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Alabama associations work togethercomment (0)

May 9, 2013

By Grace Thornton

Alabama associations work together

The 2 million unchurched people in Alabama can look pretty different.

In Marshall County alone, they could be Haitians, Ethiopians or Hispanics.

“And we also have a lot of cowboys — yee-haw,” said Randall Stoner, director of missions for Marshall Baptist Association. “The Lord has brought the missions field here, and we are an association of churches working together to get it done.”

Christians in Marshall County want to glorify God by fulfilling the Great Commission, Stoner said, and the association’s 103 Baptist churches “can do a lot more with one another to reach the 2 million lost in Alabama.”

Six cowboy churches are meeting now in Marshall County, and a Haitian church has gotten started recently too.

“An Ethiopian group is meeting at Victory Baptist in Guntersville, and we saw two of them saved two weeks ago,” Stoner said. “We couldn’t speak their language, but they understood enough English to know they wanted the Jesus we had.”

The association also has ministries running that provide housing for the homeless, as well as job-skill training and medical treatment for those who need it. Recovery churches, aimed at helping people who struggle with addictions, have now grown from 19 people to more than 1,000 meeting each week in cell groups.

“We couldn’t do it by ourselves,” Stoner said. “One church could not handle all these ministries.”

This is exactly what associational missions is all about, said Rick Barnhart, director of the office of associational missions and church planting for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

“The association is truly to be a uniting of likeminded churches established for the welfare of spreading the gospel in a particular area of the state,” he said. Churches that might not be able to handle a load of varied ministries themselves can team up to do ministry evangelism — food pantries, homeless shelters, counseling centers and a whole host of other things, Barnhart said.

And the association is to be “missionally strategic” in its approach to reaching its area, he said.

“Directors of missions must think like a missionary as they look at the needs … and as they look specifically at the churches that they are charged and privileged to serve with,” Barnhart said. “Thinking missionally means developing strategies that are specific to the communities and people groups we are honored to reach.”

For Birmingham Baptist Association (BBA), that strategy looks like partnerships aimed at reaching “Jerusalem” first, said Mike McLemore, BBA executive director of missions.

“We here in the Birmingham Baptist Association see our mission as one of assisting and resourcing our churches to fulfill the Great Commission,” he said, noting the association serves as a channel to help churches reach the metropolitan area.

It does that through a range of inner-city ministries that do things like feed the hungry, help underprivileged children and take the gospel into elementary schools, provide medical equipment to people who need it and mobilize teams of students to help with home repair. The Church’s mission is “a global mission, but it begins here at home and spreads throughout the world,” McLemore said.

Thomas Wright, executive director of missions for Mobile Baptist Association, agreed. Through the International Ministries Center — aimed at seafarers, refugees and other immigrants — Mobile Baptists hope to get the gospel to the world.

“Missions can be defined as the redemptive activity of God’s people,” he said, noting that the association provides opportunities for churches and their members “to use their gifts locally, nationally and internationally.”


What associational missions looks like


I think the adage that ‘we can do more together than we can separately’ applies. In Shelby County, missions takes many forms. It is expressed in ministries like our Daily Bread Shop, which assists families with needs and offers them the gospel. It will be expressed in assisting a weekday Bible ministry at a YMCA, another church with a migrant ministry and helping another church minister in a housing project. It is literacy ministry. It is chaplaincy. Mission takes many forms. In one sense, the mission philosophy for Shelby Baptist Association has been ‘meet a need and share Jesus.’”

Hugh Richardson
Director of missions
Shelby Baptist Association

Missions has become the central focus of our association in the past decade. Missions teams — local, national and international. Thrift stores. Food pantry. Church planting with African Americans. And most recently creation of a new congregation in the prison camp of the newly opened Women’s Federal Correctional Institution at Aliceville. Disaster relief projects. Block parties. As a family of smaller churches, the association makes it possible for every Baptist in our area to be a Great Commission Christian.”

Gary Farley
Director of missions
Pickens Baptist Association

Judson Baptist Association is involved with different missions/ministries. We have two Christian Ministry Centers. Both have the same mission — feed the hungry and present the gospel. Judson has two home repair teams responding to needs. Most of our churches are involved in various events/ministries assisting in fulfilling this theme — block parties, car shows and rodeos, to name a few. The Judson Baptist Association actively and intentionally exists to serve by encouraging, strengthening, mobilizing and partnering together.”

George Thompson
Director of missions
Judson Baptist Association

Missions in Bigbee Association looks like the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and Kathleen Mallory offerings. It looks like several individuals going on missions trips to Central America and other areas, as well as encouraging and supporting two local young women serving in Third World countries. It looks like ministering to foreign students, especially Chinese students enrolled in the University of West Alabama. It looks like sponsoring various evangelistic events like Horse Whisperers to reach the lost community in our area.”

Larry Potts
Director of missions
Bigbee Baptist Association

In the hills and valleys that mark our region of service, there are many physical needs that are not being met. We strive to help our neighbors, to make their lives safer, healthier and more peaceful, always in the name of our Lord. When anyone asks them ‘who did this for you?’ we always want the answer to be, ‘Oh, don’t you know, it was someone from down at the church.’”

Lloyd Borden
Director of missions
Lookout Mountain Baptist Association

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