What exactly is a Baptist association? Here are three descriptions of what an association is and is not.
First, an association is not one person. How can it be? Association implies connection or relationship. Association can never be a solo activity. Associations may employ a lead missionary, but the association is much more than one person. Regardless of how gifted the Director of Missions is, he does not and can never embody the association.
Second, an association is not an office building. Association describes the relationship among church leaders and members. The Baptist association may or may not have an office – that’s optional, but the true headquarters for the association is out in the harvest among the congregations.
Third, the association is not an afterthought of the Southern Baptist convention. Just the opposite, by many years, associations pre-date state conventions and the Southern Baptist convention.
So, if a Baptist association is not an afterthought, not a person, nor a building, what is it?
First, a Baptist association consists of churches who voluntarily choose to work together. For kingdom purposes they collaborate. Cooperatively they freely dream, design and conduct ministry in ways they believe will best advance the cause of Christ in their region.
Second, a Baptist association is a group of churches with an agreed-upon theology. For us it is the Baptist Faith and Message, 2000. On primary doctrines associations agree, on lesser matters they extend grace.
Third, a Baptist association cares for one another. Rooted in shared purpose and doctrine, the churches and pastors love their extended Christian family. And it is through this community of godly relationships that ministry multiplies.
Associations are as old as the Bible. Since the birth of the church in the Book of Acts, like-minded churches have been working together. Denominations may rise and fall but associations of one kind or another will continue until the end of time; yes, and what a privilege it is to work with sister churches!
Executive Director of Missions for the Mid-South Baptist Association