FLINT, MI – At our Annual Meeting last fall we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Genesee Baptist Association. I have served as Director of Missions of the GBA since February of 1999, which means I have led the GBA for more than 18 years. A lot has happened in our world and our denomination since 1999. Even more has happened since 1957 when the GBA came into existence. While various people in Michigan tell us that the GBA is one of the strongest Baptist Associations in Michigan, I find no great encouragement in that. While we may be healthier than many other associations, we are in a slow decline rather than experiencing vibrancy as an association -- which, by the way, is also the condition of nearly 90% of SBC churches.
As I considered the condition of the GBA, I was burdened by the fact that as an association we were still structured and operating in basically the same way we had for the majority of our 60 year existence. While that has enabled us to maintain a measure of strength, compared with many other associations, it will not enable us to be effective in the future, nor even that effective in the present. So I recommended to the messengers to the GBA Annual Meeting that we empower our moderator to appoint a group of pastors who would look at our past, and our present, to determine where we have been, and where we are currently. Then they will look toward the future to determine where we need to be if we are going to be relevant to our pastors and churches, and effective for them as an association in the coming years.
A group of five pastors, plus the moderator and me, are meeting every other week to work through this process with the hope that we will have a recommendation to bring to the messengers at the 61st Annual Meeting of the GBA this fall. The recommendation will likely include a revised mission statement that will guide what we do and how we are structured as an association. If approved, it will also guide the development of our annual associational budget, as well as result in a new structure that will have fewer, but more effective, empowered ministry teams rather than the committees we now have.
When the Genesee Baptist Association was started, the founders wanted to see new churches started in order to reach and disciple the lost population of mid-Michigan, which was growing as many moved here to work in the auto-industry. The desire of our founders was on target, and they were highly effective in their efforts. The structure of the association was typical and effective for that time. But the world has moved on, time has passed, and gradually our focus shifted more to maintenance of the existing churches through resourcing and strengthening efforts. However, those efforts are seldom sought and implemented by churches which are content with maintaining their existing programs and buildings.
I don't think that maintenance brings as much glory to God as does new life, especially if our maintenance only slows the decline of our churches and associations. My desire is to see the churches of the Genesee Baptist Association healthy, growing, and relevant to the culture that surrounds us today. Just as churches need to be relevant to the culture surrounding them, our associations need to be relevant to our churches and pastors today and tomorrow. This is why GBA leaders are working so hard to re-dream the dream that brought us into existence more than 60 years ago. Stay tuned for more details!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Marcus is a native Michigander. He has served as a church planter, in church revitalization, as a Church Planting Catalyst, and in associational missions in Michigan since 1988.