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Decatur Baptist Church becomes Morgan Baptist Associationís largest congregationcomment (0)

December 1, 2005

By Martine G. Bates

Morgan Baptist Association recently welcomed Decatur Baptist Church back as part of the association.
“(We are) excited, enthused, elated and delighted that they have become a part of our family,” said Donnell Brown, director of missions for Morgan Association. 
“This is a big thing for our association and the convention.”
With an average 1,100 Sunday School attendance, Decatur Baptist is now the largest congregation in Morgan Association. 
The church, which constructed a new $6.7-million worship center in 2004 to accommodate a growing congregation, was originally part of the association but moved to independent status in 1957. 
Under the leadership of Pastor Doug Ripley, the church petitioned this year to rejoin Morgan Association. 
With an enthusiastic 100 percent vote in October, the association agreed to accept the church under watch care for one year. During that year, the church will be a full participant in all associational activities except for voting on associational issues. At the associational meeting in 2006, the church will be granted full membership. 
Ripley and his church have been building relationships with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for several years, according to Brown.  
“Not many people know it but Decatur Baptist has already been supporting our association financially,” he said. 
“They have also been generous with their facilities. 
“We have scheduled several large events in their building, since they have the largest Baptist facility in the area.”
Ripley was hesitant to formalize the relationship at first, he noted.
“I have been bringing in Southern Baptist preachers for years, but I didn’t see why we should want this kind of association,” Ripley said. “As I have brought these men in to expose our people to the great men of God, I’ve had them say, ‘Doug, I don’t know why you don’t become one of us because there is no difference.’”
Prompted by men like Bailey Smith, Junior Hill and Phil Waldrep, Ripley began thinking about making the move. “I have thought about it in my heart for over three years but let the Lord lead. I wanted to do it in His timing. 
“As I began to build relationships and work with the men locally, I saw that we could have better partnerships by being part of the SBC than being independent. We are so like-minded in what we believe and our desire to make a difference doing Kingdom work.” 
About two years ago, the pastor asked the staff to begin praying about the idea, followed by the deacons, then the congregation 16 months ago.  
“I felt that it was time in August, so we proceeded to prepare the people the best we could.
Members of Decatur Baptist were pleased with the process and the outcome,” Ripley said.
“It’s been over a year since the idea was brought up,” said Sheila McAlpin, Decatur Baptist member. “The church was very open in the process. The staff made a presentation to the church, and we got to write down questions. 
“They went back and answered all of the questions, gave us a Web site we could go to and even called people who had other questions.” 
McAlpin was part of the 88 percent who voted in favor of the move. 
“This will help us reach our Jerusalem better,” she said. “We can have a greater impact on our area through a community of churches.”
McAlpin, like many other members of Decatur Baptist, has a Southern Baptist background. Others, less familiar with the SBC, were concerned that changes would have to be made in areas like music and preaching styles. 
Ripley was able to reassure the congregation that there would be no forced changes.
“The autonomy of the local church is part of the DNA of the SBC,” he said. “Southern Baptists are more independent than the Independents.” Even with its new status, the church will continue its relationships with local Independent congregations. 
“We’re not abandoning our foundation; we’re just broadening it,” Ripley said. “When you come together with 73 other churches, what you can do to impact the Kingdom!
“The key word is partnerships. You can do more together than you can apart.”

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