Association is a term that defines how Baptist churches work together in partnership. Each church determines the level of participation and financial support it will provide to the association. Many of Kentucky’s associations are demonstrating we are Better Together by leading member churches in missions, evangelism, revitalization, church planting and leadership development.
The benefits to churches that partner through the local association are sometimes overlooked. Yet, we know that partnership between churches is an important aspect of New Testament Christianity. The apostle Paul and other New Testament leaders modeled the value of churches working together to advance the gospel. While their context may have been different from ours, the truth remains — we are better when partnering together.
In the past, churches were Better Together through their partnerships:
• Helping each other with doctrine and practice (Acts 8:14-25; Gal. 3)
• Relocating leaders to strengthen other situations (Acts 11:19-23, 25-26, 12:25, 16:1-3)
• Sending individuals and teams on short-term visits (Acts 11:27, 19:21-22; 1 Cor. 4:15-17; Phil. 2:19-29; 2 Tim. 1:18)
• Sending money to help each other (Acts 11:28-30)
• Planting churches (Rom. 15:24; 2 Cor. 10:15-16)
Five reasons churches are Better Together in partnership through the association are …
1. Partnership contributes to the mission
Our mission is to take the gospel to our neighborhoods and the nations. How could any local church do that alone? But, by partnering with the association, every church can participate in local and world missions. Every church can pray for, give to and partici- pate through the association towards church planting and missions. Together, our mission can be healthier, stronger, longer and more sustainable.
2. Partnership encourages maturity
No matter how educated or experienced your church leadership is, the local church will mature and strengthen when it receives challenge and encouragement from other church leaders, like those in the association. Churches working together in an association hold each other accountable to doctrine, practices and outreach efforts.
3. Partnership is an expression of humility
It honors Christ when we consider others better than ourselves and seek ways to work together for the sake of the gospel. A church is sadly mistaken if it pridefully believes it doesn’t need to work together with other churches involved in the same mission.
4. Partnership provides synergy
An association can help strengthen member church- es and prop up weaknesses that may be slowing the work. Associations help maximize a church’s potential influence, providing a network through which the churches can influence more broadly than they could individually.
5. Partnership provides protection
Sometimes churches go through immensely challenging seasons. If a church loses a leader to burn out, sickness or failure, it will find support and encouragement from other member churches because of its partnership in the association.
The world glorifies individualism and self-sufficiency. However, Jesus taught His followers that we are Better Together. That is what He prayed for all of us in John 17. Let’s demonstrate to the world how much better we are when churches do it together in partnership through the association.
Eric Allen is team leader for missions mobilization of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.