Date of Award
Master of Arts in Religion (MAR)
Dr. Carl Goodson
Dr. Vester E. Wolber
Dr. Herman Sandford
Study of the History of the Jonesboro Association has apparently been neglected; there is no evidence that a systematic study of its history has ever been undertaken. Consequently, little, other than fragmentary bits of data, remains as relics of its past. The purpose of this study is to discover and organize material into a readable and documented account of the beginning of the Jonesboro Association.
The primary data for this study has been gathered from the minutes of the associations and churches which were involved in the beginning of the Jonesboro Association. In addition to minutes, the manuscripts of Kitchens and of Manning, Rogers' History of Arkansas Baptists, Williams' History of Craighead County, and interviews with persons who were living witnesses of the Association's early activities were used. Other sources having less import for the study were also employed .
These sources were surveyed to discover material pertaining to the history of the beginning of the Jonesboro Association. From the mass of information discovered, material was selected which was deemed to be both valid and pertinent to the study. Material which made a contribution to the following problem areas was considered pertinent and was therefore organized and incorporated into the study: (1 ) Background of Baptist work in the Jonesboro-Crowley ' s Ridge area, ( 2 ) Factors leading to the creation of the Jonesboro Association, (3) Organization of the Jonesboro Association, and (4) Courses charted by the new Association.
The beginning of the Jonesboro Association of Missionary Baptist Churches reaches back through the corridors of time to the early work of the pioneer Baptist ministers. The minister who first began the work of proclaiming the Baptist message and beginning churches was William Nutt. While only one church within the fellowship of the Jonesboro group was organized by Nutt, many others grew out of the seed he planted during his "preaching tour" and pastoral-missionary activities.
The next pioneer figure who led the Baptist work a step further in development was John Pearce. As Nutt began ,' the work of organizing churches and evangelizing communities, Pearce began the work of organizing the various churches into an association. His first project was to unite the churches into the New Salem Association, but that effort was unsuccessful. However, from the work begun in the New Salem Association grew the Mt. Zion Association which has become one of the leading regional bodies of Baptists in Arkansas.
On the noble heritage of Baptist work in the Jonesboro-Crowley's Ridge area came a blight in 1898. Such a controversy developed that it resulted in a split of the body. Several factors brought the Association to the division; one factor was the spirit of the period. As records of churches and associations of the period around 1900 were reviewed, a great deal of unrest was observed. A number of divisions and changes were sweeping the State--it was a time in which Baptists were ripe for division. Also within the Mt. Zion Association there were divergent views concerning mission work. It was only natural that a cleavage developed as those holding such views became more bold in their stand. A controversy which arose in her midst concerning the "Four-mile Law" was the climactic factor which divided the Mt. Zion Association.
No single factor named would have produced a permanent schism in the Mt. Zion Association, but all of the factors working together produced insurmountable disruptions to its unity. Following the disruption of fellowship among the churches, the Association excluded a group of rural churches. In response to that action the excluded churches organized a new association under the name of the Jonesboro Missionary Baptist Association.
Although some efforts were later made to reunite the two associations, they were futile. The Jonesboro Association found ample justification for its continued existence through identification with the "Land Mark" movement .
This study presents a story of a changing group of Baptists . During the life of the Jonesboro Association, it has changed its missions program from the simple concepts of the "gospel plan" to a much more elaborate plan employing such agencies as a missionary committee and a secretary-treasurer. Though a changing and relatively small body, the Jonesboro Association has carved a place among Baptists of Northeast Arkansas and has been able to make its own peculiar contribution to the Baptist work in that section.
McCann, Elton, "A History of the Beginning of the Jonesboro Association of Missionary Baptist Churches" (1965). OBU Graduate Theses. 38.