FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – When Baptist churches first began to dot the evangelical landscape, they partnered together to reach their local regions for Christ, and over time, these informal partnerships formalized into local Baptist associations. Despite claims by some that they are now a thing of the past, Danny Johnson believes local Baptist associations have a great future.
“Associations will always exist,” Johnson says. “They may appear as networks; however, no matter how we package them, networks are nothing more than associations with a different name.
“Associations existed prior to conventions and denominations, and they will be around until the Lord returns. In fact, only the local church has a longer or stronger heritage than that of the association. Generally speaking, whenever and wherever two Baptist churches met together, they formed an association.”
Johnson, a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustee and alumnus, serves as director of missions (DOM) for the Pulaski Baptist Association in Little Rock, Ark. He recognizes that some associations are stuck in old ministry paradigms, leaving younger pastors frustrated or ambivalent.
“Subsequently, associations are faced with the mandate to ignite resurgence among a generation who has little awareness of or appreciation for Baptist heritage,” Johnson says.
“I understand their views and fears. In fact, the association where I serve as DOM is focused on changing that old paradigm by embracing and pursuing a healthier kingdom-driven strategy.”
Johnson says his primary role as DOM is not to do missions and evangelism for the churches in his association but rather to mobilize and encourage them.
“At the end of the day, it is my opinion that the DOM should primarily be an equipper, enabler, and encourager to his churches and pastors,” Johnson says. “When done well, the association maintains a greater level of intimacy with its local churches and pastors than any other denominational body.”
To this end, Johnson mentors younger pastors and is a trusted friend to older pastors. He challenges pastors to actively involve themselves in the work of their association, noting that this type of interaction does not threaten most DOMs.
For Johnson, his time at Southwestern made a profound impact on his current ministry. In his classes, he was exposed to a “kingdom worldview” and felt the call to missions, which eventually led him to serve in the Philippines as a church planter. Additionally, through a Baptist history research paper on his home association, he “developed an appreciation for Baptist heritage, including the practical and historical basis for an association,” which he hopes to pass along to the next generation.