I'm writing this between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The turkey is gone but the aroma of dressing and cranberry sause are still in the air. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind me, but I've still got lots of Christmas shopping to do. It's a time of betwixt and between, of giving thanks, of making lists and anticipating something special. So it seems appropriate as I write this, my last blog of the year, that I spend a moment sharing some of the things I'm thankful for and wishing for in my role as Executive Director of Union Baptist Association.
I have had the opportunity to serve in the role of executive director of UBA for more than a decade now. I began serving on the associational staff in a full-time capacity twenty years ago and moved into the role of executive director in the late nineties. Over the past two decades I've seen many, many things change in our association. We've grown in significant ways.
- We have more churches and baptize more folks than any association in Baptist life.
- We are one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse associations in Baptist life. Once UBA was all Anglo association. Today one third of our churches are Anglo, one third African American and one third language churches with Hispanic being the largest group.
- We work cooperatively with Baptists and non-Baptist groups so long as they share our vision and values.
- I serve with an outstanding team of leaders -- on our UBA staff and with our subsidiary corporations. I don't spend time motivating people to work; my job is to resource them and get out of their way! I could not ask to work with a more highly competent, trustworthy and dedicated group of people. Thanks team!
- We enjoy the support of churches aligned with both state conventions. Years ago we decided as an association not to make state convention alignment an issue at the associational level. Consequently, we've maintained a high level of collegiality and cooperative among all our churches. If you looked at the money we receive from our churches, we enjoy strong support from both BGCT and SBTC churches. Thank you all!
- UBA has been known through the years as innovative and a leader in Baptist life. That's due in great measure to the permission-giving culture of UBA. We are not afraid to experiment, to try new things. We are not tied to doing it the way we've always done it.
I didn't realize when the UBA Executive Director Search Committee informed me I was their choice as the new ED for UBA that it was one of the greatest days of my life. Looking back now, though, I know that it was.
Wishing for More
Just because I have so much doesn't mean I don't wish for more, though. (Isn't that just the way we are?) So what would be on my wish list as ED of UBA?
A positive view of the church. I hope in 2012 we can begin talking more positively about the church. The church in general suffers from a lot of negative press and bad attitudes, even among believers. We talk about losing ground, being in decline, having apathetic and uncommitted members ... and there's some truth in all of that. But it's also true that the world is a much, much better place because of Christ, the Christian faith and the presence of the church. In 2012 one of the key initiatives for UBA will be promoting the positive aspects of the church!
Bold steps forward! Since the events of 2001 in Houston (the national economic downturn, flooding from Tropical Storm Allison, 9/11, the collapse of Enron), UBA has been in a protection mode. We've had to reduce our budget, release staff, limit what we do. We've lived all the cliches -- "work smarter, right size, think outside the box, focused on our core competencies, managed expectations, innovate" -- in our effort to do our job. Truthfully, I believe we've done well. We really have done these things, but it's not enough. After a decade of consolidation, I believe it is time to take bold steps forward; to think about expanding, not retreating; to challenge our churches to take things to the next level, to push the envelope, to give 110% … I know, they're just more cliches, but they can also reflect our high level commitment to make a difference for Christ.
The list could go on ... more churches, more baptisms, more openness to the gospel ... but this blog cannot, so I'll stop here. As I do I want to say thanks to all once again for the privilege of serving as the executive director of UBA, and to wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy new year!
Feliz navidad, y prospero año y felicidad en Christo.