Uniting Member Churches in Valrico, Florida: How Baptist Associations Make it Possible

The Southern Baptist Convention was established in 1845 with the aim of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. To further this mission, local churches have come together to form associations that foster unity and cooperation among member churches. The Harmony Baptist Association is one of the 49 associations in Florida that works with the Florida Baptist Convention. Richard Harris, mission director of the Santee Baptist Association in Sumter, South Carolina, pointed out that associations provide an opportunity for churches to collaborate, support each other, and be encouraged. John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, added that associations are the theological watchdogs of Southern Baptists. The first Baptist association in the United States was formed in 1707 in Philadelphia.

Historically, associations have been responsible for doctrinal matters, as seen in Dr. Harris' statement that churches must have certain agreed doctrinal positions and commit to maintaining them when joining an association. The Director of Missions works with the Association's Ministerial Assistant to carry out the daily work of the association. This includes providing training events and fellowship opportunities in nearly every area of church life. Associations also give credibility to their area by identifying them with other like-minded churches. As an expert who has been part of four associations (three in Florida and one now in South Carolina) and held leadership positions there, I believe that associations are essential for promoting unity among member churches and helping them look beyond themselves to the emerging world of colonial America.