When I pastored in Indiana few people there had ever heard of the American Baptist Association. When I mentioned the name they automatically thought of American Baptist Churches, Inc. (formerly American Baptist Convention, formerly Northern Baptist Convention). Despite the similarity of the names, the two groups are on the opposite ends of the theological spectrum.
As I have tried to stress before, the American Baptist Association is an unincorporated association of churches. It is not an entity. Churches cannot be associated with the American Baptist Association but they can be a part of the American Baptist Association.
The primary basis around which the churches associate is their doctrine. Every church in our fellowship does not agree in every minute detail with every other church. But, they have hammered out a doctrinal statement on which all can agree and our fellowship is based on that statement. As one writer said, "The American Baptist Association is a loose fellowship of strict churches."
There was a time when I tried to tell someone about the American Baptist Association of churches I was a little intimidated. But no more! Compared to some others we are relatively small. But, per capita we are probably doing as much or more than any other group of Baptists. Let me explain what I mean.
First, the churches of the American Baptist Association have some of the finest missionaries to be found anywhere. Each and every one is sent to the mission field by a church, not by the American Baptist Association.
Second, the churches of the American Baptist Association produce some of the best and finest quality literature to be found. Not only is it doctrinally sound, it is quality in its writing and in its presentation. But it is not static. Ways are always being sought to make the material even better, more attractive and more effective.
Third, there are several building groups across the country whose purpose is to help missionaries, missions and churches with their building programs. Thousands of volunteers have paid their own ways to literally go around the world and across the nation to help. There are even several full time builders who have dedicated their lives to help missions and churches build buildings.
Fourth, there are a few medical groups that lead volunteers on medical campaigns in foreign countries. The purpose of these campaigns is to help missionaries reach their communities by offering medical help and at the same time preaching the gospel. There is one medical doctor who has dedicated his life to missions and medical campaigns.
Fifth, the churches support the Olympic Bible Project outreach in which tens of thousands of New Testaments have been purchased with offerings from the churches and distributed by hundreds of volunteers.
Sixth, there is missionary training for those sent out by the churches to do mission work. Support is even available to those churches who are doing the sending.
Seventh, there is training and support for those who are planting churches here in America.
Eighth, there are numerous Bible institutes, colleges and seminaries scattered across America and literally around the world. By the world's standards they are small but the quality of Bible education is excellent. Each school is church sponsored.
Ninth, there is a ministry that helps missionaries ship containers around the world.
Tenth, there are ministries that help translate and print literature to be used all over the world.
Eleventh, there is a ministry that helps building campaigns, medical campaigns, teaching teams, missionaries, pastors, etc., with their travel. Not only by arranging the airline tickets but also with the logistics of travel, lodging, meals, etc., when they arrive at their destination.
Twelfth, there are numerous student fellowships near the campuses of colleges and universities scattered across America.
Thirteenth, there seems to be a steady stream of groups of young people going all over the world to help missionaries with Vacation Bible Schools and youth camps.
Fourteenth, every year there are numerous teaching teams that help missionaries teach the Word and do evangelism.
Fifteenth, there are numerous pastors and missionaries who have radio ministries. One such ministry is on Trans World Radio and is heard over a good portion of the earth.
Sixteenth, there are always churches who lead out in purchasing equipment (from vehicles to tractors to saw mills) for missionaries.
Seventeenth, There are youth camps held each summer around the world. Thousands of young people have been saved or surrendered their lives to full time ministry at youth camp.
Eighteenth, there is a Bible and tract printing ministry to provides New Testaments and tracts to missionaries at cost or below.
Nineteenth, Mission Developments at the state, interstate and foreign levels raise money to help missionaries build buildings.
Twentieth, there are ministries dedicated to holding retreats and seminars on marriage, finances, leadership and discipleship.
Twenty-first, there is a ministry that produces missionary videos.
Twenty-second, the Disaster Relief ministry has units at eight churches, ready to respond to disasters across America.
Twenty-third, there are ministries that will help missionaries and churches with consultation, planning, master plans, and building plans.
Twenty-fourth, there is a ministry that produces tracts, books and literature in braille.
Twenty-fifth, there is a ministry for youth leader training.
Twenty-sixth, the churches have an orphanage in Texarkana, Arkansas.
Twenty-seventh, a chaplaincy commission helps God-called church-sent men to minister to the men and women of the Armed Forces.
Twenty-eighth, there are men who serve as chaplains in police units and in hospitals across the country.
Twenty-ninth, there are several prison ministries that minister to prisoners and their families.
Thirteth, there is a ministry that helps missionaries and churches with Vacation Bible Schools.
(That is all I can think of at the moment but I am sure I have forgotten some.)
Every one of these ministries is a ministry of the churches of the American Baptist Association. So, the next time someone asks you what kind of Baptist church you attend, stand up straight, look them in the eye and say, "I am a member of one of the churches of the American Baptist Association."
AMERICAN BAPTIST ASSOCIATION
by Raymond McAlister