Last week, I wrote that the Leadership Council of the church has been looking into a new association for our church, one that is consistent with who we are as a church, consistent with our theology, and more importantly, close enough to us to provide needed support and connection for the church and our staff. To see last week’s article, click here. After examining several options, the Leadership Council proposes that Ashworth become a part of Converge, a movement of over 1300 churches working to help people meet, know and follow Jesus.
Anytime a change like this is proposed, understandably there will be some questions. This blog will try to address the most common questions that might arise for this proposed change. If we have omitted a question that is on your mind, you can let us know on our Contact Us page.
Why are we proposing this change?
For the past six years, Ashworth has seen consistent growth. When Pastor Brent was called as Lead Pastor, we averaged around 100 in worship on Sundays. Yes, this included attendance in both services! Now our average is approximately 200 with attendance for special service like Easter Sunday over 300. With growth come challenges that we realize we are not always equipped to handle. We need outside insight and wisdom to help us navigate the future.
In addition, being geographically distant from our current association has often left us with nowhere to turn and no relationships for our staff to lean on for support and encouragement. Joining a group of churches in our city, state and region affords us the ministry support that our staff and church need for the future.
What doctrinal changes will we see?
None. Our current doctrinal statement and theological positions will stay the same. As a Baptist church, we continue to maintain complete autonomy and are proposing this alignment voluntarily. We will continue to function as an autonomous church cooperating with other like-minded Baptist churches with the ability to terminate or change this association at any time.
What about women in ministry?
Converge has churches that are both egalitarian (affirming of women in ministry including pastoral roles) and complementation (limiting roles of women within the church). They do not see the issue of women in ministry as one that must divide churches and instead one through which we can still cooperate. Ashworth will continue to hold an egalitarian position and affirm women in leadership and all roles of ministry. For an understanding of our Biblical basis of this position, check out the sermon Women in Ministry.
What does this mean for our affiliation with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)?
For many years, we have not had a significant relationship with the national or regional organizations of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) beyond donating to their missions programs. Since we have had a loose association with CBF, we will move our current missions funding from CBF to Converge missions to align our missions funding to where we give and receive support.
Will we be dually aligned (a part of both Converge and CBF)?
It is not the proposal of the Leadership Council to be dually aligned. This move is proposed because of the local and regional support Converge can provide our church and staff.
Why make the change now?
There is no pressing issue that requires us to propose this change. CBF has not done anything that we disagree with, and we are not unhappy or upset with our affiliation with CBF. This is simply a strategic move to associate with an organization that is in our immediate area and can afford us tangible support that we have not had with CBF. As a church, we desire to be more effective and partnering with an association like Converge can help us in this endeavor.
Does this affect the budget or missions giving? What financial commitment is required?
There will not be an impact on the current church budget. There is no financial commitment required, and current missions funding will be shifted from CBF to Converge.
What’s in it for Ashworth?
As mentioned, our staff has access to other pastors in our immediate area to build relationships with and mutually support in ministry. Converge focuses on church strengthening and planting. This gives us access to training and resources to help us as we navigate future growth opportunities. There are other benefits as well. Converge has a church camp in Eldora, Iowa, Pine Lake Camp, to which we would have access. Converge also offers benefits to church and their staff including a retirement plan, funding for church expansion, and resources for church strengthening, church growth, and church planting.
In the unfortunate event that Ashworth should be without a pastor, Converge offers one of the best pastoral assessment and placement services of any church organization. The Pastoral Placement Process (P3) is an efficient tool to help churches assess themselves and potential candidates to help find the right pastor for the right church. (But we hope it is a long time before we ever have to use this!)
Where does this fit into the strategic plan for Ashworth?
As we look toward the future, Converge’s desire to plant churches gives us a pool of churches in our area to partner with if we decided to help plant a new church. Other Converge churches near us could partner with us in helping spread the gospel through church planting.
What additional staff responsibilities or functions are required by Converge?
None. There are resources available to us but they are voluntary and up to the staff and church to determine what level of commitment they wish to give.
How does this change our organizational structure, programs and other missions in which we are involved?
It doesn’t. We will continue to be engaged with all other mission projects as we have been in the past like DMARC, Diamond Willow at Crow Creek, South Dakota, Beza Threads, etc. We continue to be an autonomous church organizing ourselves how we determine biblical and the best fit for us. We will continue to offer the same programs as we have. The only difference is now we have a resource to see if there are other and better programs that we should consider in the future.
What is the timeline for this proposed change?
The Leadership Council, through this blog post and email, is making their desire to lead the church in this direction known. The formal change will be presented at the annual meeting in June when a constitutional change will be recommended. Before the annual meeting, a town hall meeting will be called where every member and attender of Ashworth may attend and ask any questions and present any concerns. Of course, if there are questions and concerns before this time, they may be submitted to the staff and leadership team now by completing the form at the Contact Us page.