Ron Blankenship is the Director of Missions for the Montgomery Baptist Association (MBA).
BL: Please share a bit about yourself and your family
My wonderful wife Evelyn and I have been married 38 years. We met at seminary and married two years later. We have shared ministry for four decades at churches where I was a senior pastor in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee, as well as my ministry as director of missions at Montgomery Baptist Association for 22 years. We have three awesome children, Nathan, Melanie, and Angela. Our four-year-old Shih Tzu “Puddin” is a joy to all of us.
BL: How did you come to the Lord? (spiritual journey)
I was raised in a little community just outside Gilbert in southern WV in “coal mining country.” I did not grow up in church. When I was young, Southern Baptists started a church at the mouth of the hollow where I lived, and I was invited to Horsepen Southern Baptist Church when a traveling youth group was leading a revival. I was 19 when I began attending the church’s Sunday school and worship services. Ralph Trent was my Sunday school teacher, and each Sunday, he invited anyone who did not know Christ to go forward and accept Jesus. One afternoon as I was driving two hours back to Marshall University, where I was a student, I saw a vision of a car coming into my lane and killing me, and I knew I would go to hell if I died. The next Sunday, I went forward, and the Rev. William Lewis led me to salvation in Christ, and he baptized me a few weeks later.
BL: Each association has its own culture – how would you describe the MBA?
- Montgomery Baptist Association is one of the most ethnically diverse associations in the United States. Over 60% of our 93 churches are of a specific ethnic base.
- Since arriving as DOM in September 1999, I have led the association proactively to plant new churches. We started with 42 churches, and the Lord has blessed us with now a total of 93.
- Geographically we are varied. The lower county is urban; mid-county suburban; and upper county is agricultural and small towns and villages.
- We have an active ministerial monthly fellowship averaging about 30 in attendance. We pray together, fellowship, eat great food provided by hosting churches, hear a devotional talk from the pastor or guest, and we celebrate in worship how good it is to serve the same Lord Jesus Christ.
- I work with a great staff — Michael Mattar (language church missionary), Sherrie Riggs (missions office manager), and Melanie Blankenship (media specialist), along with our ministry team coordinators.
- Our ministry structure is set up under four teams led by ministry coordinators: new church work (Michael Mattar); strengthening churches (Tim Bonner); encouraging leaders (Phil Hurst); and cooperative ministry (Jim Shirlen). Our vision statement of purpose is “Churches on mission in fellowship for the kingdom of Jesus Christ.”
- We seek to partner with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities, and whoever wants to work with us to fulfill the Great Commission.
BL: How has God been blessing your association?
- Since arriving as the DOM in 1999, the Lord has led MBA to add 51 new churches.
- Even during COVID-19 over the past two years, MBA brought four new churches into membership, and presently we have at least three new churches to present for membership in October.
- I and my staff have helped churches to get through and adjust to the “new normal” that the COVID-19 pandemic has dropped into our lives.
- We have great harmony among our associational churches. Also, we have various leaders we can refer churches to in various ministry specialties.
- MBA recently moved office locations to downsize and free more finances for ministry and church planting.
- It is a blessing to meet with other directors of missions to fellowship and make plans along with BCM/D.
BL: What are some challenges?
- As churches have struggled financially with the COVID-19 pandemic, so too, the MBA reflects lower financial giving. But we have found ways to lower expenses and still maintain good associational health.
- Over the next year when our office manager/bookkeeper officially retires, we are exploring ways to transition to virtual and digital operations with our administrative tasks and accounting processes.
- We must continually educate our churches on the value of the local association. We are the closest SBC entity to the churches. Though the national SBC provides church planting and ministry resources we often need a more strategic contextual approach.
I believe, under the leadership of the new BCM/D executive director, Michael Crawford, we will find more ways for us to complement each other in our ministries.
- With the public news of sexual abuse and overlooking victims of sexual abuse from some high profile SBC leaders, we must work through our state conventions and associations to implement policies and guidelines to prevent and report sexual abuse.
BL: How can we pray for you and for the association?
- As the number of churches grows within MBA, the needs of both new and older churches increases, calling for our attention and ministry. Hopefully, churches will cooperate more to synergize their missional efforts locally.
- Pray that the association and its existing churches transition through this pandemic and come out even better than before.
- As I get older and, Lord willing, do not plan to retire anytime soon, pray for God to give me and Evelyn good health and wisdom to continue helping the churches and lead into the future.
- Pray that the SBC, the BCM/D, and associations increasingly will work together and not duplicate our efforts.
- Hopefully, I will find more time for writing to share my four-plus decades of ministry experience as a senior pastor, church planter, consultant, and director of missions to help other ministry leaders and churches in their calling.
BL: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
There is nothing I would rather have done for the last 22-plus years than serve as director of missions for this great association. I work with a fantastic group of pastors, staff, and other church leaders. My leadership style is catalytic and the association allows me to minister and serve in a variety of ways: preaching in churches, interim pastor ministry, teaching at a nearby seminary and Christian college, consulting with churches on a variety of topics, helping churches in conflict, working with my associate staff Michael Mattar to start and develop language churches, and the list is long. I love what God has called me to do, and Lord willing, He will allow me to do this for many more years. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.