Why a state convention? As we learned in the last issue, a state convention plays an important role in what the Lord is doing among a network of Bible-believing, evangelistic, mission-minded churches. Specifically, the state convention is an Ephesians 4 ministry that facilitates the networking of our churches to do “effective working” of those kinds of ministries that are larger than one congregation.
Historically and pragmatically, there are seven unique functions cooperating churches have assigned to state conventions. The first of these functions is to sound the trumpet — jurisdictional leadership. The next three have to do with our partnership in the gospel with local churches, which serve as nearly 1,800 “headquarters” of our Baptist network.
Now let’s turn to the next two functions that MBC churches have assigned to their state convention.
5. Shine the light of the gospel. This function involves several areas of discussion. Who holds the responsibility for reaching the peoples who live in this state? It takes us all owning the fact that most the people who live in Missouri have yet to embrace Christ.
People with a biblical understanding of the gospel know that becoming a Christ-follower begins with repentance and a surrendered life to Christ. Every gospel-centered church and organization is passionate about introducing people to Christ and making disciples. You can’t have one without the other.
However, the Great Commission from the Lord Jesus says we are engaged in making disciples in every nation. Not just this state. How is that possible? We are not endowed with omnipresence to be at all places at the same time. But we are to work together to accomplish the work assignment. Again it takes everyone — every church, every association, every state convention, every national partner.
State conventions are involved in initiatives to help churches and associations reach their respective jurisdictions, but also are engaged in a larger outreach through the Cooperative Program. The churches of the Southern Baptist Convention assigned the state convention as the primary organization that promotes, collects, and distributes the Cooperative Program mission funds received from local churches.
This assignment requires careful accounting and clear protocols so that funds from churches are moved through the state convention and on to national entities. National entities are dependent on the faithful and trustworthy work of state conventions to fulfill their ministry assignments.
Churches work through their respective conventions to make allocations of Cooperative Program funds. Just as every local church works at stewarding its resources with a portion going to cooperative ministries, the state convention prayerfully stewards the resources it receives from the churches with a focus on function and missional goals.
Another way a state convention shines the gospel light is through strategic planning of multi-generational, multi-language, and multi-people-group ministries. Only a small minority of churches have the capacity to provide these kinds of gospel ministries on their own. Some associations are able. However, the state convention is needed to help orchestrate the ministries in collaboration with local churches, associations, and national partners.
For example, every university campus in North America needs an evangelical gospel outreach and discipleship ministry that helps students become disciples and active members of congregations. State conventions coordinate Baptist collegiate ministries so that a comprehensive, on-campus ministry exists.
State conventions also facilitate missions networks for volunteers. Whether coordinating trained Disaster Relief teams or Baptist Builders, state conventions harness the willingness of volunteers from multiple congregations to make a gospel difference with help, healing, and hope.
Another component of this aspect of state convention work is that of promoting special missions offerings (state, national, and international). Through the network of Southern Baptists in a particular state, promotional materials, as well as training and motivational resources, are provided.
6. Synchronize the work of entities. The organizational work of cooperative churches is an amalgamation of state and national entities constantly working together toward Great Commission goals. Whether it is a state Baptist liberal arts college, the International Mission Board, an associational camp, student work on a college campus, equipping conferences, disaster relief ministry, or children’s services, there must be a “synchronizer.” This is so institutions avoid duplication of ministries and minimize holes in the safety net.
The state convention is the organizational “touch point” that promotes fraternal relationships between churches, associations, state convention entities, and national ministries. This is so that Great Commission ministries are accomplished with maximum effectiveness and efficiency.
“Fraternal” and “partnership” are important words that characterize the working relationships MBC churches expect from their state convention. This factor is one of the reasons we have the Cooperative Program. Instead of every church, every association, and every state and national ministry acting independently, we have learned we can synchronize our work and accomplish far more for the glory of our God than we could ever do on our own.