Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What Is The BMA?

What is the BMA? It took me by surprise when a church member asked me that question. But it also reminded me that we all come from different backgrounds. I have been involved with the BMA since before I remember. My love for the BMA is part of what led me to our church, but isn’t the experience of all of our church members. For many, they developed a love for our church first. The association was not a priority for them and for that reason they may still have only a passing awareness of what the BMA is. Because of my great appreciation for the BMA, I would feel remiss if I didn’t try to increase their knowledge.

The BMA is an Association of Churches

The Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) is an association made up of Missionary Baptist churches that are conservative in doctrine. To fully appreciate the importance of the BMA, we must first appreciate the need of churches to partner together in associations. The primary reason for the BMA is multiply the ability of the local church to preach the gospel to the whole world.

Consider that the typical church has fewer than one hundred members. Most churches can’t afford to pay their pastor a full-time salary and their other staff isn’t paid at all. Such a church might be very effective within their local community, but their means won’t allow them to give much thought to the heathen in other parts of the world. Even to drive to a town a couple of counties away to share the gospel might be very costly. And yet, the BMA is sending missionaries all around the world. It is broadcasting the gospel in places some of us have never heard of. It is developing Sunday school literature with a quality that few churches could develop on their own. When a bunch of small churches work together, they can do far more than even a very large church can do by itself.

Associations also provide fellowship. One of the things I love about the BMA is that when we come together we find that we are meeting with people who have similar beliefs and experience similar problems. A church may have only one pastor, one music director, one youth minister, and those individuals may feel isolated because the other church members don’t understand the problems they are experiencing. But when the churches come together, there may be hundreds of pastors, and a several dozen other staff members, plenty of Sunday school teachers and other leaders. They are willing to share each other’s burdens.

The BMA Isn’t Just One Association

In the case of our church, the BMA is three separate associations. Our church is a member of the BMA of America, the BMA of Texas, and the Tarrant County BMA. But there are many other BMA associations. Some are in other states. Some are in other countries. Each association is independent from the other associations, and yet there is a great deal of cooperation between them.

We often think of these associations as national, state, and local (or district). Each of the three has its purpose. It is through support of the BMA of America that our church is able to reach beyond the state of Texas into other states and the world. The BMA of Texas is primary focused on the state of Texas, both in mission work and providing a conduit for communication among the churches within the state.

Local associations tend to be more about fellowship among churches within an area and increasing the ability of churches to reach the local area through mission endeavors within the local area. For small churches, the local association will often fill in gaps within their ministry. Some local associations, for example, have some form of youth ministry because the individual churches are large enough to have a significant youth ministry on their own. As churches get larger, the need for this type of program diminishes at the associational level, but they may need the association to provide things.

The BMA Has Churches with Similar Doctrine

Each church within the BMA is independent, so no two churches are exactly alike. But I’ve seen great similarity among the churches of the BMA. I have heard many BMA pastors preach and I am convinced that the BMA has some of the best preachers you will hear anywhere. They are true to the word of God.

As you go from church to church, you’ll find that what one teaches is very much like what another BMA church teaches. Sure, you’ll find a few oddballs in the mix, but most BMA churches are teaching the truth.

These days, the trend seems to be for churches to distance themselves from anything that would identify them with any other organization. You might see a sign along the road for “Truth Church” but you don’t really know if they are teaching the truth until you’ve gone inside and heard their teaching. One of the things I love about the BMA is that I have a pretty good idea of what they teach even before I walk through the door of a BMA church.

And So Much More

So much more could be said about what the BMA is. Much of my experience with the BMA has been at annual meetings with their formality and the much needed deliberation as the messengers make decisions concerning the direction of the association for the next year, but that’s not all the BMA is. The BMA is people. There are so many faces and names that come to mind when I think of the BMA. But mostly, the BMA is an organization that allows our church to help other churches carry the gospel to a lost world.