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The Future of the SBCmdashLocal Associations

Written by Ed Stetzer on . Posted in Ed Stetzer

Associations have a chance to demonstrate their value to local churches.

As geographic concerns lessen through the use of technology, churches are forming networking partnerships that unite churches around theological and missiological concerns.

That’s generally called associationalism.

These networks did not, and could not, exist 20 years ago—due to technological limitations—have exploded now. This generates questions for denominations whose structural model has remained the same since pastors traveled by horses to meetings.

We have to ask exactly how effective we have been over the last 100 years when many horse riding pastors would recognize today’s structures.

Currently, in Southern Baptist life, there is a direct link between the state conventions and the national convention through the funding mechanism of the SBC. It’s called the Cooperative Program (or “CP” for my non-SBC readers).

Baptist associations have been historically left out of that by their request, actually.

This causes them to function as free agents of sorts—each is autonomous. While the state and national conventions desperately need each other, they drawn from the same CP dollars. Strategies like the Great Commission Resurgence called for tightening of state belts to fund the national body ever more fully. This, for some states, has been a challenge, but has had little impact on associations.

Local associations predate the larger organizational structures, but pastors in the next 20 years are not going to continue using a methodology simply because “it has always been that way.” Because of this, a squeeze is coming that will cause the local church to evaluate the partnerships they are engaged in to determine the ones that are the most beneficial to their stated goals.

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