Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Season of Celebration

During Thanksgiving, we count our blessings (not our calories) and thank God for all he’s done for us. During Christmas, we remember God’s greatest gift to us and celebrate by giving gifts to friends and loved ones. So I suppose it’s only natural that I spend a few moments reflecting on this year and the many great reasons to we have to celebrate as an association of churches. Let me share a few.

We have a wonderful history and heritage. On October 9, 2015 UBA will be 175 years old! For the better part of two centuries UBA has been a leader in Texas Baptist life. Throughout next year we will share highlights from our past and set the stage for a party next October when we will launch into our next 175 years!

We don’t need to look to a distant past to find things to celebrate about UBA. We can celebrate many accomplishments from this year. Let me share a few (in no particular order).

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

HERO, My Hero

Houston is much in the news these days.  In May the city council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance (known as HERO).  Opponents worked to have the matter put on the November ballot for a vote, but the city government resisted.  A lawsuit was filed.  Subpoenas were issued to five Christian leaders.  Suddenly what’s happening in Houston is at the center of the church-state, religious liberty debate.

What do we as church leaders need to know and what should we encourage our people to do?  In an upcoming seminar (“The State Comes to Church,” December 4) church-state attorney Steve Lewis will talk with us about what the church needs to know and do to protect itself.  You will find this conference informative, practical and very helpful.  I encourage you to register and attend.

Another question we should be asking is, what does all this mean?  The mayor, under intense pressure, withdrew the subpoenas, but what does it mean that the subpoenas were issued in the first place?  (By many accounts, this action was unprecedented in American jurisprudence.)

I see it as an indication that our culture has significantly changed in the last fifty years.  I was born in 1950.  I came of age in the 60s.  (Some would say that makes me old.  I believe it provides me with a valuable vantage point.)  I’ve witnessed firsthand the shifting cultural landscape.  I’ve also witnessed the various ways the church has responded, and they have not all be good or helpful.

Monday, September 8, 2014

UBA Receipts Exceed Budget ... well, not really

A pastor commented to me the other day, "I'm so excited to see that gifts to UBA are exceeding the budget. That's really good news." It is, and I wouldn't want anyone to think otherwise. But the there's more to the story than the numbers you see. 

Each year UBA approves a budget for the coming year. The budget reflects the ministry we desire to have and the resources we believe we need. Since giving to UBA fluctuates so much from month to month and sometimes year to year, we develop a second budget--a more conservative budget--that we operate on until we see how giving will go. Since the recession a few years ago, we've never made our approved budget. Some years we struggled to make our conservative budget. So we started using the conservative (not the approved) budget when we made our reports.

 What does that mean? It means receipts this year exceed our conservative budget (the one we have been reporting). However, receipts fall short of our approved budget. That means we are getting by, but we are not getting ahead! There is so much we need to do that we've not been able to do. For example:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Two Churches Make the Grade in School

School starts back in a few weeks.  As a student I was focused on doing well in school because I knew a good education was a key to being successful in life.  I was fortunate to attend good public schools and receive a quality education.  Not every student today has that opportunity.  Many of our public schools are in crisis.  UBA churches are doing something to help.  Let me share with you a story from the Loving Houston newsletter which highlights the great work of two UBA churches.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Be Someone Special by Doing Something Good

I always wanted to be someone special, haven’t you? We can be, and we can do something important at the same time by being part of the Mission Centers “One in a Thousand” campaign.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Loving Houston — One Year Later (Part Two)

Loving Houston was a success.  In fact, it was such a success folks wanted to know what we were going to do this year?  Would we expand and try to extend the work into more parts of the city?  Would we undertake even larger projects?  What would we do?

A lesson I learned as a photographer helped.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Loving Houston — One Year Later (Part One)

Last year Mayor Annise Parker declared June 1-8, 2014 as Loving Houston Week. Over 2,000 volunteers went throughout six underserved communities in the greater Houston area showing and sharing the love of Christ. A few months later (when the weather cooled) more than 500 additional volunteers descended upon the Sunnyside area to continue the work begun in June.  Let me update you on what’s happened over the past year.

As our leadership teams reviewed what was accomplished and began dreaming about what Loving Houston might look like in the future several things became apparent:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Great Things Happen ... or They Don't

If great things happen because God's people pray, doesn't it make sense that there are many great things that aren't happening because God's people aren't praying?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What is the future of the church?

UBA recently hosted a conference in which we looked at the future of the church (you can view it YouTube if you'd like to see it).   Having spent weeks reading what various folks are saying about the future of the church, I found many reasons to be discouraged.  
  • Church attendance is declining. A regular church attender was once said to be a person who attended 3 out of 4 weeks; today the definition of regular attender is 2 out of 4 weeks.
  • Baptisms are not keeping pace with population growth.  Even though the US population has grown from 146.6 million to 213.7 million since 1948, Southern Baptists baptized the same number of people in 2012 as  in 1948 (and that's with 10 million more Southern Baptist churches than  in 1948) highlighting a two-decade downward trend in baptisms.