NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: As the landscape of the world around us continues to evolve, ever changing, there comes a need to adapt or be lost in the madness. James Marcus writes of the importance of the local association and how the Genesee Baptist Association is taking proactive steps to continue to be a vital, relevant part of Baptist churches in the Flint, MI area of our state.
FLINT, MI – The oldest Baptist Church in America is the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, founded by Roger Williams in 1638. The first Baptist Association in America was the Philadelphia Baptist Association, founded in 1707. Begun at a time when being Baptist was not popular, this first Association proved that churches can do far more by working together than a church of any size can do working alone -- and that is still true.
The American colonies' independence from Great Britain was still two generations away when five small congregations formed the Philadelphia Baptist Association. From its first year, the association focused on the unity of Baptist congregations for a greater purpose, but without surrendering the autonomy of the local church. In time, that association grew to include churches from Connecticut to Virginia, and later the Philadelphia Association birthed other associations in Maryland, New York, Delaware, and New Jersey.
In May of 1845, Baptists in the south were meeting in Augusta, Georgia. At that time they formed the Southern Baptist Convention and elected William B. Johnson of South Carolina as the first SBC president. We see from all of this that the local church, which was established by Jesus Christ, was the first Baptist body in America, followed by the Baptist Association 69 years later. These were followed by the SBC, which was organized 138 years after the first Baptist Association in America.
I mention all of this because I want to remind us the local church is the only Christian entity that was created by God, which you already know. However, Baptist leaders in England and then in America saw the need to band local churches together for strength, encouragement, and greater impact for the kingdom of God on this world, which led to the formation of local Baptist Associations.
The Genesee Baptist Association is a relative newcomer, having started nearly 61 years ago. Like we see with the history of Baptists in America, our association preceded the organization of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan (BSCM), but by one year. The reason that the Genesee Baptist Association was organized was so the Southern Baptist Churches in the Genesee County area could cooperate together to advance God's kingdom more effectively. As was the case with the start of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, the Southern Baptists in Genesee County realized that by working together, more could be accomplished for God by cooperating together than any single church could do on its own, no matter how big the church.
My goal in sharing all of this history is to emphasize the importance of the Genesee Baptist Association, so you will support it with your prayers, your finances and your involvement, and that you will support efforts to help the GBA become more effective and more relevant for our churches and pastors for years to come. The same is true for every association across our state.
Throughout Michigan we have seen several of our 14 Baptist Associations become weaker with the departure of nine of the DOMs who had been serving in their associations. Several struggling churches in various Baptist Associations in Michigan have closed because they know of no one to turn to when their church began struggling, and then considered closing. In the past, they would call their DOM who would have met with them to encourage them and guide them through the difficult time they were experiencing. However, when the DOMs were defunded and no longer available to these struggling churches and pastors, it resulted in a weaker connection between the pastors, and the churches. This resulted in several struggling churches disbanding and their buildings being sold. We don't want to see that happen in the Genesee Baptist Association.
It is our desire to see the GBA remain strong, and get even stronger. This is why we will be presenting a proposal for associational structure change at our 61st Annual Meeting of the GBA at the North End Baptist Church on Monday, October 16th. Approval and adoption will be only the beginning of the GBA's more effective future. It will also take the involvement of gifted and burdened leaders serving on the various Ministry Teams, as well as the continued and even increasing financial support from our affiliated churches to support the mission and ministry of the Genesee Baptist Association.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Marcus is the Director Missions for the Genesee Baptist Association located in Flint, MI.