As we enter the Fall season, now is the time for Association and State Conventions to hold their annual meetings. While I enjoy engaging in Convention issues and participating on the national level, I find that the local association and state convention have been vitally important to my growth and development as a pastor and in building relationships with other pastors.
Our national conversation continues to consider what is the long-term role of state conventions and local associations. The reverberations of GCR have called on us in the Midwest, where the number of SBC churches is fewer and the churches are smaller, to “do more with less.” As our entities contract and NAMB’s investment in central staff diminishes, the question of what the long-term future of our denomination will look like structurally remains open.
In the meantime, our state Convention meeting is next week and I’m looking forward to it. In our state, our Executive Director has done what EDs do – developed a multi-year strategy that touches on the key areas of impact like revitalization, church planting, leader development, … you get the idea. The plan is sound and includes several “markers” that set specific goals and the strategy to reach them. Good stuff to be sure (well done Dr. McNeil!).
What really resonated with me, though, is how he presented it in his annual report. I’ve heard Dr. McNeil say it before, “Cooperation is a choice.” In this report, he calls us to “choose to engage” and looks for God to move and see “[C]hurches helping churches! Churches planting churches! Churches serving each other! Churches doing ministry together!” Guys (that’s yankee for y’all), this is why I am a Southern Baptist.
Now I realize being SBC in Indiana is different than being SBC in the larger conventions, but the DNA is the same. Our denomination is built on cooperation. Yes, giving to be sure. Cooperative missions, of course. But also, and vitally, the cooperation built on relationships that churches and pastors have with one another. I’m thankful to have served in churches that give faithfully to CP. I’m even MORE thankful to serve in churches that choose to cooperate, that choose to work together, that choose to encourage one another in the work, that choose to invest in each other, that choose to pray for one another.
I know that every State Convention and association doesn’t enjoy that level of cooperation/fellowship/partnership/koinonia. Maybe I’m spoiled. What I am most, however, is thankful. Thankful for a denomination that holds biblical cooperation as one of its highest ideals. Thankful to have served in associations and a state convention that realize that cooperation is a choice and do indeed choose to do this thing together.
As we continue to wrestle with big issues on the national level, as we anticipate new leadership in more than half of our entities, as we move forward and anticipate a new move of God in our denomination, whatever that might look like, let’s not forget this key essential to what it means to be SBC. Let’s keep choosing to engage God’s mission together! Let’s commit ourselves to one another. Let’s choose cooperation.