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).
- We began the year by focusing on future trends that will affect the church. The response to our initial presentation was so overwhelmingly positive, and the requests for more information was such that we expanded it into a series of in-depth presentations called “Join the Conversation.” Word starting spreading about what we were doing. The Baptist General Convention of Texas brought together many of their staff and directors of missions from across Texas to an all-day conference in Dallas where Josh Ellis, Thomas Billings and I shared our findings. As word of these conferences spread, we started getting requests from other states and other associations to share the material. What started here continues to spread and influence Baptist leaders helping them prepare for the future. (You can view everything we’ve done to this point online. Just click here to go to our JtC video webpage.)
- A major part of our ongoing work is training and consulting with church planters and church leaders. Hardly a day goes by (if one ever does) that our consultants are not leading a training conference, consulting with a pastor, mentoring a church planter, or helping a congregation through a challenging time. It’s not unusual for me to receive comments, a note or an email thanking me for the “invaluable help" one of our consultants had given a pastor or church.
- UBA has become the go-to organization for research. We serve all our churches, from our least to our largest, by providing demographic and ethnographic research which they use in starting churches, reaching new people groups and developing their strategic plans.
- In 2013, UBA launched Loving Houston. Last summer thousands of volunteers served under-resourced communities across our city sharing the love of Christ in deed and word. In 2014, UBA launched Loving Houston as a separate and independent organization. Loving Houston is quickly becoming recognized as a significant leader in facilitating community transformation in our city. (PS: Loving Houston has become a model for other associations helping them prepare for when the Southern Baptist Convention comes to their city.)
Yes, I am excited about UBA and our ever-expanding ministry. Every day we live into our heritage as a leader in Texas Baptist life.
A pastor recently said to me, “Our missions committee has re-evaluated our missions giving and we’ve decided to focus closer to home and give more to the association. What we’ve tried to do overseas, you all are doing here in Houston. We’re happy to partner with you.” So let me close by saying "thank you" to all the individuals and churches small and large that support UBA throughout the year. We are only able to do what we do because you support our work.
May God bless you and yours. Have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year.
(Learn more about the many services UBA offers by going to our webpage: www.ubahouston.org.)