Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Baptist Association Revisited

New Hope had a business meeting tonight to discuss the plans our local Baptist Association has for building on the lot next door. We talked about what that would mean for the association, for our neighbors here in Valparaiso, and for New Hope. Then we talked about what our response would be.

As the Holy Spirit worked among us, we worked through misunderstandings, moved past the quick and easy snap judgments, and arrived at common ground and a graceful response. I know some people have a problem with the words "Baptist Business Meeting", but if you feed Baptists dessert beforehand they are much sweeter. :)

I'm sitting here now about to go to bed and thinking about how I wish, wish, wish the association would relate to us as a smaller church. Back in January I took this up and wrote:

First: Quit trying to do the work of the local church.

Second: Quit hurting the work of the local church. Every dollar spent on associational buildings and people that cannot be justified by a resultant effect in growing the Kingdom through the work of the local church is wasted. Wasted.

Three: Help our pastors help our churches. I know we're a prickly bunch and not easily led or helped, but we are the people that God called and placed in the churches of the association to help see His will done on earth as it is in heaven. And we are the ones who will have to give an account for what we have done and haven't done. We need help - especially (but not limited to) those of us who pastor smaller churches. Every new initiative we undertake - someone has BTDT. We need the DOM and the association to serve as facilitator and network respectively. Hook us up when we get a wild idea with someone who knows how to pull it off. Help us find the resources to accomplish it. Maybe the association could serve as part file cabinet, part rolodex, part storage building.

Personally I'd love to see our association buy a trailer like they use during emergencies to feed people. Self contained kitchen etc., but with a PA system and a few of those "jumpy toys" and stuff like a rock climbing wall so we could do block parties and cross church fellowships. But that's just me.

Perception is that the current system of funding the DOM position makes him far more attentive and reactive to big churches and big church pastors. It ought to be just the opposite. YMMV. I'd love to see that position become a Missionary position again with the small church and church planting through all the churches be the focus. I know there are a lot of DOM's who do a great job of looking after the needs of smaller churches, but not all of them do.

Finally (for now) - Help us see the bigger picture. Fight us to help us see it. By that I mean the DOM has to be working to take what the pastors dream and see if it will synergize into something that will not only allow the local churches to fulfill their calling, but will help other local churches do the same. We need to see more of that birthed out of what God is telling the local churches, not out of the Lifeway catalog or a DOM association meeting.

For me, this is sort of a final attempt to try to work through what an association ought to be and do. In the small church I serve, we're not going to nod our heads anymore and send our money to anything that doesn't help us do our job more effectively than we could do alone.

Since then, none of those things has happened, if anything the local association has moved in the opposite direction. But New Hope has worked on its own to build relationships with a local Presbyterian church and the City of Valparaiso, and we'll be seeing some real impact come from those.

We just don't have the luxury of spending time worrying about them - too much to do.

If anyone anywhere can give me some examples of an association that's working to help the average sized Baptist church reach their neighbors, let me know.

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