Celebrating directors of missions

Serving the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is one of the most enjoyable experiences God has ever given me. Thank you, SBTC, for the privilege of being a servant to the churches. There is no better place than being in the center of God’s will.

I must confess to you that I did have another ministry assignment that I enjoyed just as much. For a brief three and one half years, I served the Northwest Baptist Association in Bentonville, Ark., as director of missions. When my predecessor welcomed me into my new place of service, he said, “You have just taken the best job in the Southern Baptist Convention.” There was a lot of truth in his remarks.

During the time in Bentonville I was able to build on the firm foundation of those who had served before me. Because of the exploding population growth, the association was ready to focus on starting new churches. We created a church planter endowment that funded church planting. We saw new congregations spring up as the towns and cities grew.

Being in worship with the pastors was one of my highlights every week. After pastoring for more than 20 years in Louisiana I wanted to be a DOM that blessed the pastors. Every Monday between Labor Day and Memorial Day—except for a Christmas break—we met for prayer, preaching and praise. It was incredible. Just a couple of years ago I was invited back to speak on a Monday at the Pastors’ Fellowship. The room was packed. The fellowship was sweet. I was energized by simply being there.

Equipping the churches through resources was important. My time at the association was at the very beginning of the computer age, so it is very different now. But there are still unique needs of churches specific to the locale. While virtually any kind of assistance can be found on the Internet, hands-on training remains valuable.

Assisting pastorless churches was a challenge but well worth it. When requested, I provided guidance to churches during a leaderless time. No one should try to place a pastor in a church—that is God’s business. But we can be instruments God uses to get a person considered.

I was called upon to be a listening ear to a hurting pastor or staff member. Having a personal relationship made it possible to be involved in the lives of God’s servants. It is an honor to love on those who love the Lord.

Associational life has changed considerably in the last 20 years, even the last 10. The monolithic SBC is no more. Brand loyalty went by the wayside. Now ministries have to prove themselves to be trustworthy, viable, and to some like me, doctrinally sound.

Once, associations were the gatekeepers of Baptist life. Confessionalism started in the association. Unfortunately, some associations have come to the lowest common doctrinal denominator. The three-fold cord is the same for the association as it is for the SBTC—“Biblically Based, Kingdom Focused and Missionally Driven.” Having a doctrinal standard that all churches can agree upon is essential for true unity.

Secondly, do something for Jesus. Being kingdom focused means having a strategy to make a difference with the gospel in your geographic area. Missionally driven associations are staffed by people who want to exhibit the Philippians 2 mindset of Jesus. Be servants to the churches.    

No doubt in my time in Bentonville, I didn’t do everything right. I wish I could have done more. At that time and in that place it was the “best job in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Associational Missions Week is May 18-24.

Executive Director Emeritus
Jim Richards
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
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