Most had written us off. Like a bad asset on a balance sheet, our value was reduced to nil. Few showed up to monthly meetings. I don’t blame them. We’re a small local association—just twenty-four churches. We’ve struggled to revive our partnership. The comment floated more than a few times: “Is it worth it?” I’ve had the same thoughts.
In our denomination, an association is a group of local churches tied to a specific geographic area. Think of it as a network of churches in one area focused on community-specific needs. Some associations are large and thriving. Ours is neither. We’re the Manatee Association, named after our county, but it’s an apt name. Manatees are gracious and kind animals, but they just tend to float and graze. Sea cows. The locals call them sea cows. Sea cows don’t go anywhere fast. That is our association.
But not anymore.
We blew up our association. Perhaps that’s not the best phrase. Nothing is destroyed, but I believe everything will be different now.
Here’s how you can blow up your local association or network. Go all in for the gospel. For us, that meant emptying the bank account. We had funds sitting, waiting, atrophying. Parked funds are a sign of disobedience. Talents were wasting away, and we decided against becoming the good-for-nothing servant. Rather than being thrown into the outer darkness, we’re going to the ends of the earth.
The leader of our association cut the safety net—no small thing since he’s on the payroll. Our issues predate his leadership, so he’s being completely selfless and sacrificial. We’re depleting a reserve account, and we’re funding work in one of the remotest parts of the earth. A missionary contact we know has located four undiscovered people groups—tribes completely unknown until recently. We hope to send some of our own to help reach them for Christ. The risks are high, and the work is clandestine. But we’re using the talents left in the bank to fund this work.
Our little association believes every local church has a global mandate. Two thousand years ago, a rag-tag group of unexpected disciples spread Jesus’ message throughout the Roman Empire. Today, we’re attempting a similar impossibility. Our association doesn’t have any all-star megachurches. Some might even call us backwards. Nobody would expect the Manatee Association to make this move. We’ve got nothing to lose except tens of thousands of dollars, but I think we’ll gain much more in the end.
As of last week, the balance sheet is significantly smaller. We blew it up. The Baptist Bad News Bears are bringing the good news. One more band of misfit Christians is blazing a trail to people who have never heard of Jesus. The sea cows are on the move. God tends to use unlikely missionaries. We hope to be next in line.