I was just thinking… BMA of Arkansas Missions has been greatly blessed and has been a tremendous blessing to the state association.
Terminology has changed over the years, but the mission of this ministry has not. The endeavors of missionary personnel since 1951 have been to carry the gospel into Arkansas communities, to assemble believers and to reach unbelievers for fledgling ministries and to ultimately plant New Testament churches.
We have interchanged the words missionary and church planter over time. Beginnings have been in homes, storefronts, schools, funeral homes, old theaters, and various other facilities. From those facilities, through the blessings and leadership of the Holy Spirit, those missions grew numerically and spiritually. Such growth enabled those young congregations to move into beautiful houses of worship.
I mentioned terminology change. The title of the missions leader of State Missions was at first referred to as the secretary of missions. Today he is now the executive director of BMA of Arkansas Missions.
Charles Walker was the first one elected as secretary of missions. He ably found men who felt led to become state missionaries, and their dedicated labors were blessed. Today, many of those early missions from 60+ years ago are full-time churches that are impacting their towns and cities. Bro. Walker served from 1951 to 1962.
Following Bro. Walker was James Hoover. Although his term of service was short, he capably served the churches as he led the program. However, Bro. Hoover chose to resign after serving only in 1962.
The association next elected Elbert O’Steen to serve as secretary of missions. I wrote about this mild-mannered gentleman in a previous article. He gave of himself to travel to the churches promoting the work of State Missions, and effectively raised necessary funds to see that the department was adequately funded. He served from 1963 to 1964.
Jack Rainwater had been a pastor in North Little Rock. He was elected as secretary of missions in 1965 and served to 1974. Like his predecessors, Bro. Jack loved the people of the state association. Each week, he eloquently wrote in the Baptist Trumpet, reporting the work of the missionaries. (He also gave a report of the weather at the time of his writing!) Many missions were begun under Bro. Rainwater’s leadership, and those are now local churches in the association.
Many wondered who could adequately fill the position after Bro. Rainwater. God made it clear to the Missionary Committee (a subcommittee of the association) that the person should be Stanley Beaird. He was a master electrician, as well as a pastor in Waldo. Bro. Beaird would go to the site of a building project and labor alongside the building superintendent and volunteer laborers from the association’s churches. Also known as a mild-mannered gentleman, Bro. Beaird served as executive director longer than any other — from 1975-1994.
I now pause from writing about the leaders to focus on the department’s building superintendents.
Van Anderson served for many years as building superintendent for state missions. He was a big, strong and an extremely talented builder. He not only did the work well, he also patiently supervised many men and women from the churches as they labored as volunteers.
Following Bro. Anderson was a layman from Texarkana. Eddie Sikes was a contractor who felt the leadership from God to take on the ministry of building superintendent. He worked with tireless vigor in the same fashion as had Bro. Anderson.
The BMA of Arkansas owes a debt of gratitude to these men. The wear and tear of labor took its toll on the health of both.
Ed Stephenson, a man from Michigan who has made Arkansas home, followed Bro. Beaird as executive director. He brought to the office a great zeal for the cause, working very well with each of the missionaries and their families. I am personally grateful for his counsel and support as I served as a state missionary with what is now Chenal Valley Baptist Church of Little Rock. Bro. Stephenson served the association from 1995 to 1998
A former Texan was elected to follow Bro. Stephenson. I.V. Hight had served as pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Hope for 18 years. Serving the association from 1995 to 2009, Bro. Hight was an innovator and an encourager. Under his leadership, more missions were added to the program, including an expansion of the much-needed work of Hispanic missions across the state.
Today, Paul White, a former pastor as well as a building contractor, has given excellent leadership and wise counsel for our state missionaries. He has wisely built on the foundation laid by his predecessors. Elected in 2010, Bro. White continues to lead effectively in the work of missions, and he travels the state promoting the ministry he loves in the churches of the BMA of Arkansas.
Of the eight men who have served the churches directing the ministry of state missions, five have received their heavenly promotions. They served faithfully in the work they had been called to lead. I have been privileged to know each of these men, including Bro. Anderson, and have called them my friends and brothers. Our churches have benefited because the Lord has used them greatly and we should be grateful.
So, that is some history about this ministry of the association we call State Missions or BMA of Arkansas Missions. These men have blazed the trails and plowed the fields for the harvests, but I am reminded of a passage from God’s Word: “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 NIV).
These whom you have just read about served well, but they didn’t do so by looking back. They looked ahead — with anticipation and in faith — so the work of missions would be effective. May we not look back, but look ahead, trusting the Lord to provide the laborers for the fields that still are white to harvest.
Pastors and churches, missions work does not just happen! Much prayer from different places is required. Paul White prays, people in communities in need of a church pray, the Advisory Committee of the Missionary Committee prays and the church committeemen pray. That is before a missionary is found, elected and sent out.
Once a missionary is elected, he and his family leave their present homes and move to the community where the endeavor will begin. Now, that is where the churches must realize their role in the missions effort. The missionary’s salary must be funded. The rental property must be paid for, the expenses of advertising the potential mission must be raised and, ultimately, the building of a house of worship must be funded. That is why we have an association!
If your church is not supporting the ministry of State Missions, I urge you to pray about doing so. As I mentioned in a previous article, even $25 per month from the 300+ churches in the association would be $7,500 per month. That would be such a help to the cause! Again, that is why we have a BMA of Arkansas — to help one another help fund the ministries such as the BMA of Arkansas Missions.
Next week’s Just Thinking article: the Baptist Trumpet.