Attending some association annual meetings over the past few days has given me a renewed sense of the value of partnership at the local level. Churches of the Nelson Baptist Association gathered to celebrate God’s work among them on the evening of Sept. 11. My children attended a youth event with hundreds of other teens from across the association while the adults gathered in the sanctuary of Mt. Washington First Baptist Church for worship. We heard many encouraging reports about local and international mission efforts.
One unique effort is leveraging the energies of the entire association behind two small churches in the community of New Haven. Nelson Baptists determined they could not be faithful to the Great Commission and ignore so many unchurched in one of their own communities. They have made an ongoing commitment to assist those churches with ministry and outreach. Prayers and plans also include the hopes of planting a new church.
Regarding church planting, I was thrilled to get an update on efforts by churches of this association to reach a lofty church planting goal of 10 new congregations. Less than halfway into their time frame, Nelson Baptists have already witnessed the birth of six new congregations! I recently heard North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell state that between 800-1,000 Southern Baptist churches close each year. Hats off to the churches and associations working to replace these dying congregations!
Churches of the Nelson Baptist Association are very diverse. Some are large but many are small. Some are served by elders; others by deacons. Some are more Reformed in their theology than others. Some utilize a very traditional style of worship while others are very modern in their style. Some have young men serving as pastors but not all. Some are suburban but most are small town or rural.
Yet, sitting in the sanctuary with hundreds of people from these very diverse churches and hearing about their mission trips, local outreach projects, and church planting efforts, I was struck by the sense of unity in the body. And the fact that God is using these local partnerships to advance His Kingdom is without question.
Stan Lowery serves as director of missions. Stan has directed a prayer initiative and provided opportunities for training and networking. One of the keys to the success of his association is the investment he has made in helping churches partner in an Acts 1:8 model to do mission work that emphasizes church planting.
Stan and others like him in associations across the Commonwealth are to be commended for their ministry. When an association has a Great Commission focus, is enthusiastic about church planting, and leverages partnerships, Kingdom advance is sure to result.