I was just thinking about a conversation I had with a man last week. He found out that I was a retired pastor, and his immediate response was, “What denomination?” I said, “I am a Baptist.” He then began to inquire if I knew any of several names of pastors he knows. I asked, “Are those SBC pastors?” He said they were and then asked, “You mean there are some besides Southern Baptists?” Then he laughed and said, “You must be a Missionary Baptist.” To which I replied, “Yes, BMAA.”
Then came the so often asked question, “Okay, pastor, what is the difference between the SBC and the BMAA?” The answer I frequently offer is what I gave him, “In some instances, not much. At other times, a whole lot.”
What is a BMAA Church?
Short answer, is that it is a group of churches that have covenanted together to spread the gospel of Christ across the nation and around the world. The Baptist Missionary Association of America is strongly conservative and devotedly missions-hearted. But if you were to ask the “average” BMA church member to explain what a BMAA church is, you likely would not always get a good answer. So, here is my longeranswer:
A BMAA church is a local congregation of believers in Jesus Christ as the crucified, buried, risen and coming again Savior of the world. Yes, I know SBC churches are that as well, as are some from other denominations. The identity of a BMAA church is that she is congregational. There is no Pope, no bishop or district superintendent who directs or controls the polity of the BMAA church. Our churches are autonomous, meaning that the congregation is self-governing. The local church calls (elects) her pastor, sets salaries, determines local ministries and cooperates in a worldwide missions program. Most are involved with local, state and national associations.
The local church realizes that the Bible is God’s Word and is the standard for faith, morality and ministry in the church and the community. There are no creeds or traditional writings guiding the BMAA church. However, three documents are of tremendous essence. The first is the Doctrinal Statement, which outlines the scriptural basis for faith and practice. The second is the Church Covenant. For many years one would not enter a house of worship in a Missionary Baptist Church without seeing a large rendering of this document on a wall. The third is the Principles of Cooperation, which outlines the way the associations (local, state and national) conduct the business of the churches — especially in the area of Missions, Christian Education, Ministry and Publications.
The Purpose of Associational Involvement
In my 58 years of serving the Lord in the BMAA, I realized the importance of taking part in associated work as a representative of the local churches in which I served. But here is the hinge for such involvement — it must begin with the congregation desiring to join with other congregations to promote those very entities I just mentioned. If the church does not send messengers, there is no avenue for their pastors or other members to be involved in the associational ministries.
This November, the BMA of Arkansas will convene again on the campus of Central Baptist College. For too long now, the attendance has dwindled. This old preacher is urging the members to see the need to be involved — to be represented at that meeting. Please elect your pastor and two other members as messengers. Make the necessary reservations for them and ask them to report back about what transpired during the meeting. I believe it will encourage our directors and college president, but I think it will also encourage each local church that is represented.
Dealing with Baptist Differences
I encourage the churches of the BMA of Arkansas to revive their involvement — to speak out via messengers — ensuring their voice in decisions that truly matter greatly in the scope of carrying the gospel to the local community and across our state.
Sadly, many today are doing just exactly what God’s Word said would be done — they are departing from the Truth. Some of the other conventions and associations of churches are crossing over from conservative doctrinal positions to those of unscriptural liberal positions. Friends, I am talking about other Baptist groups. Fellow believers, we must not cross over. We must remain true to what God’s Word teaches and not what mankind’s emotions embrace.
Today, the BMA of America and BMA of Arkansas churches are remaining true to God’s Word. Please, let us do everything we can to stand strong on the foundations we have known for years. We cannot give way to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. We must battle heresy by standing strong with the Word of God. We must pray for our pastors and missionaries, our Sunday School and VBS teachers, our administrations and faculties of our educational institutions and pray that our families who are members of local BMAA congregations raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
We Must Take a Stand!
I often refer to the refrain of a song I first heard as a teenager, “It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room; it’s a fight and not a game. So run if you want to, run if you will, but I came here to stay.” Paul said it this way: “Therefore put on the whole armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Eph. 6:13).
I was just thinking… I am so glad to be a BMAA Baptist. I hope you are as well!