In many ways this is an emotional experience for me. Local Baptist associations are nestled within the DNA of my family heritage. I learned about the importance and the primacy of associations in Baptist life at the breakfast, lunch, and supper table from a father and a mother committed to Christian ministry, and joyfully engaged in the life and work of Baptist associations.
The past 45 years have involved me in ministry with Baptist associations as I served on the staff of two associations, as the key point person for associations while on the staff of two state conventions, and on our national missions staff as Southern Baptists in the Associational Missions Division.
It is a great crescendo that I will have the opportunity over the next five to seven years to serve as the missional leader of this association. We have great potential in this capital city and the surrounding areas. I commit to you that we will help all willing member congregations to journey in the direction of their full Kingdom potential from the base of our associational fellowship area. We will focus on essential strategies and actions to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment.
We will be unswerving in our passion for the Gospel, and not allow side issues to cause us to detour from our core mission and vision. We will engage in a spiritual and strategic journey to not just do a little better each year, but to transform the character and nature of our service in the midst of God’s Kingdom. We will not be satisfied with arithmetic progress, but will seek as led by God’s empowering vision to leap forward geometrically.
We will do this not only because we believe so strongly in the fulfillment of the Great Commission, but because we believe in various types of congregational expressions as the building block for this fulfillment.
Our aim will not be to make the organization of the association great. Our aim will be to take churches-in-association with one another on a holy, prophetic journey of greatness. We will work in and through congregational expressions that they might be more vital and vibrant in response to God’s empowering vision.
As we unapologetically serve congregations, our desire is that they will increase their understanding of and the value they place in the family relationship known as the Columbia Metro Baptist Churches-in-Association. Family will be a key word to describe the character and nature of our association. We need to go beyond thoughts of associations as a network. Associations at their best are a family who laugh with one another, cry with one another, encourage one another, challenge one another, and celebrate with one another.
We should all appreciate the tireless labor of the search committee for the next Director of Missions. As explained by its chairperson, Robert Winburn, they engaged in a thorough and exhaustive process. None of us should take their efforts lightly. I do not. I am grateful to Robert, Cookie Adams, Jay Thompson, Bill Woodard, and Richard Humphries for their ministry to the emerging future of our churches-in-association.
Our ability to move forward is made possible from a human perspective by the faithful service of those who have gone before me in this role. I have had the privilege of knowing the past three directors of missions.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit with Jim Smithwick who is now 90 years old, and reminisce about the joys of associational ministry. John Platt was my friend and colleague in ministry beginning in 1985 when I came to South Carolina. He was serving the Moriah Association in Lancaster. We also had the joy of membership in the same church for many years when he came to Columbia.
It was more than 30 years ago that Bill Dieckmann came to my office at the South Carolina Baptist Convention to indicate he felt a call into associational work. A few years later he was asked to serve on this staff.
I am grateful for the interim service of my brother in Christ, Andre Rogers, and for the continuing fellowship with him we will enjoy together. The commitment and service of Cathy Locklear and Karen Hulvey on this staff form a great foundation from which we can move forward under God’s inspiring and motivating leadership.
In all of this I say, “To our God be all the glory!”