Through Prayer, Southern Baptist Association is Revived in Kentucky

A revitalization of central Kentucky's Nelson Baptist Association increased annual meeting attendance from about 60 to nearly 700, as pictured here. (Nelson Baptist Association photo)
A revitalization of central Kentucky’s Nelson Baptist Association increased annual meeting attendance from about 60 to nearly 700, as pictured here. (Nelson Baptist Association photo)

Ten years ago, the Nelson Baptist Association was “unhealthy and unhelpful,” as pastor Matthew Spandler-Davison puts it. The central Kentucky association’s 40 churches could only muster 50-60 messengers for annual meetings, and it was a strain to populate the body’s 15 committees.

But a group of local pastors began meeting, praying and dreaming about a more vibrant form of local cooperation. A decade later, 600-700 people attend the Nelson Association’s annual meetings and the average church’s yearly giving to the association has increased by nearly $1,000.

So what happened?

“We just threw everything out and said, we’re going to almost start over, re-launch this association,” Spandler-Davison, pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church in Bardstown, Ky., told Baptist Press. “Let’s get rid of all the committees, all the leadership structure — everything’s up for grabs. … Let’s instead just evaluate who our churches are, who wants to associate with each other and why they want to associate.”

An intensive study of the association’s structure and the needs of its churches led in 2009 to the adoption of new bylaws, a new vision statement and a new structure consisting of three teams focused on ministries where churches saw the greatest need for local cooperation.

The church evangelism team focuses on helping churches partner to share the Gospel and plant churches locally, across North America and internationally. The church equipping team focuses on building healthy churches through training and consultation. The church and community ministries team focuses on meeting needs locally through a crisis pregnancy center, a biblical counseling ministry and homeless ministries.

In addition to forming ministry teams, the association streamlined its administrative ministries.

“We said, we can do those things far better together as an association of 42 churches [now 45] than we ever could do individually,” Spandler-Davison said. “… There was very little opposition because no one looked back and said, ‘This old structure is worth fighting for.'”

Stan Lowery, the director of missions who led the Nelson association through its transition, said one problem under the old structure was that about 100 people took turns serving in a host of associational positions that were not meeting churches’ needs. A lack of enthusiasm among churches contributed to lackluster giving and a constant struggle to meet the budget.

Change was sparked by a confluence of “holy discontent” and leaders willing to dialogue about a better way to impact the community, Lowery said.

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SOURCE: David Roach
Baptist Press

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