White River Baptist Association
Purpose and Philosophy
I. Associational Identity.
The 21st Century brought with it new challenges and changes in society and in the church. Some changes were negative and some were positive. Now after eighteen years into the new millennia we have learned one important lesson- there will always be change. Change is the very essence of North American society. The only thing that does not change is that there will always be change. Because of the constant change, the church is forced into adjusting the way they live out the Gospel. This will never mean that the church changes the message because “God’s Word will never return void. (Isaiah 55:11)” Practices, structure, and focus may change in regard to each autonomous fellowship. Churches must do a consistent evaluation of the relevance and identity of the fellowship. This evaluation is necessary to fulfill the furtherance of the gospel in the community and globally. The following questions must be asked of each church fellowship as a determination of relevance in a lost world.
What is our purpose?
Who are we?
What impression are we providing to the lost community?
What are we willing to do to reach the lost?
What are we doing to spiritually develop our fellowship of believers?
What is our focus?
Are we willing to change in a changing society without changing the true Word?
II. Who are we?
The word “association” provides confusion to most 21st century Southern Baptist Convention churches. When church associations began over two hundred years ago in America, the meaning was clear. Today this word has different meanings. To understand the “who” of the association, we must define this word. In Southern Baptist life an association is a partnership, cooperation, and collaborative family of churches. It is not an institution or an organization. It has no authority or governance. It is not a part of a hierarchy. It is a fellowship of church families working together to further the gospel. Though it is an autonomous entity, it is not independent of the work of the Southern Baptists of Marion and Baxter counties. It is not an institution or parachurch organization but a relationship and fellowship between churches of mutual belief and purpose. White River Baptist Association is a not-for-profit organization but, it is not a business or an organization. WRBA is a
III. Why are we?
WRBA is a family of churches, but not the church. We have specific goals and purposes. We do not take the place of the church, but assist each fellowship through cooperation. We provide opportunities for the training of church leaders. We provide pastoral support to the shepherds of each church. We provide communication between each church fellowship. We are a conduit to the Southern Baptist Convention entities and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. We organize and support partnerships between churches and leaders. We provide evangelistic efforts and training through mutual partnerships of churches and Southern Baptist Convention entities. We encourage cooperation between churches to maximize social engagement. We assist in the revitalization of approving churches. We provide opportunities to reach communities or people groups that are not evangelized. We are here for each other in sharing the unchanging gospel in a changing world.
IV. What are we?
We exist to bring together churches with labor, prayer, mission, and finances for the purpose of sharing the gospel together. As we move ahead with this purpose, we must bring our relevance into focus. White River Baptist Association must be properly focused on the Great Commission efforts of our communities, domestically and globally. This focus must include the following characteristics.
* We are ministry-driven and not event-driven. Though we will continue to provide cooperating events for training and evangelism, this is not primary in the associational goals.
* We are not a benevolent entity. Though we have a wonderful opportunity through Threshold Ministries, this is not primary in the associational goals.
*We are not plan-driven but ministry-driven. Though we must organize ministry efforts, this is not primary in the associational goals.
* We are not an educational institution. Though we encourage and provide training opportunities and spiritual development of the church, this is not primary in the associational goals.
V. How are we?
The primary focus breaks down into six specific goals.
1. Leadership Training.
Each church has different leadership needs. We provide training and resources for individual development or in a group. The following are just some of the leadership training needs.
General Church and officer leadership
Treasurer and administrative
Age level leadership
Deacon/ elder leadership
Pastoral staff leadership
Vacation Bible School Training
2. Pastor support
Regardless of the size or scope of the church, the pastor has specific spiritual, administrative, and personal support. Though each church should provide this through the church family, we strive to be supplemental to support the pastor in the following:
Colleague and ministry partnerships
Pastor and family care
3. Church partnerships and relations
Doing ministry with the greatest impact on the gospel is the purpose of the association. This is done through the individual churches working together with support and relationships. This is done through the following:
Church to church partnerships
Providing volunteers from other churches.
Providing training and encouragement from other churches.
4. Strategic Evangelism
Though the strategy is not the basis for evangelism, an organized approach and leading of the Spirit can have the effective impact necessary to reach our communities. This is done through the following:
Age group evangelistic engagement
Church to church partnerships
Church and community engagement support
5. Strategic Revitalization
The painful reality is that churches suffer declining tendencies. There has never been such a time of challenge for the local church. Revival and revitalization must be the goal of each church family. This is possible through the following:
Church to church, associational, and Arkansas Baptist State Convention partnerships.
Individual church assessment
Goal and mission development
6. New Work
Starting new ministries and congregations in unreached areas and people groups are important to share the gospel. If a new ministry is needed in a specific location of circumstance, the association can help with the following:
Cooperating local congregation to begin and maintain a needed new work.
Developing preaching points, small groups, bible studies, or congregations through partnerships.
Assessment and engagement of unreached communities.
Just as each believer is called to serve together in their local church, we encourage each church to serve together for the gospel mission. Just as each person has gifts and talents to benefit the ministry of the church, each church has the ability to serve each other. Your association is the family of God working together to reach the Ozarks and the World.