Baptist Church Associations


The Association.–The oldest form of organization, beyond the local church, was the association, and it remains a vital part of Baptist denominational structure today.

From the first, Baptists entered into fellowship and common cause with other believers who shared their faith. As early as 1624 and again in 1630, several General Baptist churches in London acted together in discussing doctrine and in corresponding with other believers. Though they had no formal association, they showed a sense of cooperation and common identity.

By 1650, the Baptist association was well established. The name and geographical concept probably were adaptations of a civil unit in England, much like a county. During the English Civil War (1642-45), much of the country was divided into “associations” for political purposes. After the war Baptists continued to use this concept and name for their regional fellowship of churches.

The associations were extremely important to early Baptists. They provided Christian fellowship, a forum for discussion of Baptist concerns, a means to propagate Baptist teachings, and an effective way to monitor and maintain correct Baptist doctrine among the churches. Associations also participated together in common causes, such as issuing confessions of faith and working for religious liberty.

1. What is meant by the term “association” when applied to inter-church work?

2. Explain what such an association is not.

3. Is an association of churches Scriptural? Give reasons for your answer.

4. What things is an association not empowered to do?

5. What are the powers of an association?

6. What is the purpose of an association?

7. List some things which are not within the purpose of an association.

2 Responses to “Baptist Church Associations”

  1. Nathan Chandler Says:

    This was a very informative and comprehensive lesson. I don’t feel that I have anything to add. But I will say that this is a VERY needful lesson. It seems that several sound churches are hesitant or even downright hostile towards the idea of associations. This is not only sad but it is dangerous. These churches are, in effect, isolating themselves from the commonwealth of New Testament Churches. Churches that isolate themselves will inevitable grow spiritually cold through their pride. Because it is pride that leads a church to isolate herself. She begins to think she is the only one left that is sound and “keeping the faith”. The only reason for not fellowshipping or associating (an association is just a formalized fellowship) with other churches is if they are not sound in faith and doctrine. So, when a church isolates herself, she is saying – in effect – “all the rest of you are unsound and have not the candlestick”. That is a strong position to take! And one that Paul and the Church at Jerusalem DID NOT take with the Corinthian Church. And I doubt any of us would associate with that church today – but she still had the candlestick. My point is, the lesson made abundantly clear that Associations are scriptural, are voluntary, do not usurp the local church, have no authority, are only advisory through the messengers appointed by the several autonomous churches and are beneficial for the spread of the gospel; therefore the only reason to avoid associations is if you believe none of the churches in it are sound. We need stronger (not more powerful but more closely knitted together) and more vibrant Associations.

    Bro Nathan Chandler

  2. Luis Kiraly Says:

    It is advisable ask you church leaders why they are hiding this from you

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