The Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting is over for another year. The post-convention discussions are subsiding.
We can resume fulfilling the Great Commission in the spirit of the great commandment.
Help congregations be more vital and vibrant and take the next steps in living into their God-empowered vision. Discover new ways to connect with lost, unchurched, underchurched and dechurched people.
Focus on people groups in the fellowship area of the association who are being overlooked and underserved, particularly people of differing socioeconomic status and people of diverse racial and ethnic identities.
Support, inspire and provide opportunities for continuing innovation in the ministries of pastors, staff members and lay leaders. Deepen the relationships of these leaders across the full spectrum of the association.
This is what the Baptist movement is about.
Debates among the organizational structures of our denomination — state conventions and SBC national agencies and institutions — are secondary.
Mystery and expression
Beyond the structure of our denomination is a greater way of thinking about being Southern Baptist. It is the mysterious and expressive way of feeling we are part of a movement of God that is beyond any annual convention decisions.
We are part of a Baptist movement in the Southern Baptist tradition to whom God has given great capacity for Kingdom ministry. We must express this capacity with the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit.
If there is a pure form of this mystery and expression, I am convinced it is the Baptist association. Associations are the soul of the Baptist movement!
In associations of churches is the potential for deep relationships with one another. When they are, we express ourselves as a Baptist movement of God against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail, as Jesus said to Simon Peter in Matthew 16:18. The Church of our triune God should be this strong and united as we have a perfect gospel to share with the world.
Attendance and offerings may lag during the summer, yet it is a great time to advance your mission.
A spiritual harvest began early in June during celebrations of ministry with children, teenagers and college students through various forms of Vacation Bible School, youth and young adult retreats and summer worship and discipleship gatherings.
Summer missions trips by adults and college students and family-focused missional engagements express the compassion of Baptists. We see many people locally and globally introduced to Jesus.
In thousands of churches people are encouraged to express the call of God on their lives. They step forward to provide leadership for Christ-centered programs and ministries for the coming church year.
Actions are already taking place to connect with new people moving into associational fellowship areas, offering them a loving, challenging spiritual relationship and a new sense of community in a local church.
Some associations have a goal to connect at least one church with every elementary, middle and high school in the area. This provides ongoing ministry to students, teachers and administrators for the coming year.
Parents are launching new high school graduates into careers, further training or college or university experiences. The next stage of life for their children and letting go of them at the same time brings challenges churches should help parents address.
In some cases, this next stage means there are empty nest households that now need a new dimension of ministry. They now must figure out what the rest of their lives look like.
Many young adult children will be in and out of the nest over the next several years. These empty nest parents may also have older parents who need them more in this next stage.
All this is real life — essential ministry that is far from the sermons, motions, resolutions and votes of a convention.
How will your association respond to these great open doors of ministry God has placed before the churches? I implore you to stay committed to our prime directive until all have heard.