Excerpt from Pastor Evan Dahl's research paper on the OCSBA.
On October 10, 1952, nine churches came together to meet at Palm Street Baptist Church in Anaheim – five of which were formally LASBC members. First Baptist Church, Cypress and its daughter church FSBC, Buena Park had both joined along with sister LA region church FSB, Garden Grove. First Baptist Church, Midway City (a church plant of LASBA member Truett Memorial Baptist, Long Beach) also made the shift to form an association in its native Orange County. Rounding out the five was Midway City neighbor First Baptist Church, Westminster.
Outside of the LA Association, First Southern Baptist Church, Anaheim came in as a completely new church that started as a mission in the home of Mr. & Ms. Chester W. Harroun only one year prior. It joined the association with three other churches that weren’t formally associated with the Los Angeles Association: FSBC, La Habra, Bristol Street Baptist Church, Santa Ana and Santa Ana’s daughter church FSBC, Orange.
Much work was done to compile the evidence and documents in order to understand this puzzle. After seeing all of the connections made, one thing is clear: these 9 churches came together, with a clear purpose and vision. This certainly paints the picture of the Baptist fundamental of the associational principal at work. Some of these churches were part of former associations, Baptist and non-Baptist. Some of these churches were plants that willingly followed their respective mother churches; while still others were completely new home churches that were seeking a greater fellowship and networks to appeal to. Whatever their sizes, histories and cities, the evidence of their meeting demonstrates great heart for the representation of their local congregations, county and dedication to the spreading of the Gospel message throughout.
After understanding who came together, the next to ask is why these churches came together. What was their vision? What ideals did the Orange County based churches stand for? Were they in accordance to the Los Angeles based Association or even the California Convention? A look at the very first Constitution and By-Laws published in the 1952 meeting minutes provides the answers. According to Article II, “The Object of the Association shall be to promote the preaching of The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the spread of the Divine Truth at home and abroad; to strengthen the churches which make up the Association; to provide a means of larger service; to co-operate with the Southern Convention and their agencies; and to stimulate the spirit of missions as found in Matthew 28:16-20.”
Much of this language was taken from the Los Angeles Association, particularly the language regarding the Great Commission and working in conjunction with the Convention and other affiliated agencies. However, in the original 1952 Orange County Association, we find new language that has to do with the building up of the churches within the association and to provide a “means of larger service”. It remains slightly ambiguous what this “larger service” could be. In any case, the connotation is that this clause mandates a high degree of voluntary collaboration amongst Association members. Further, the Orange County constitution provided language that supported cooperation with both the Southern Baptist General Convention of California as well as the Southern Convention. While this may not seem so significant, especially as each constitution adds the language “and their agencies”, it could be argued that the Orange County wanted to be specifically aware of the Southern Baptist network on the regional, state and national level.
Reading the constitution objects, we can derive two focuses that are important to this Association: Preaching and spreading the Gospel and working with and strengthening local churches. It is important to note that, unlike denominational churches that require all churches to act in accordance to their authority or lose their standing, the Orange County (as well as the Los Angeles County) Southern Baptist Association has not and will not impress its agenda upon any church. According to Article VI, section 1, “This Association shall never exercise any authority whatsoever over any Church, nor shall it interfere in any way with the constitution of any Church, but will always cheerfully recognize and uphold the absolute independencey of the Churches.” This only further demonstrates the embodiment of the associational principal of Southern Baptist culture. While the Association, who is comprised of members of churches within the Association, acts to help build the kingdom through the strengthening and communicating vision to fellow local churches, it cannot disturb or tell any church how to run their ministry. It implies that this is something only the Lord has authority over. The only power the Association does reserve, and rightfully so, is to decide who may share in the fellowship of churches and who may not. Even this is quoted within their constitution as being scriptural, citing Matthew 18:15-17.
The Early Years
Within the first few years, the OCSBA had seen the Lord work in the region and saw a lot of growth. By the end of the decade, in 1959, twelve other churches had become Association members and 6 missions were started. The size of their budget multiplied nearly 10-fold and the Association was now influencing a total church and mission membership of 4,386 people. Through the 60s and 70s the Association continued to strengthen Orange County churches by securing funding for many members who were beginning to purchase land. Through these decades, the Association added more churches to its membership and began to establish ministries and secure locations and funds for ministers to Orange County’s culturally diverse people groups including language missions to Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Samoan peoples as well as the elderly communities.
Current Work and Vision
Flashing forward to present day, we see a much more sophisticated Orange County Southern Baptist Association. Today’s Association is certainly not behind the times and publishes a significant amount of literature and social media dialog for the Orange County Baptist community. The face of the Association may have changed, but it appears that the fundamentals of the Association have not. Now hosting over 130 member churches across the county, the Association acts as a gateway to the larger Baptist bodies as well as a proponent for local networking across the verity of diversity. The Association’s current website offers a wellspring of information and resources about how to be connected to other Association members and current collaborative missions.
The Association’s current mission statement is “Churches advancing the Kingdom Together.” There are two thoughts wrapped into this statement. The first concept is taken directly from the old constitutional language of “strengthening churches”. In a sit down interview with current Association Missions Director, Dr. Michael Proud, Proud described the vision of the Association as constantly assessing what kind of an impact its members are having on the Kingdom of God. This involves a lot of dedication to each Association member church and equipping. However, the second aspect to this mission statement is simply one word: together. Coordinating and resourcing 130 churches is a tough job, even with the miracle of the internet. However, the Association still finds its strength in the biblically sound doctrine of churches voluntarily, under the authority of Christ, working in collaboration with one another in building up the Kingdom.
Church health is one great ministry that the Association provides for its member churches and this works on multiple levels. At a basic level, the Association provides ministry support. This involves networking events and peer support groups. One particular group that was of interest was the Pastor Peer Group. This particular ministry support strategy is centered on getting pastors together in small groups and encouraging and building one another up. Further, the Association also works with local retreat centers to provide working retreats to allow pastors to provide deeper relationships between churches and seek direction from God through some solitude.
On a different level, the Association is very committed to walking along side and aiding churches in discovering the direction that God may be calling them. The Associations Assess & Assist strategy is another resource for churches to gain insight into where the Lord may be leading them and how to accomplish getting to the next step in their growth. This strategy demonstrates the Associations concern for overall church health and willingness to walk with a church through any circumstance. In a separate exchange with Mission Director Michael Proud, I was told that the Association’s aim is not to be a ministry that takes control and tell a church how to run, but rather to come along side its members and provide as many resources and options as possible in order to see each member grow healthy and discover how they are being called by God to advance the Kingdom.
Finally, Missions at home and abroad are another aspect of the original Association constitution that is still being pursued. Orange County is a very ethnically diverse place with many different opportunities for outreach across language and culture. The OCSBA is very aware of the different ethnic churches that it serves and well prepared to resource almost any church, regardless of language or cultural background. Much literature is produced in English as well as Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish as well as other languages and consultants are also available to assist in these cultural exchanges. Reaching further, OCSBA has established multiple methods to get involved with domestic and foreign missions by encouraging financial giving, broadcasting different mission opportunities and providing information on how to get on board with any associated mission from other churches and para-church organizations.
 “Table A: Church and Membership”, 9th annual Session of the LASBA of California, 1952, 62-3.
 “FSBC, Buena Park”, 50th anniversary OCSBA, 2002.
 “It all started in a home”, FSBC, Anaheim, accessed July 24, 2014, http://www.fsbcanaheim.com/history/.
 “Constitution and By-Laws”, Organizational meeting minutes of the OCSBA, 1952, 4.
 “Constitution and By-Laws”, 9th annual Session of the LASBA of California, 1952, 12.
 “Constitution and By-Laws”, OCSBA Minutes, 1952, 5.
 “Constitution and By-Laws”, OCSBA Minutes, 1952, 4.
 “Constitution and By-Laws”, OCSBA Minutes, 1952, 5.
 “Orange County Southern Baptist History”, 50th anniversary OCSBA, 2002.
 Dr. Michael Proud Jr., “2011 Annual Church Profile”, OCSBA 2012 Association Annual Report, (2012): 65-67.
 “Associational Dream”, OCSBA, accessed July 21, 2014, http://www.ocsba.org/associational-dream/.
 Dr. Michael Proud Jr. (OCSBA Director of Missions) in discussion with the author, July 22nd, 2014.
 “Pastor Peer Groups”, OCSBA, accessed July 25, 2014, http://www.ocsba.org/pastor-peer-groups/.
 “Assess & Assist”, OCSBA, accessed July 25, 2014, http://www.ocsba.org/assess-assist/.
 Dr. Michael Proud Jr. (OCSBA Director of Missions) in discussion with the author, July 27th, 2014.
 “OCSBA Language Consultants”, OCSBA, accessed July 25, 2014, http://www.ocsba.org/ocsba-language-consultants/.
 “Mission Partnerships”, OCSBA, accessed July 25, 2014, http://www.ocsba.org/mission-partnerships/.