STATE AND LOCAL ASSOCIATIONS
Quote from History and Archives Committee State Association of Missionary Baptist Churches of Arkansas, Pioneer Faith: The History of Missionary Baptist Associations and Churches in Arkansas from 1818 to 1920, Texarkana: History and Archives Committee, 1994, page 35:
Early associations were different than contemporary associations. The early associations usually started on Friday or Saturday, and continued through Monday. More time was allotted to praying and preaching. The reports were emphasized, and more discussion was made. Sometimes two or three preachers preached at one service, one following the other, often preaching an hour each on the same text, and this was done at least at eleven and at "early candle lighting." And they preached on doctrine with all the power possible and with a ring that produced conviction. Most associations featured a "circular Letter" that dealt with some doctrinal or moral problem. This letter was sent to every church shortly before the association met.
The associations sent what they called a "corresponding letter" to sister associations." They also welcomed corresponding messengers, and the preachers from other associations and their messages were welcomed. These features were important in maintaining uniformity of doctrine and practice because the churches were scatted, and communications were limited.
E. Glenn Hinson summarized (pp. 12-13) the importance of local associations for these pioneer churches:
1. annual meetings offered an occasion for fellowship. In this period the paucity of members in individual churches heightened the need for fellowship.
2. they supplied inspiration and edification through prayer, singing, and preaching,
3. they helped establish Baptist identity among member churches,
4. associations assisted one another in evangelism and missions.
Hinson also attempted to characterize (p. 39) services of these early churches, "Services consisted chiefly of preaching, singing, and praying. Baptist preachers, typically uneducated farmers with prejudice against educated and paid ministers, relied heavily upon experience. In their sermons and exhortations they issued dire warnings about death and the judgement to come. Among these converts of the frontier awakening exhortations probably figured more prominently than exposition."
Information for the page was complied primarily from Ashcraft, Robert, General Ed., History of the American Baptist Association.