I was just thinking about why and where the BMA of Arkansas began and where we are today.
A Little Bit of History
In 1950, the American Baptist Association split due to some philosophical differences — not doctrinal ones. As a result, the North American Baptist Association was formed, which resulted in state associations also being formed.
In 1968, the name of the national work was changed to the Baptist Missionary Association of America. Names have changed, but doctrinal positions have not.
What today is the BMA of Arkansas first convened at the Temple Baptist Church of Little Rock. Some of the giants of our association were elected to lead the state meeting. Dr. J.E Cobb, who served as vice-president of Conway Baptist College (now Central Baptist College,) was elected moderator. Dr. C.C. Winters and E.B. Jones were elected vice-moderators. The association’s first clerks were J.G. Murry and C.C. Bishop (who later served as editor of the Baptist Trumpet.)
Is This History Important?
Many people don’t like history — of any kind. Many find it very unimportant, but I feel it is important that we know where we’ve come from in order to set our focus on where we are going.
Likely several of you readers have experienced sight in a rifle with a scope. You first fired a round of shots, then you examined the target to see where you shot. Based on that past grouping of shots, you knew to make adjustments. That enabled you to feel confident when you needed to be accurate.
I think it is important to look at what our churches, as an association, have done in the past. Some great things have been accomplished, and, of course, there were times when not everything was just what was needed.
Through the years, we have benefited from those things which God blessed; and prayerfully, we have learned to let go of those things He did not.
The Great Commission Carried Out
One of the primary reasons we have a state association is so we can better carry out the Great Commission. In our early days, most churches were small and struggling — especially those affected by the ABA split. The need to plant new churches was great. But individual churches could not start new churches alone. Consequently, large churches, medium-sized and small churches combined their efforts contributing to what we call State Missions. That associational participation was tremendously needed. The results have been so good: strong, self-supporting churches now exist and minister in communities across the state because of those churches who gladly were part of the association.
Your Church is Still Needed
Some churches have grown very well. However, some of them seemingly feel they no longer need the association. But the truth is that — as it was six decades ago — they are greatly needed by the BMA of Arkansas!
This associational year, I want to be an encourager. My goal is to see more churches renew their participation and financial support. I am no longer a full-time pastor, but I can still urge the church where I am a member to support the ministries of the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas.
I also want to encourage the churches to send messengers and guests to the annual session of the BMA of Arkansas on the campus of Central Baptist College in November 2020. Part of my plan is a time of fellowship during the meeting where old friends can reunite and new friends can be made. Such a gathering will provide the opportunity for church members to become personally acquainted with our association’s departmental leaders, and that could be a good thing.
A Closing Greeting
On behalf of the associational officers, First Vice-President Dr. Gary O’Neal, Second Vice-President Bro. Michael Battenfield, and Clerks Randy Shepherd and Allan Eakin, best wishes for each of you to have a very Merry Christmas. May God bless you and the church where you worship.