Unravelling the Structure of a Baptist Association in Valrico, Florida

Established in 1843 with just eight churches, the Florida Baptist Association has grown to represent more than 50 churches in the four-county region of Leon, Wakulla, Jefferson and Franklin. Each of these member churches brings their own unique culture, personality and vision. The association is affiliated with the Baptist Churches of the United States (USA) and is the largest Baptist denomination in the world and the largest Protestant denomination and the second largest Christian denomination in the United States. The Florida Baptist Association provides educational scholarships to individuals who hold a church-designated staff position in a collaborating church of the Florida Baptist Association.

On Thursday, May 29, Ryan Helms, pastor of the New Zion Baptist Church near Bonifay, Florida, organized a conference for Florida Baptist Convention staff to lead a conference for association officials to learn how to use church planting training to revitalize small churches. The first association in the United States was founded in 1707 by the Philadelphia Baptist Association. This association has helped countless churches initiate, develop, grow and spread the Gospel through a unified message and effort. Over time, disagreements led to the formation of Evangelical Missions and the American Baptist Association (192), as well as many unaffiliated independent churches.

In 1742, the Philadelphia Association adopted its own confession of faith, a reaffirmation of the 1689 confession of the English private Baptists in London, with two new articles on the singing of hymns and the laying on of hands. Associations also continue to play an essential role in educating Southern Baptists about the need for cooperation and promoting unity. These include Richmond Baptist Theological Seminary, McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta, Wake Forest, Gardner Webb and Campbell Theological Schools in North Carolina, and Beeson School of Theology at Samford University. In 1751, a minister named Oliver Hart moved the work of the Philadelphia Association to the south of the United States and formed the Charleston Association in South Carolina, with four churches. Baptists had been present in Pennsylvania since 1684 and found William Penn's Quaker colony a tolerant home for dissidents. Reportedly, Seagle did this and said it had serious implications for the Florida Baptist Convention's attitude toward pastors and churches in the state who believe in the doctrines of grace.