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Monday, February 19, 2007

Local Associations and State Conventions

Many Southern Baptist bloggers have recently attended, listened to, commented upon, and reflected on the recent Baptist Identity II Conference held at Union University in Jackson, TN. The most thorough commentator that I have found on the conference was Timmy Brister.

The topic which most peaked my interest was presented by Mike Day entitled, The Future of Baptist Associations and State Conventions. As a young pastor, one of my goals has been to become active in participation on all levels of Baptist life including the local, state, and national levels. I attended my first national convention in Greensboro, NC and will also be attending this year's national convention in San Antonio, TX. I have not made the state convention yet, but plan on attending this year's conference. I also have attended many of our local associational meetings.

One of the main reasons I have made this a goal pertains to the issue of stewardship. As the Pastor of a local church, it is partly my responsibility to lead the church I pastor to be fiscally wise in the way we spend money. My desire is to maximize our church expenditures towards the goal of making the maximum impact for the kingdom of God.

So I am in the process of evaluating how the money we contribute to the Local Association, the SC State Convention, and SBC is being used. Understanding where the SBC money is being used is pretty simple. The official breakdown can be found here at The bulk of the money sent to the SBC goes to support the work of the IMB, NAMB, and the six Southern Baptist seminaries.

However, deciphering just where and on what money is spent for in the State Convention is more difficult. I have looked through the state annual information, but there is little detail, so the end result is that you know a category of where money is spent, but you have little idea on what it is being spent.

Local Association expenditures are more easily assessed because of my more direct role in the process.

Day's address is timely for Southern Baptists. There needs to be much thought put into
the future operations of both the local association and state convention. First let me say, there is quality work being done on both levels. Gary Horton, who works at the South Carolina Baptist Convention, provided for me and the church I pastor valuable guidance on how to properly set up a minister's compensation. He has continued to be helpful whenever we have needed assistance on a financial issues. And recently our local association began to financially support of church planter in the Northeast.

However I have often wondered why local associations and state conventions do so many ministries which could and maybe should derive from local churches. For example, why is it necessary for any church to send money to the association only to have the association send that same money to a church planter when the church could in the first place send the money directly to the church planter? The benefits of the church sending it directly outweigh the benefit of it being sent by the local association. One benefit to the church is the relationship it fosters between a congregation and the church planter and his family; missions becomes more personal. However, when the Association sends the money, it tends to only affect a small number of pastors, as pastors generally are the ones who attend these meetings.

Mike Day addressed some of the problems we currently have in regards to the ministry of local associations and state conventions. One specific issue is the problem of redundancy. We have churches, associations, and conventions all doing the same work. Money is being spent on all three levels to fund the same ministries. Moreover, why are associations and state conventions implementing so many ministries anyway? The goal should be that the churches within the local associations and state conventions take the lead in Christian ministry.

Like Mike Day, I do not have all the answers. I am also not educated enough on my own local association and state convention to make a final judgment about its effectiveness in regards to my own church's financial stewardship. But I do know that young pastors are far and few between. Our local association, while not attended well overall, is poorly attended by young ministers and young laity. My prayer is that God will give myself and the other participants of the association and convention the wisdom and boldness to move forward on how churches can best cooperate in the work of God's kingdom.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Rare Snow in South Carolina

Early this morning, snow began to fall for the first time in the 27 months I have lived here in upstate SC. However, it quickly changed from sleet to freezing rain, to rain. The kids were able to get out and enjoy the slush. This was the first snow for my youngest daughter. And she did not want to come back into the house.