I have just completed a meeting with our directors of missions. Oklahomans are very fortunate to have a group of men leading our associations who are committed to serving the local church and the work of the Kingdom to the ends of the Earth. It is a privilege to partner with them in ministry.
With the significant changes occurring at the SBC level, more and more pressure is brought to bear on state conventions and associations. In reality, until the giving level of church members rises, the church and every work beyond will struggle and compete for an inadequate supply of dollars. While much of the talk is focused on state conventions cutting ministry, the fact is that SBC agencies and seminaries must take the same kinds of cost cutting measures that associations and states are enduring. No one gets a bye—and, in fact, that includes the International Mission Board.
At home, it is incumbent upon the state convention and associations to work together to do ministry but avoid duplicating ministry costs. I am pleased that leaders among the directors of missions have recently accomplished a significant study that builds bridges for cooperative and collaborative ministry between the state convention and associations. We have made a joint commitment that associational leaders will meet regularly with the BGCO executive team. This will allow all of us to stay on the same page and be even more strategic in serving our churches.
The association is the first level of work beyond the local church. Associations first appeared more than 300 years ago in Philadelphia. The association served as a focal point for fellowship. Another role was to focus the energies of the churches on church planting. The association also served as a center for maintaining doctrinal integrity among the churches. As associational missionaries took their place in Baptist life, they provided strong support for pastors and served to develop and strengthen the local church ministry.
Associations accomplish a lot of these same things today. In many places, church planting still remains a priority. The church planting group at the BGCO works closely with directors of missions in determining both the place and person for a church plant. This is important because the director of missions can give up-close assistance to a church planter and the church.
Training has always been an important part of associational work. The convention staff comes alongside associational leadership to provide training opportunities for leaders in the local church. It is a partnership that still produces consistent and constant development of those who serve the local church in various capacities.
On the dark side, directors of missions and the BGCO often work in collaboration to help churches in crisis. I wish this was a minor part of the work. It is not. Directors of missions moderate far too many church business meetings seeking to bring peace in the midst of the storm. Our staff often assists by assessing the needs and helping to formulate a plan for reconciliation and forward movement after a church conflict.
Across the years the association and convention have invested many dollars in collegiate ministry. In most cases the BGCO pays the salary and benefits for the BCM director, and the association and local churches provide ministry dollars. Collegiate Ministries is the largest single part of our convention budget, and the partnership with associations is essential to provide ministry on college campuses across our state.
One of the most productive collaborations between the BGCO and associations is in partnership missions. Our directors of missions lead their churches to be on mission in Oklahoma, our nation and the world. While some associations are involved in places beyond our BGCO partnerships (and that is no problem), many focus on the areas where the state convention has connected. This cooperative work is invaluable in assisting our churches to invest in missions through hands-on experiences.
I am thankful for our directors of missions. Our future together is bright and our need for collaboration more important than ever.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.