Jim and I were in Hong Kong helping IMB missionaries prepare for some of the changes they were about to experience. One evening we went out for dinner at a nearby restaurant overlooking Hong Kong harbor (if memory serves me correctly). That's when Jim surprised me by telling me that upon our return he was resigning as executive director of UBA to start Mission Houston, that he assumed I would be asked to be the interim and that he wouldn't be surprised if I was asked to become the executive director. That was one of the more significant turning-point moments in my life.
After we returned to the states Jim did resign and start Mission Houston. I was asked to become the interim executive director and, after what seemed like a year long search, asked to become the executive director.
I suppose I'm a bit reflective because this week the Associational Leadership Council surprised me with a special recognition. This month marks my twenty-fifth year in Houston, my twenty-fifth year with UBA and my fifteenth year in the role of executive director (either interim or full-time). Looking back so much has changed.
- UBA has nearly doubled in size since I first started and it remains the largest association in SBC life.
- UBA is one of the most diverse associations in the SBC any way you want to measure it. We have some of the largest and smallest churches, some that meet in multimillion dollar buildings and some that meet in homes, some of the most innovative and traditional, some "high church" Baptists and hip-hop churches. It's always fun when I talk with other associations to tell them we have lots of church members who churches are part of UBA that don't even know they are part of a Baptist organization because Baptist isn't in the church's name. We have ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity. One third of our churches are Anglo, one-third African American and one-third of our churches speak a language other than English.
- We were one of the very first associations to transition from a traditional structure to a consultant model. Today our staff is recognized across the convention as leaders and experts in many fields.
- UBA was one of the first (I think the first) to talk about itself as the lead mission agency for the city, meaning that we retooled ourselves to think like missionaries in our own culture and context and training others to do so. That model and language has now been adopted by other associations and conventions.
- UBA pioneered the study of people groups in the USA a decade ago and have become a model for helping churches identify and reach the diverse ethnic population that lives in our city. (If you haven't checked out our website for all the online help to research a city, you might check it out. Associations and researchers across the country use it to help them research their cities.)
- This year we initiated "Loving Houston" which I believe will be a model for doing associational life for many years to come.
So on this, my silver anniversary at UBA (as someone graciously pointed out), I say thank you to our churches and leaders for their support and willingness to allow me the privilege of serving in this role.