Our association has a significant opportunity before it. How we respond will determine if we position ourselves to take the road less traveled and capitalize on the opportunity, or take the easy road of the status quo and operate in maintenance mode.
We have a statement of faith that provides us with our parameters. Those tenets serve as our asset and platform to leverage—not as an albatross to hold us down. We must honestly admit that we are a niche constituency, defined by our doctrine. That is not a bad thing. We must avoid the temptation to become something we are not and violate our values. However, within those parameters, we must make the most of what God has given to us. Consider these key issues:
- In the next year we will relocate our staff to a new facility, which will change our business model. (Read “GARBC to Sell Meacham Property, Relocate Nearby.”)
- Over the next five years, a major shift in the administrative staff will occur, meaning we must give deliberate thought to next-generation leadership, who those leaders will be, and how they will be aligned.
- Increasingly we are gaining skills with our digital systems. Consider the advancements of the Baptist Bulletin, Regular Baptist Press publications, Gospel Literature Services delivery, our websites, and the Regular Baptist Web Community. How can we take advantage of these skills? Will we make decisions regarding delivery systems with an eye to the future or on the basis of the preferences of an aging constituency?
- What does it mean for us that groups sharing strong doctrinal values that once looked at each other with suspicion are now talking to each other? How can we turn talk into action?
- Many churches are in decline. What are the implications regarding the assistance we provide to churches?
- The ethnic demographics of our communities are changing. Do our churches and our association show signs that we are leading the way in ethnic diversity, or are we maintaining the homogenous character of the past?
- Will we pursue the Great Commission mandate to make disciples of all nations not only by conventional missions, but also by leveraging the base of the International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries?
- How will we fund our vision for the future? Are there untapped sources of funding that can be mined? How do we access those sources?
By previous action of the Council of Eighteen, a 20/20 Master Planning team was designated to identify and recommend strategic priorities that should influence our association’s efforts over the next decade. Through a methodical process of assessment and deliberation, the Master Planning team reached the following conclusions, which were presented to the Council, refined, and approved. In addition to the routine ongoing services provided by the association, these priorities are divided into four categories designating basic assumptions.
Communication—We have a voice that must be heard.
Network—We have connections that must be maximized.
Assistance—We have friends who must be helped.
Structure—We have systems that must fit the present.
Implement a digital platform for inter-church communication, work, and ministry enhancement. Mobilizing a movement requires that information be rapidly communicated. The Internet provides an economical, ubiquitous means for easily and frequently talking with each other. News, ideas, questions, instruction, prayer requests, and encouragement can be spread quickly. We must continue to build our web presence, our contact information database, and our digital competencies.
Articulate association positions and values through writing and publishing designed for local church and academic-level learners. The doctrinal beliefs that define and distinguish us are worth communicating. It is not enough to talk to each other. We must articulate our convictions in the world of thought. Effective communication of beliefs built our association in its formative days. That communication remains essential today when so many conflicting voices are speaking.
Cultivate a forward-thinking association culture that is solidly grounded in our theological position. It is not enough to only talk about the past. We must understand the world in which we live and use God’s Word to speak to that world. The Bible has answers for today’s issues. We must read to stay informed. Collaborate to forge positions. Then articulate those stands in a coordinated manner.
Collaborate with like-minded higher education institutions and missions to equip and mobilize church leaders. Movements can survive only with new leadership. Knowing this, we must have a deliberate strategy for training and equipping the next generation. This requires a coordinated instructional effort that the constituency embraces. Without schools that teach the beliefs we hold dear, those beliefs will diminish. Without students and support, those schools will not survive. We must take training for ministry seriously. We must create a culture of learning and improving in all that we do.
Connect pastors and churches in functional relationships for fellowship and care. “Woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10). We need each other. We must come to the aid of our hurting and struggling brothers. The GARBC is not solely a theological fraternity. It is a fellowship of churches that have united voluntarily around common beliefs to hold each other accountable, to challenge, and to aid each other in the work of the local church.
Pursue fellowship and cooperation with doctrinally aligned constituencies of churches for Great Commission effectiveness. When there is doctrinal agreement, our effectiveness multiplies through the coordination of efforts rather than their duplication. Independence can protect against the pitfalls of centralized denominational authority, but conversely can foster inefficiencies and diminished influence. The growth of the IPFBM, which over the last 14 years has globally grown to include nearly 10,000 churches, holds enormous potential.
Foster church planting through reporting, cooperative initiatives, development of online resources, mentoring, accountability, and funding. The alternative to reproduction is extinction. A movement will inevitably die if it is not multiplying itself. If our beliefs are as dear to us as we say they are and missions is as important to us as we seem to acknowledge, then we should be doing all we can to see others share in the joys of truth by planting churches in their communities. We must take ownership of the task of starting new churches. Coordination and cooperation are key when church planting.
Consult with churches seeking ministry solutions. The ministry inevitably raises new challenges and dilemmas. Pastors, deacons, and churches need someone who is available and can be trusted to turn to for answers.
Provide group recognition, awareness, and influence on government requirements; e.g., 501(c)(3) tax exemption, chaplaincy endorsement, and moral issues. The complexity of church issues requires accurate and up-to-date information. Churches need an ombudsman to champion their cause.
Realign the association for greater regional participation. In the business world, management must be proportionate to the workforce. When there are not enough managers, disorganization takes places. However, by having too many managers, inefficiencies and cost overruns occur. By thoughtful planning and coordination, the association can be organized to be more cost sustainable and operationally effective.
Seek new funding sources. The many opportunities that are open to the association require adequate funding. Over the years many people have benefitted from the association’s services. Those friends are needed in order to realize the vision for the future. We must gain their help in achieving the vision.
Align the staff/facility/business model for the future. We must constantly seek efficiencies in operation. We must utilize cost effective and current technologies to achieve our goals.
Enhance the annual conference strategy. The increasingly crowded conference market requires that thoughtful evaluation of the purpose, schedule, frequency, and plan of the conference be routinely evaluated to make this a meaningful investment of time, effort, and finances.
The ultimate goals of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of all nations happen on the front line of local church ministry. The GARBC provides a means by which fellowshipping local churches that are striving to accomplish those goals can increase their ministry effectiveness by working in partnership. The 20/20 Master Plan strategic priorities are intended to improve and expand our partnership. Making the most of these priorities requires leadership and cooperation. I will endeavor to do my part. Will you join me in pursuing these priorities? Here is what I ask of you.
- Talk about these priorities in your local and state fellowships.
- Read the communication that is regularly featured on the GARBC website, in e-mails, and in the Baptist Bulletin to stay informed on developments.
- Help by funding the vision through church giving, by identifying potential financial supporters, and by purchasing RBP products to reinvest in the association.
- Take advantage of the many services that are available to you through the association; e.g., consultation, relief assistance, counsel, and online learning. Get involved in your local and state fellowships with initiatives such as church planting and compassion care.
- Stretch your ministry horizons through international partnering.
- Invite other nonaffiliated churches to experience the joy of fellowship.
I look forward to working with you to execute these priorities. Together we can accomplish more!
John Greening is national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.