Lake Charles is projected to be one of the fastest growing communities in Louisiana for years to come. Oil and gas and chemical manufacturing are booming and have only slowed down slightly with drops in oil prices. Carey Baptist Association and Director of Missions Bruce Baker serve this area, representing Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jefferson Davis Parishes. Planters and partners are needed to reach a growing population and a key area for our state for years to come. Check out some data on this area:
- Population of Carey Baptist Association: 241,662 (up 3% since 2010). Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis, and Cameron Parishes.
- Worship Attendance in 72 SBC churches: 9,128 Only 3.8% of the population worshipped in a SBC church on any given weekend in 2018.
- Bible Study Attendance: 5,227 (down 20% since 2010). Only 2.2% of the population attended Bible Study in an SBC church on any given weekend in 2018.
- 72 SBC churches for a church to population ration of 1 to 3,356 residents. Our state average & our goal for each association is 1 to 2,850. NAMB suggests 1 to 2,000 as a good mark. 12 new churches would be needed to get to 1 to 2,850 in the Lake Charles area.
- 57 SBC churches in Calcasieu Parish for 1 to 3,563. 10 churches in Jefferson Davis Parish for 1 to 3,158.
- Only 10 non-Anglo SBC churches for 1 to 6,714 church to non-anglo population.
- Evangelical Population: 59,161 or 24% of the population.
- Those with No Religious Affiliation or None’s: 65,878 or 27% of the population. So there are now more None’s than Evangelicals.
- Roman Catholic Population: 83,950 or 35% of the population.
- Mainline Protestant: 11,157 or 5% of the population.
- 7,302 students currently attend McNeese St. University.
- 63% of Carey Association churches are under 100 in attendance. 38% under 50 in attendance.
- 28% of Carey Association churches with zero baptisms in 2018.
- Projected Job Growth is 2.5% in 2020 and 3.1% in 2021.
Pray for planters and partners.
Helpful info for homeowner’s who have flooded – PDF Version – mudout guide for homeowners
The removal of wet debris from a flooded home is called mud-out because everything flooded is saturated with muddy water. The objective is to get the house cleared of all wet debris to discourage the growth of mold and to allow the structure to dry out as quickly as possible so reconstruction can begin. The following sequence of actions is suggested for your consideration:
1. Look for hazards such as broken gas lines, structural damage and damaged electric systems. Other potential hazards may include contamination by chemical spills and overflowing of sewage systems. Watch for snakes and insects that may be found in unexpected places.
2. Be aware of personal health and physical limitations. People with respiratory or heart problems should approach mud-out work with great caution. Furthermore, flood conditions bring increased risk of tetanus and hepatitis. Wear protective clothing such as boots, coveralls, hardhat, gloves and facemask. A fiber face respirator with N-95 rating is normally adequate for dust and molds, but not for gas or chemical fumes.
3. Open all doors and windows and use fans to help circulate air through the house. Try to prevent any additional damage to the home. If the roof has suffered damage, temporary plastic roof covering may be needed. Remember, the home can normally be restored to its previous or better condition.
4. Prevent health hazards by removing perishable foods and any chemicals or medicine to safe areas where animals or children will not get to it.
5. If the flood water was high enough to get the walls and insulation wet:
a. Remove all damaged furniture and wet debris from the house. Separate it on the curb by type, as appliances, furniture, food, chemicals and dry wall (sheetrock). Put insulation and miscellaneous items in plastic bags. Please be aware that many of your things can be saved if properly cleaned and restored.
b. Remove the carpets and pads. These can be cut into manageable pieces with a box knife for safe removal. Some carpet cleaning companies can clean and restore carpets but the wet carpet pad has to be replaced.
c. Remove the baseboard, window and door trim where the dry wall and insulation is wet and must be taken out. Drill 1” holes in the bottom of the wall between each stud to get air circulation.
d. The dry wall and insulation should normally be removed about one foot above the high water level. Moisture Meters can be used to check the condition of the dry wall and insulation.
e. Remove any wet items from fixtures or cabinets. Open all doors to cabinets. If the water level was only several inches, drill a 1” hole in the bottom of each cabinet so an air flow can me maintained. Leave permanent fixtures and cabinets for repair or removal by professional craftsmen. Dry wall and insulation behind or on the opposite wall of a fixture should be removed to allow the dry wall behind the fixture to dry.
f. If the flood water only reached the floor level but did not get the dry-wall and insulation wet you may only need to roll the carpet and remove the carpet pad, as some carpet cleaners can clean and dry the carpet and replace the pad. Adequate ventilation will be needed to remove excessive moisture. See item c.
6. When an area is drying, do not rewet it with a hose or power washer. Let the area dry out and then sweep up the remaining debris. Spray with a fungicide such as Shockwave. If it is not available, a mixture of one half cup of bleach per one gallon of water may be applied where the site is still wet and mold is growing, this may not affect black mold.
7. Allow the house to dry out for several weeks before putting in new dry wall and insulation. The time required for adequate drying will depend on temperature, humidity and how well ventilated the structure is.
The Greater Lafayette area has been called Acadiana due to the influence of French Cajun culture. In 1965, a flag was even issued to give identity to the area & people. Beautiful area, beautiful people. And a great opportunity for evangelism for would be church planters & partners. Here’s some quick missiological data:
>> Population of ACADIANA (Acadia, Evangeline, Gulf Coast, Bayou Associations): 675,207
>> Only 1.8% attend a SBC church
>> Evangelical population only 9%
>> 229,049 unaffiliated with any church (they’re not all Catholic)
>> Population of EVANGELINE ASSOCIATION (Lafayette area) – 404,977
>> Only .9% of the population or 3,806 attend Bible Study in a SBC church.
>> Only 1.6% or 6,649 attend Worship in a SBC church.
>> 46 SBC churches – 1 church to every 8,803 persons. Our goal is 1 to 2,850. NAMB suggests 1 to 2,000.
>> Lafayette Parish population: 221,578. 20 SBC Churches. Church to Population Ratio: 1/11,079.
Planters, Partners needed.
Pray for our current planters in Acadiana:
- Stuart Amidon, Christ Church Opelousas;
- Louis Charrier, New Life Oppelousas;
- Ernest Davis, Olivet Christian Fellowship, Lafayette;
- Kent Duhon, Freedom Biker Church Lafayette;
- Scott Guillory, Christ Church Abbeville;
- Darrell Guy, Unity 1 Baptist Church, Franklin;
- Melvin Mendoza, El Revuevo Lafayette & Iglesia Nueva Vida New Iberia;
- Luis Romero, Iglesia Nueva Vida Abbeville & Mowata;
- Aaron Shamp, Redeemer City Church, Lafayette;
- Dennis Smith, Berean Baptist, Crowley.
Also, had the opportunity to meet new Evangeline Baptist Association Director of Missions, David Carlton. Dr. Carlton spent 18 years serving in Africa with the International Mission Board. Looking forward to working with him & his staff to reach Acadiana. Check them out online HERE.
Other Acadiana Director of Missions:
- Alan Knuckles, Acadia-Louisiana-Mt. Olive Association. Alan’ associations bleed over into Acadiana & Central Louisiana. Several communities in his area with no evangelical churches. Prayers, planters, partners needed.
- Steven Kelly, Gulf Coast Baptist Association (Morgan City area). Gulf-Coast is a brand new solo association. Strategy for this area coming soon.
Church Planters & Compassion Ministry leaders in the Greater Baton Rouge area are getting a treat this weekend, learning from Tulsa, OK, Church Planter Kujanga Jackson. Kujanga & his wife Kimberly planted New Beginnings Church in North Tulsa. NBC is the incredible story of how God birthed a Multi-Ethnic church near the spot of the largest race riots in US History. And NBC has in 10 years, planted 6 other churches & started a non-profit called TOUCH which reaches into 6 major schools & many low income multi-housing developments. The thing I love about this story is that NBC is in one of the poorest communities in Tulsa, but has found a way to be a self-sustaining AND multiplying church. Utilizing the non-religious non profit TOUCH for fund raising, for ministries, & employment of staff, the church doesn’t have to shoulder the financial load of ministries in a community with high unemployment & low incomes. Self-sustaining, reproducing, impacting the community. That’s what we desire of all our churches. Look forward to having Kujanga back in the future!
A few other big takeaways from our time with Kujanga:
- To be a reproducing church you must stay lean & mean. Each time New Beginnings reaches 120 in attendance, they know they are pregnant & begin preparing to send out.
- For transient, low income communities, link strategy to local schools.
- On Multi-Housing Ministry: What you use to draw’em is what you’ll have to use to keep’em.
- Counter entitlement thinking in communities by making them a part of the process, allowing them to participate in planning & implementing events & ministries in their communities.
- What is a Mature Multi-Housing Ministry? The residents involved in the process of making their community better. The church as a link for resources.
I enjoy gardening. Even though I’m not very good at it. Why? I don’t always have the time to do what’s necessary to grow and multiply plants to their fullest extent. The best gardeners know how and put in the time to create the right conditions for growth and multiplication. The very best gardeners will start with a greenhouse to nurse the plants in early stages before they are ever put in the ground. A greenhouse is a tool where you can create the perfect conditions for multiplication & growth of plants at all different stages and with various needs.
I enjoy gardening in part because of the many parallels it has to church planting and ministry. I’ve began to see church as a greenhouse – a tool to create the right conditions for multiplication & growth OF DISCIPLES. Here are five truths I’m learning on church as a GREENHOUSE:
1. Disciples must be nurtured.
Like plants, like a garden, like a greenhouse, disciples need time and attention. One of the greatest books on discipleship has in its title a reminder we constantly need – Disciples Are Made, Not Born. While we are not completely responsible for the growth of a disciple, part of our commission from Jesus requires time and attention and energy and prayer, etc., etc., etc. One of the greatest disciple makers, the apostle Paul, said it like this in Colossians 1:28-29,
“We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.”
If we’re going to make disciples, we must expect to give much time and attention to people from sharing the gospel, teaching basic truths, responding to questions, correcting, forgiving, etc., etc.
2. A Disciple’s needs change over time.
A greenhouse or a garden is organized based on maturity and needs of the plants. Expectation are based upon time and stage of growth. Just like this, as churches, we need to provide a variety of opportunities for growth for people at different stages of maturity. And we need to teach our leaders what you can expect from people as they grow. The best tool I’ve seen that helps with this is Jim Putman’s great book Real Life Discipleship and the Real Life Discipleship Training Manual. Putman guides readers to understand where people are spiritually based upon what they say, and then how to respond and what to provide for them at that stage. (See my post Things Spiritual Infants Say for a run down).
3. Disciples will eventually need to be sent out from the greenhouse to multiply themselves.
The Greenhouse is not the final destination for a plant, nor is the Sunday worship service the climax of maturity for the disciple. Just like plants are meant to be outside, producing fruit and multiplying, disciples should be trained, equipped, and released into this world for maximum fruitfulness and to multiply the gospel in their sphere of influence.
4. Not all disciples will respond to the conditions you create.
A hard reality to face for the gardener, and much harder for the disciple maker is the truth that some plants and some people just won’t respond to the conditions you create. It hurts when a disciple doesn’t respond to God’s word. It hurts when a disciple leaves your church, but maybe they needed conditions you couldn’t provide at the time. Jesus even said that perhaps only 25% of disciples would become fruitful (Matthew 13). It’s important to remember that we’re responsible for our faithfulness, not everyones response.
5. The church is the perfect tool to create the conditions for multiplication & growth of Disciples.
The church, with all its imperfections, does provide a perfect environment for growth of disciples. A church offers opportunities to learn from those walking with God for years, opportunities to get involved and serve in various capacities, opportunities to have relationship wins and losses. These and other conditions help us grow. A lack of desire to learn, serve, love, and forgive REVEALS a lot about where we are spiritually and our potential for fruitfulness, maturity, and multiplication.
Does your church function as a Greenhouse? How are plants maturing? Are you providing opportunities for people at different stages of growth? Are you training your leaders to know what to expect as people grow? Are you moving people out to multiply in their world? Are you spending time with people that just refuse to grow & may need different conditions or to be let go?
Greenhouse: Basic Training for Church Multiplication
I’m humbled & excited to be involved with training church planters in Louisiana & our latest training is now called Greenhouse: Basic for Multiplying Disciples, Leaders, Groups, & Churches. Next one is right around the corner, Feb 22-23 at Wholly Ground Coffee House & Concert Venue. It’s free. You can join us & work on your GREENHOUSE. Register Here.
This week, I had the opportunity to facilitate a Breakout at the Louisiana Baptists Evangelism Conference with three men that lead churches with great Evangelistic culture in Louisiana. Jacob Crawford – Life Point Mansura, Willis Easley – Christ’s Community Denham Springs, & Checkerz Williams – Celebration LaPlace. (See my previous post for a bit of bio on them & their churches). These churches are responsible for 100’s of baptisms each year. We threw out several questions designed to just get them talking, so that we could glean insights & be inspired. These men had never met each other before this conference, but it was interesting to hear how many of the same things came out of their mouths related to creating an evangelistic culture. Here’s some things they said over & over that have stuck with me:
“It’s about casting vision.”
Checkerz Williams said he uses the statement “Can you imagine what our community would be like if…?” to get people to see the possibilities.
“We teach people, ‘It’s not about you.'”
Willis Easley said at least monthly they tell people to turn to the person next to you & say “It’s not about you.” And interestingly enough the other two churches do the same thing!
“Our church looks like our community.”
Life Point is 60% white, 40% African-American, which matches the demographics of the community it is in. Celebration LaPlace is 55% African-American, 35% white, 10% Hispanic, which matches the demographics of the community it is in. Each of these churches are diverse, multi-ethnic churches. A lot of people talk about diversity & multi-ethnic ministry, but what I’m learning is that diversity & multi-ethnic church development is a product of an evangelistic culture.
“We share the Gospel at every gathering.”
Each church makes the gospel an important part of every service. Jacob Crawford said, “Never assume that everyone believes. Assume the opposite & share the gospel.” And these leaders go out of the way to share the gospel in ways that are reproducible & easily picked up by others. Willis Easley says, He uses the Roman Road EVERY time he shares the gospel from the Pulpit, because it’s easily picked up by others.
“We love people to Christ.”
Service & outreach to the community is of course a major part of the ministries of each of these churches. Christ’s Community & Celebration Church both sponsor a big day of service at least annually, where everyone takes on outreach & evangelism projects together.
“We started an additional service to reach more people.”
Each of these churches have started multiple services to add capacity for reaching new people for Christ.
“We encourage people to pray for friends that are not believers.”
Each of these churches have a system in place for people to identify people in their relational network who are without Christ & pray for them. For Celebration it’s the FRAN list – Friends, Relatives, Associates, Neighbors. For Christ’s Church it’s called the High 5’s.
“We network with community leaders.”
Being involved in the community is important to each of these churches. “Building bridges not barriers” – Checkerz Williams.
“We baptize people that become believers quickly.”
Baptisms are down across the Southern Baptist Convention, so I was very curious as to what the process these churches have for baptism. Each said they baptize people very soon after they make a decision. Checkerz Williams says their baptistry at Celebration LaPlace is ALWAYS full & ready. Ushers at Life Point show up early & ask every Sunday, “How many do we have today?” in reference to baptisms. Their is an attitude of expectancy in these churches that people will be getting saved, so lets get ready to baptize them.
“We equip & train members of the church to do the work of evangelism.”
It was clear that for these men, their role is to equip the people & groups to do evangelism. So, from modeling, to training, to keying on reproducible processes, the desire is for the entire church to own evangelism of the lost community.
Great conversation. What do you need to add to your vocabulary this year related to your church’s culture? These sayings will be a great start.
Here’s a few other great quotes from our session:
- Willis Easley – “When I saw that we had only baptized 5 or 6 in a year, I got alone with God, & said, ‘Lord, we’re not doing what you called us to do.'”
- Jacob Crawford – “We cast a vision for community transformation. Avoyelles Parish’s suicide rate is similar to North Korea. We teach people that only Jesus can fix this.”
- Checkerz Williams – “Our Baptistry stays full. We talk about it every Sunday. Once per year we do a Baptism emphasis. You’ve got to keep it in front of people.”
- Willis Easley – “If you’re not sharing the gospel with lost people, you won’t be baptizing many people.”
- Willis Easley – “Southern Baptist have been trying to harvest in fields in which we haven’t sown.”
- Jacob Crawford – “The biggest obstacle to evangelism in our church was ME, the Pastor. I had to get out of the way & equip the members to do the work of the ministry.”
Fifteen. That’s the number of “failed” church plants we’ve recorded in Louisiana since 2010. 15 out of 124 churches planted. I tracked this number down, because it’s one of the regular remarks I hear from people wanting to question or disparage the role of church planting in the ministry of the church.
- “Don’t most church plants not make it anyway?”
- “History tells us that most church plants won’t be around in 10 years.”
- “I’ve heard 80% of church plants fail.” (Don’t know where this number came from, but it has to have joined the ranks of most quoted bad stats).
So that means we have an 88% “success” rate in church planting in Louisiana since 2010. The North American Mission Board has reported a 68% success rate across North America. (not an 80% failure rate! Please quit saying 80% of church plants fail!)
As a church planter, I hate using these words – “failed” & “success.” Here’s why?
- You can’t fail in attempting something great for God. If you’re sharing the gospel, you might not get immediate results, but you plant seeds for the future. The word of God never returns void. In the context of church planting, that might mean you run out of time on financial sustainability, but you can look back & see seeds planted, people that were lifted, & deep lessons learned that led to spiritual growth & character development in the life of a planter & team. I don’t think God would call that a failure.
- Defining success in church planting can be muddy waters. Successful Church Planting is evangelism that leads to the birth of a new congregation. Is it success, then, if a church plant stays open, but reaches very few new people through evangelism? Is it success, if a church plant grows at the expense of other churches in town? Is it success, if a church plant doesn’t impact the community around it through evangelism & people in the immediate area don’t even know it exists? Questions like these lead me to look back at my list of 15 & see a few churches that made the tough decision to close, but may have been more “successful” than some of the 109 that are still open. Self-sustainability is an important factor in church planting, but evangelism & reaching new people, should ultimately define our true success.
Why do Church Plants Fail?
Looking back at our list of 15, & a factoring in a few others that I’ve been involved with prior to 2010, here are the reasons for their failures:
- Character & Calling issues. 4 out of the 15 I mention closed because of moral failure or a deficiency in character in the church planter.
- Wrong Context & Culture. Another 4 in our list, can be chalked up to the church’s strategy & focus or the church planter himself not being a good fit for the context & culture.
- Ran out of Time. The other 7 just simply ran out of time before achieving critical mass or financial sustainability. Lots of factors could go with this one, including work ethic issues of the church planter (which may go back to character & calling), lack of partner development, lack of evangelism & team building, difficulty of the soil in the area (which may go back to context), etc.
These are all things that we can counter with good solid assessments of planters & partner churches on the front end, good equipping & networking opportunities for planters & their teams, & by building great partnerships to come around each new plant.
In Louisiana, we offer these opportunities as part of our Church Planting Networks. Connect with our Facebook Group to keep up with opportunities. Our Greenhouse Training coming up this Spring is specifically designed to help a church planter in Louisiana design systems & strategy to get to self-sustaining status in 5 years.
Church Planting is a risky thing. Not failing every now & then may be a sign that we’re not pushing into the absolute hardest to reach areas. The great axiom is “Failure is never final, it’s only feedback.” If a church plant doesn’t make it, it usually leaves behind some changed people & we can say it’s cultivated the ground for something in the future.
Check out these resources to help you or your church to get started on your church planting journey:
- 5 Things You MUST do Before You Start a Church
- 5 Things You MUST do During the First Year of a New Church
- 10 Biblical & Practical Ways to Get Involved in Church Planting
- Every Church Can Encourage Church Planting and Multiplication
- Every Church Can Be a Church Planting Partner
- Your Church Can Be a Parent to a New Church or Campus
Since 2010, 124 new churches planted in Louisiana with 8,987 new commitments to Christ reported in the first 36 month of these churches. That’s 72 new commitments to Christ per church plant.
How could 72 new commitments to Christ impact your community?
And that doesn’t account for a now lifetime partner in fighting community issues like addiction & hunger, a new partner in global missions, total evangelism as new believers get involved in new testament relationships & serving. Church Planting makes a difference.
Missiologist Peter Wagner said, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.”
Tim Keller says, “The continual planting of new congregations is the most crucial strategy for the growth of the body of Christ.” (get his great article Why Plant Churches).
Keep exploring the question “Does My Community Need a New Church?” HERE.
Check out these resources to help you get started:
- 10 Biblical & Practical Ways to Get Involved in Church Planting
- Every Church Can Encourage Church Planting and Multiplication
- Every Church Can Be a Church Planting Partner
- Your Church Can Be a Parent to a New Church or Campus
Connecting Dots, Defining Impact – Church Planting Highlights from the Louisiana Baptist Annual Meeting
Enjoyed a great couple of days of networking in Bossier City with the Louisiana Baptists Annual Meeting. The big highlight for me personally, was hearing my good friend Kirk Jones, Pastor of Fellowship Church in Prairieville, preach the Convention Sermon. Fellowship started from scratch in a Prairieville Fire Station in 2002. Since then 440 people have been saved & baptized at Fellowship & 700+ gather for worship each week on two campuses in hard to reach Ascension Parish.
Kirk took time to connect some dots & show the impact of the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program on his life. Kirk & I are the same age, so I saw myself in this exercise he led us through. From his local church having a Missions education program for boys called Royal Ambassadors, to the Annual Youth Evangelism Conference held each year to inspire teens to be on mission, then through Baptist Collegiate Ministries during college & Seminary training at SBC seminaries, & then deployment as church planter through the North American Mission Board & Louisiana Baptist Convention. Now 440+ new brothers & sisters in Christ & a healthy, multiplying church that is now a partner through the Cooperative Program & SBC Missions offerings. There are not many in our generation connecting these dots today. Thanks to Kirk for the great reminder. It’s not perfect. It’s not the only way to do it. But the Cooperative Program works.
A few other highlights:
- Annual Church Planting Network Luncheon – We have some amazing folks planting churches in Louisiana & the Annual Meeting is the one time each year that we can get a majority of them in one room for lunch & to say thanks.
- We had 48 of our 77 planters on stage for our Annual Report Monday night. It was cool to see the diversity & depth of church planting in the state in one big group.
- Our Mission Support Committee, which oversees the work of the Missions & Ministry Team, met & approved funding for 110 church planting & compassion ministry projects around Louisiana for 2016. Grateful for the Cooperative Program, Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering, and Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions that makes this possible.
- Greg Shyne, church planter for United Outreach in Shreveport received recognition for Outstanding Bivocational Ministry from the Louisiana Bivocational Pastors Fellowship. We’ve seen & embraced a big upswing in bivocationalism in church planting over the last few years in Louisiana. Love it!
- The Louisiana Baptist Pastors Conference was also great with H.B. Charles, Frank Cox, Phillip Robertson, Brad Jurkovich & others giving us some great encouragement to pursue the call.
In Louisiana, there are 32 Associations of Southern Baptist Churches. Each Fall, my job as Church Planting Strategist with the Louisiana Baptists allows me to attend 6-8 of their annual meetings. This year, I attended meetings in several different parts of the state. I love Associations & Associational Annual meetings, because I love LOCAL. And it’s in the local that you can get a glimpse of the Southern Baptist Convention at the ground level. For those of you who don’t know, Associations are basically regional networks of Southern Baptist churches that affiliate based on their geography. We have associations with as few as 15 churches and as many as 120 in Louisiana. Each Association has a Director (the DOM), a slate of officers, and ministry teams that have various functions from church revitalization to disaster relief. Each Association has 2-3 Executive Board meetings each year. Executive Boards are made up of pastors and members of local Southern Baptist churches. Each Association has one Annual Meeting, usually in the Fall, where business is conducted and budgets are set for the following year. Churches voluntarily give a set amount or percentage of their budgets to the local association.
Here’s a few encouraging observations after attending about 15 Associational Annual Meetings over the last few years:
Young Pastors are showing up, serving, and asking questions when they have opportunity.
Two of the largest associations in our state had moderators that were under 40 last year. Younger pastors seem not only interested in, but excited about being part of what’s happening locally and in supporting their local association.
The Southern Baptist Convention is growing at the Associational level.
Every Annual Meeting I attended this year had new congregations affiliating and being voted in as member churches. The Association is where you join in Southern Baptist life. Connecting at the national and state levels is through voluntary financial contributions. It’s great to see churches choosing the deeper connection and accountability that local affiliation provides.
Strategies are not monolithic and that’s OK with everyone.
Each association seems to go about the work a little differently. Some are more institutional, other are more organic and network like. Some are more pastor focused, others are more missions focused. Interestingly enough, they all work when the people agree and engage. There’s no sense of competition or “why don’t we do it more like…” among associations.
Much great work is being done that you and I will never know about.
The southern baptist association is not a big conference topic and the small church pastors, or big church pastors in smaller towns, that are usually more engaged in associational life, may never write a book or speak at a major conference. However, the innovation and creativity and passion for the local mission always amazes me when I’m able to gather with a local association.
Generational gaps in methodology appear to be closing.
A few years ago, there seemed to be present among younger and older pastors an “us” vs. “them” mentality toward the how to’s of church and outreach and ministry. That gap appears to be closing. The older generation is amen-ing and cheering on the younger. The younger generation are asking question of the older. All are seeing the culture changes shaking our foundation as bigger than fighting for my preferred methodology or philosophy.
Local churches are meeting each others needs through their associations.
When churches experience conflict, face property damage, pastors experience debilitating health issues, churches experience the loss of a pastor, etc., it’s beautiful to see the local associations of churches work toward providing for their sister congregations.
There are questions about the future, but the Local Association is not going away.
Attendance at associational meetings seem to be growing, not shrinking. Shifts are taking place to make associations more nimble and flexible for the sake of the mission. Thom Rainer reports that there are only 575 out of 51,000 southern baptist churches that have over 1,000 in attendance. Dr. Chuck Kelley reported that 90% of all SBC churches have 250 people or less attending worship on any given Sunday. Nearly 70% of all SBC churches have 100 or fewer in attendance each week. It’s these churches that need and are seeking the fellowship of fellow pastors and missions leaders at the associational and state level. Institutions are adjusting. There are questions about the future, but these networks do not appear to be going anywhere.
Here’s a few of my pics from Annual Meetings this year.