By Michael Battenfield, President • BMA of Arkansas
Greetings from Northwest Arkansas and all your 2022 oﬃcers! I hope and pray you have already marked your calendars and are making any necessary arrangements to be a part of the BMA of Arkansas Annual Meeting, Thursday & Friday, Nov. 3-4, on the campus of our beautiful Central Baptist College! It is my prayer that 2022 will be an opportunity to regroup and refocus as an association of churches, working together for the glory of Christ, connected by our common faith and Savior.
As I began last year praying about the 73rd annual meeting and the theme, one cold reality was inescapable — the growing number of churches that are struggling and even in serious decline, a trend I ﬁrst noticed when I served as a BMA of Arkansas clerk. Along with the decline, we see a parallel in our association’s participation and cooperation. This has led to the clear need to take an honest look at the health of all churches in our association.
The inescapable truth is that the healthier a local church is, the greater impact that church has for the kingdom in her own context, and the better able she is to work with other like-minded churches to engage in eﬀective missions beyond her community. If we genuinely want to be “missionary” in our work, we must begin with healthy local churches, and I dare say that every church has areas where it could be healthier.
This presents a question and, I believe an opportunity, to take a serious look at how we, as an association of autonomous churches in voluntary cooperation, can work toward healthier churches. Thus, the birth of this year’s theme — “Healthy Churches (Healthy Association) for the Glory of God” (Eph. 3:14-21).
Another possibly related observation is the declining participation in our association’s meetings, even prior to the challenges of the pandemic. Each year, fewer churches attend in person, also mirrored by the total number represented only by letter. The oﬃcers have been looking at what factors may be contributing to this decrease in active participation. Financial realities, the growing number of bi-vocational pastors and the above-mentioned church health issues have presented some signiﬁcant obstacles to attendance and participation. At the same time, our need for one another and our walk together as churches with a common mission has never been greater!
We are looking at several possible changes to our meeting time and format for the future, as well as seeking to bring more value for the investment of your time and expense of attending these sessions. This year we will see an exciting return of breakout sessions that I believe will be a huge blessing to those who are able to attend. There will be four speakers and two blocks of time available to attend on Thursday afternoon. All our speakers have valuable experience that will prove helpful and encouraging, each with a diﬀerent focus on healthy local churches. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks!
I pray you can catch the excitement I have caught for the potential that the BMA of Arkansas has if our churches focus on being healthy. Please be in prayer for our two days of meetings — that they are, ﬁrst, glorifying to God; but second, that we get excited for what God might do with churches seeking to be healthy, working together for His glory!