I was just thinking about how fast time flies. It seems like only a few months ago I was passing the gavel to the new BMA of Arkansas president, Michael Battenfield. Now it is less than a month (Nov. 3-4) until the messengers from the churches will convene on the campus of Central Baptist College in Conway. I encourage every church to send messengers and participate in the Lord’s business of missions, Christian education, youth ministry and publications.
Attendance has declined in recent years. Yes, some of that was due to the COVID pandemic that affected so many public gatherings for many months, but I feel that some of the reasons can be traced to just a real lack of interest in the associated work of the churches who are members of the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas. One may ask, “Why should our church send messengers?” I offer these reasons.
• The Association is important. In the early years of the 1950s, churches sent messengers to consider the organization of an association of churches that would enable the gospel message to be shared across the state by planting new churches through what would be known as State Missions. However, a concern for Christian education in the form of a college became the intent of the association of churches. That brought about the new Conway Baptist College, which later had a name change to the present — Central Baptist College.
A means of keeping the churches knowledgeable of the progress of these ministries brought about the purchase of the Temple Trumpet, and the birth of what you are now reading, the Baptist Trumpet. For several years, the BMA of Arkansas operated the BMA Children’s Home which was located in Columbia County. That ministry is no longer in existence.
In the 1980s, a need to form a network for ministry to the youth of the churches of the BMA of Arkansas resulted in what today is known as the BMA of Arkansas Youth Department (Student Ministry Matters).
These entities cannot operate on their own. Each is faced with differing needs for finances. That is why the BMA of Arkansas is important. Our churches, through special and regular monthly designated offerings, fund these extremely important ministries. They cannot continue to exist without the support of the churches.
• The messengers are the voices for the churches. Every church is equal in the association, regardless of the size of the membership. Each church can send three messengers to represent it at the annual session or any called session. The churches can also send alternates to step in when a messenger is unavailable. Additionally, the church should elect a missionary committeeman to represent it when the BMA of Arkansas Missions Missionary Committee convenes.
In order to have a voice in the business of the association, your church needs to send members of your congregation to vote on the very important matters before the associational body. This is so important.
I have been attending the meetings of the BMA of Arkansas since 1964. I love our churches, and it’s such a blessing to see how orderly, lovingly and devotedly the messengers conduct the business before them. Yet at this time, I am saddened that so many churches have chosen to no longer participate. Pastors, please speak to your church about the importance of their voice. Please ask them to send messengers to this year’s annual session.
• The fellowship is rewarding. I want to emphasize one more reason to send messengers. It is the wonderful fellowship that is experienced as members from the churches interact with one another. I find this fellowship rewarding. In the past 58 years, I met so many wonderful Christians and I treasure the friendships I have made. Many of our trailblazers of the association have received their heavenly promotions. Those of us who had dark hair in the 1960s now have grey hair (or like me… no hair!). Those are inevitable changes as the years go by, but here is something that has not changed —the need for our churches to meet together to continue to support State Missions, Central Baptist College, the BMA of Arkansas Youth Department and the Baptist Trumpet.
That’s what I was just thinking. I think what our trailblazing leaders of yesteryear saw as a vision for association ministry is so important that our churches need to keep that vision in focus. I hope the churches will pray for President Michael Battenfield, the other officers, departmental leaders, the State WMA and State Brotherhood. I also pray that more churches will be represented at the annual session on Nov. 3-4.