For over 300 years local associations have been helping local churches cooperate together to carry out the Great Commission. Associations were doing this before there were state or national conventions.
The GCRTF was commissioned to study what we do as a convention and bring back recommendations (and challenges) to the SBC about how we can more faithfully and effectively cooperate together in the Great Commission. In the challenges section every Southern Baptist entity is challenged to take steps to see a GCR take place in our world, and that includes associations! This is great. The only way a GCR will happen is if we all own it. Many already are and have been for some time.
Since the release of the GCRTF report some have feared that the GCR recommendation to phase out the cooperative agreements will “devastate” the work of local associations and state conventions. They think they will cause massive job loss and less mission work in the fields of North America.
The TF has consistently said that these recommendations are about penetrating lostness by redirecting significant resources to places with very little access to the Gospel and a strategic focus on church planting.
So, how can associations or state conventions thrive, focus on church planting, and penetrate lostness if they receive less funds to do so?
It is in this context that Baptist 21 wanted to do an interview with Bill Agee to highlight the work he did as the DOM in the Central Baptist Association (CBA) in Phoenix, Arizona. He made adjustments to tighten the focus of the association, and in the process led the association to dominate in church planting.
We think this story is significant for the SBC and the GCR discussions because it gives us just one example of what a GCR might look like and the impact it might have if we all own the vision. Many have been doing it for quite some time!
Important Points in the Interview:
- Bill led the CBA to streamline away from a committee structure to 3 teams that were given priority: 1) Pastor development, 2) Church strengthening, and 3) Church planting.
- Bill argues that the role of the association is to assist churches in carrying out the vision God has given to them, not the churches helping the association do ministry.
- Money follows Vision! CBA budget tripled in Bill’s time there because the churches saw that the association was now about them, and they knew that when they gave money it would come back to touch the field.
- Bill set a goal early on to return 100% of what the church gave back to touch the field, which meant making investments so staff could be paid. Today that association, under new leadership, has almost 2.5 million dollars in investments and returns 129% of what the churches gave back to the field.
- The average association nationally returns only 3% of what the churches give back to the field.
- CBA chose to focus on “dominating” in a few things instead of being stretched thin and trying to do a bunch of things. One area in which they dominated was church planting. 73 churches were planted over a 10 year period in a key western city.
- In order to assist churches in planting, Bill worked with builders before new communities were built to ask them to draw a location for a church into the plan before they submitted it to the city, and the association would purchase the land beforehand. This meant the churches didn’t have to go back for zoning approval later.
- When Bill arrived the association had a $200 a month church planting budget, and when he left it was at $20,000 a month!
- CBA, in order to concentrate on 3 priorities, sold their building and rented office space at a local church.
- CBA reduced the number of employees to become leaner and more focused on serving the churches.
- CBA didn’t receive cooperative agreement funds.
- Bill says GCRTF recommendations will not devastate the work of local associations. He says that pioneer areas especially have nothing to worry about.
Before Bill worked as a DOM he was a church planter. He and his wife moved site unseen to South Dakota after being married to plant a church. In 10 years they planted a church in every community around them for 60 miles. Recently Bill Agee was appointed as the Church Planting Strategist for FBC Woodstock to begin a church planting school at FBCW. Consider attending the school if you are at all interested in church planting. It will be held September 20-22.
Listen to the interview and hear the story of one of our many Baptist associations that shifted their priorities and made a tremendous impact on a key city!
Bill Agee Interview[podcast]http://www.baptisttwentyone.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/B21-Interview-with-Bill-Agee1.mp3[/podcast]
Some of the Questions Asked:
- Bill’s background in church planting and convention ministry?
- Bill’s work at the Central Baptist Association in Phoenix?
- Was his association helped by cooperative agreement funds?
- How many churches did the Central Baptist Association plant? What changes allowed the association to focus so heavily on church planting?
- What is the role of an association? Strengths? Weaknesses?
- Will the GCR recommendations, especially phasing out cooperative agreements, “devastate” the work of associations? How can associations adapt what they are doing to thrive in the future?
- How associations can go about asking tough questions and prioritizing mission?
The game is changing, and at every level in the SBC we are going to need to adapt to keep up with the changes. We at Baptist 21 are grateful for local associations, state conventions, and our national entities, and we believe their brightest days could be in front of them if they rise to meet the challenges of change. Here is one example of an association where streamlining didn’t destroy mission work; it advanced it! This is one model of what a GCR could look like in a local association.
Further Resource: Baptist 21 highly recommends also listening to Mike Day’s address at the Baptist Identity II Conference at Union University in 2007. He talks about the role of the association and changes that are being made. The address is titled, “The Future of Baptist Associations and State Conventions.”