to be a part of the process.
“I work for you,” Frady told the pastors. “I’m on your staff.”
Frady brought in leaders ministry and management. The association went from 140 people serving on various committees and leadership to around 20. Frady said the finances began to turn around, and the association paid its debts. Pastors stayed longer in their churches, the number of baptisms began to level out instead of decline and missions giving increased. Frady believes the association is “positioned to be the most strategic in the life of the church … just because it’s there.”
Frady said directors of mission need to familiarize themselves with pastors and find ways to connect leaders with materials as well as training.
The smaller organization costs less money but Frady said associational missionaries need to get moving. They need to be visiting pastors, praying for them and finding ways to help the churches meet the needs of its community through the members of the church.
“A lot of our guys are extremely well meaning,” he said referring to pastors. “A lot of us come up through the ranks because we can preach … many of us don’t really have backgrounds” in leadership or how to cast a vision. Frady believes associations involve missionary effort and a deeper spiritual awareness.
He asks pastors who seek associational missionary positions to consider why God called them to preach the gospel. That feeling, the excitement of sharing God’s Word can be transferred to directors of missions too.
When Paul was writing to Titus, he gave him an assignment: to build up the church.
Frady asks two main questions:
- How do you understand how organizations work?
- How do you lead people?
Since Frady retired to Southport, he continues to consult with associations as well as be involved in restarting a church in their area. He and his wife are working with Oak Island First Baptist Church.
Setzer has brought in key leaders from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) to help local leaders learn about the lostness in the area as well as how to tackle it.
Chuck Campbell, BSC strategy coordinator for the Greenville area, has educated association leaders about three out of 100 pockets of lostness in the state.
Greenville is No. 50 on the list with No. 98 and No. 99 both in Pitt County. “We’re trying to bring that awareness,” Setzer says as well as help in disciple making. The “biggest shift in my thinking [was] moving out of trying to lead a church, to trying to help churches see what’s around them – the mission fields around them.”
Having served on the impacting lostness team for the association before becoming its associational missionary, Setzer said the teams always ask whether what they are doing is “in keeping with what we say we are. If associations can realize that they aren’t the church, I think it will get them further down the road.”
At the association’s quarterly meeting in July, the attendees focused on one of the top 100 pockets of lostness in their area. They prayed for the lost and asked for a burden for reaching the area. Recently, Setzer said churches gathered to prayer walk in that area. They had a training session and then spent about an hour prayer walking. That meeting spurred talks of possible church plants in the area. “It’s really neat to see what God is doing in churches that want to be about making disciples,” Setzer said.
The leaner association allows for quicker decisions and is more cost efficient, Setzer said. Setzer remains thankful for Frady’s leadership. “Phil Frady plowed all that ground and got this association to a healthy spot,” Setzer said. Then, Frady spent time helping Setzer understand the association and giving him advice on ministry.
Frady said it is a scary time for churches and associations. “Churches have to change,” he said. “You’re not cutting edge until you actually change churches.”
One thing is certain, he said, “churches are always going to associate.”
South Roanoke Baptist Association
Mission statement: The South Roanoke Baptist Association exists to serve churches as an intentional instigator for church development toward vitality and as a catalyst for networked church involvement towards Kingdom and community impact.
Vision statement: The Vision of the South Roanoke Baptist Association is vital, healthy churches, networking to fulfill the Great Commission.