By Dr. Steve Crawley, Executive Director • Ministers Resource Services
Years ago, some creative guys in our work created a parody of Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the USA,” replacing the well-known lyrics with “Born in the BMA!” Such was the case for me.
My grandfather, Verner Crawley, was present at the 1950 ABA Annual meeting in Lakeland, Fla. Disagreements between the brethren at that meeting resulted in the genesis of the North American Baptist Association later that year. In 1968, the year I was born, the name of the association was changed to the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) of America. As such, I was “born in the BMA,” and I have grown to appreciate countless men and women who have given their lives to advance the cause of Christ through our association of churches.
In 1975, my father, LaVay Crawley, surrendered to ministry at the age of 35. After graduating from Southeastern Baptist College in 1977, my father accepted the call to Calvary Baptist Church in Purvis, Miss. Calvary was a member of the Oak Grove Association, and it seems much of our lives revolved around fellowship with sister churches. Dad would attend the monthly local association meeting, and the youth would attend the monthly Youth-in-the-Harvest meeting. These occasions provided a strong network for both adults and youth. We looked forward to the meetings each month, as it presented an opportunity to connect with friends and make new ones.
In 1981, my father accepted the call to Vardaman Street Baptist Church in Wiggins, Miss. There we were part of another strong local association — the Ten Mile. In addition to the local association and youth meetings, I recall my parents participating monthly in an associational pastor and wives’ fellowship. These perpetual fellowships produced a strong bond between the pastors, resulting in a solid local mission effort, as well as colleagues with which to share burdens, ideas and life in general.
Being “born in the BMA,” I would have never imagined as a child that one day I would be allowed to serve in four of our national departments and agencies. In 2013, the BMA went through a departmental integration, leading to multiple organizations converging on a common site in Conway. Further, it led to the creation of the BMA of America Limited Liability Company, an entity owned by the departments and created to share assets and employees. This tactical move changed the structure of the BMA at a national level and reduced annual overhead costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don Brown, editor of the Mississippi Baptist, explained the changes at that time using another parody from a 1980s auto commercial — “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile” — with “This is not your father’s BMA.” He was not being critical but just explaining that “Today’s BMA” would be structured differently. Fortunately, as we look back over the past 10 years, the changes have produced the anticipated results, with departmental leaders working together more harmoniously, efficiently and effectively. It has been good to see our association move forward in many new, innovative ways.
Nonetheless, as we contrast our “Fathers’ BMA” with the “Today’s BMA,” we must not lose sight of the example set by those who have gone before us. They may not have had the systems, processes and resources in place we have today, but they overcame countless challenges because they relied on each other. They were intentional about building and maintaining relationships with their brothers and sisters, and it served them well.
All of us are wiser and stronger than one of us. Today, more than ever, we need to continue our efforts to associate for fellowship, missions, doctrinal integrity and accountability. Given the current spiritual climate of our nation and the inherent challenges, it is now more important than ever that churches, pastors and entity leaders of the BMA work together to fulfill our missional mandate for the glory of God!
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