Editor’s Note: This is the first of articles from President Mitchell that we will run on a regular basis under a new “Just Thinking” header. Watch for them in future issues of the Baptist Trumpet.
BMA of Arkansas
I am honored to once again serve the churches as president of the BMA of Arkansas. I say “again” because I presided 2003-2005. I am sure some might be surprised at my election. It reminded me of my brother-in-law, the late Jurl Mitchell, and a story he told of a phone call he received years ago:
A member of a church called him to tell him they had called him to be pastor. Jurl said, “You mean you want me to come in view of call?” “No,” the man replied, “We have heard you preach; you are our pastor.”
Jurl told the man that he could not accept the church unless he was there first in view of call. The man was adamant, and he said, “Bro. Jurl, you are our pastor!” Jurl was just as adamant, “No, I am not your pastor!” To which the man exclaimed, “Bro. Mitchell, you have to come! We are scraping the bottom of the barrel!”
I was just thinking after being elected to serve as president, “My, these people are scraping the bottom of the barrel!”
I commend our immediate past president, Wade Allen, for serving the churches so well these past two years. He poured his heart into preparing the meetings and presiding with zeal and integrity.
I attended my first state associational meeting in 1964, and it was a wonderful experience for an 18-year-old preacher boy. I was amazed at how many people filled the church for such a meeting. I heard about the departments of a still young association, and was impressed that churches would support these works so well. I have attended every state associational meeting since except for the years I served in the military. I love the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas!
I was just thinking about the fact that I am deeply concerned about the associational participation, or lack thereof, today. We continue to see a steady decrease in attendance and pastoral participation in our state work. This ought not to be!
Many of our churches that exist today, do so because they were extended arms to begin or they were once state missions projects that have survived and become self-supporting churches. Now, some may not like my reference, but I am reminded of an old saying: “Dance with the one that brung you!”
There is still a tremendous need for our association of churches! We still need to plant churches through State Missions. We still need to provide higher education opportunities for young men and women in a Christian atmosphere made available through Central Baptist College. Young people today need opportunities for fellowship and service encouraged by our State Youth Department. Our auxiliary ministries still have an impact on the members of our churches. The State Brotherhood, State WMA, and Master’s Builders touch so many lives and do so spiritually, financially and physically.
Our churches need awareness of these ministries, and that continues to be provided through the weekly publication of the Baptist Trumpet, which enables readers through both online and print editions. These are extremely needed and viable ministries that exist for the churches and still require the support of the churches.
Plain Paths Have Been Made
Most trails are easily seen and easily followed. They usually exist because they are paths that enable the best avenue of travel to a destination. They are made by people walking with others following and still others coming behind them in the plain paths. In the months ahead, I will mention many names of those who walked before us. I think many of them would be, like me, concerned and disappointed if they could see that we who have come behind them have departed the old paths. I speak of men like Dr. D.N. Jackson, Dr. J.E. Cobb, A.R. Reddin, Dr. Wassell Burgess, C.C. Bishop, Jack Rainwater, Stanley Beaird, Dr. C.O. Strong and David Tidwell. These, and many others, blazed the trail that we have followed. Now is no time to depart.
Strong Leaders are Needed
I believe many churches would be willing to again be strong supporters, send messengers and give encouragement to our departmental leaders on a regular basis if pastors would be strong leaders. Pastors, you are the key! You are needed!
We are now a year away from our next annual session of the BMA of Arkansas. In the months ahead, I am praying that the Lord will permit me to be an encourager to our pastors and churches. I believe the Lord began a good work when He led men and women to form this association 70 years ago, and I don’t believe He is through with us yet!