Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Bloods, The Crips -- A Christmas Story

(The following is a true story.  The names of the people involved and the places where they work are obscured for their protection.)

Realtown is one of the most violent communities in our city.  Gang violence is an every day occurrence.  More people are trying to leave this community than move there, but move there is exactly where John felt God leading him to do.  John left a six-figure-a-year secular job to move to Realtown, to plant his life in that community, and to start a church.  The people he wanted most to reach were the members of two rival gangs—the Bloods and the Crips!

Friday, November 6, 2015

HERO: Looking back; looking forward

Houstonians defeated HERO this week.  Reasonable people must now work to find a middle ground that prohibits discrimination, treats people fairly and does not do so in a way that makes things unsafe for others.  Surely this is possible. Soon, though, another issue will take its place. When it does I hope the church will be a reasoned, moral voice in public conversations.  The church has as much right to share it's views and advocate for what it believes in the public arena as any other group in America and should not be shy about doing so.  Our Constitution makes it our right.  The Bible makes it our responsibility.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Saving the best for next

As part of our 175th Anniversary Celebration this month, we told the story of UBA.  Most of the people, even those with a long history of involvement in the association, were amazed when they watched the videos and heard the story of UBA.  The response to the videos has been outstanding.  I thought you might want to see them (see them again), so we uploaded the videos so you could watch them.  Click on these links:
Video 1:  1837 to 1900
Video 2:  1900 to 1990
Video 3:  1990 to 2014

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

UBA -- Celebrating 175 Years as an Association of Churches

It was time for me to get away.  I had been overly busy.  The daily commute through Houston traffic was wearing on me.  I’d pushed through and worked hard to finish a major project.  Fortunately, while looking at my schedule a few months earlier I’d anticipated what might happen and planned a retreat at a spiritual renewal center.  I thought it would be a time to rest and recover.  What I didn’t anticipate was what I’d be asked to do on the retreat and the impact it would have.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

UBA's Response to Churches and Same-sex Marriage

In June the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Though it was a landmark decision, the Justices were not unanimous. The vote was 5 to 4.  For the first time ever Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts read his dissenting opinion from the bench. The division on the court mirrors the division in the country and in the church.

Even though same-sex marriage is now legal, the majority of UBA churches will choose not to participate. However, it is possible that some may setting up the potential for conflict and division among the churches of UBA.

This has not been the first time this has occurred in UBA history, nor will it be the last. The question is, how will we manage this situation?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Sky Wasn't Falling BUT the Wolf Still Ate Chicken Little! Let the church be warned!

As I read the Chicken Little story, something troubled me.  The sky wasn't falling, but the wolf ate Chicken Little and all his friends!  

After I wrote my last blog, I took time this week to read the majority decision handed down by the court and each of the dissenting opinions from Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito.  What I read troubled me.   

In the opinion of the dissenting justices, the implications of the decision for our legal system are profound.  A bare majority of five people have overridden the will of the people as expressed through their legislatures and determined the law of the land.  As the dissenting justices say, this should trouble us all.

But I'm a churchman, not a lawyer, and the implications of what I read for the church, for the Christian community and for religious liberty deeply troubled me.  Rather than share my thoughts I will let the justices speak for themselves.

Chief Justice Roberts states it clearly:  "Today’s decision ... creates serious questions about religious liberty.”  Justice Thomas wrote:  "Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Chicken Little, SCOTUS and the Church

A seed fell on Chicken Little’s head.  "The sky is falling," he reasoned.  "I must tell the king."

On his way to warn the king he garnered quite a following.  He convinced Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey and Turkey Lurkey to join him on his journey to warn the king.  Along the way they also met Foxy Loxy who pretended to join them only to lure them into his den.  The chicken, the hen, the duck and the turkey were never heard from again.

Chicken Little responded to what he perceived to be a bad situation in a way that only made matters worse, at least for him and his followers.

In a landmark decision the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) re-defined marriage and legalized same-sex unions.  Their decision was not unanimous.  The vote in favor of legalizing same-sex unions was split 5 to 4 with the majority ruling in favor, a division which appears to reflect the diversity of opinions across the country.  Personally, I was disappointed with their decision, but not surprised by it.

In moments like this I turn to the Bible for guidance, but first I think the story of Chicken Little has something to teach us.  However much we, the church, may not like what has happened, we must not behave in a way that makes things worse.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Goodbye, my friend

A friend died last week.  At his memorial service one of the speakers imagined the scene in heaven when Phil approached the pearly gates.  “Wait here,” St. Peter said.  Approaching God, St. Peter said, “Pastor Phil’s here, but I don’t see his name on the list.”  

“It’s there,” God said.  “I was expecting him, just not so soon."

God didn’t choose when Phil would die.  Phil did.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Erosion of Religious Liberty

One of the most significant days in American history came and went a few weeks ago and hardly anyone noticed, including me.  

On January 16, 1786 Virginia adopted Thomas Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom, a document some say was as profound in its own way as the Declaration of Independence.  Yet, there's no national holiday to commemorate that event.  There are no parades down Main Street.  Religious liberty is something we've come to take for granted. 

Yet today religious liberty is in jeopardy. More than one out of every three people in the world lives in a place where religious freedom is fundamentally violated according to the Freedom in the World 2014 Report.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Save the date (October 11, 2015) ... we've got something to celebrate

Let's test your UBA knowledge.  True or False?
  • Union Baptist Association is older than the state of Texas.
  • Union Baptist Association was the first association formed west of the Mississippi.
  • Union Baptist Association was instrumental in the founding of Baylor University (1845) and Houston Baptist University (1960).
  • Sam Houston was baptized by a church that belonged to Union Baptist Association.
  • Union Baptist Association has a history of creativity and entrepreneurship.
  • Union Baptist Association is the largest association in the Southern Baptist Convention.
If you answered “true” to all of the statements, you are mistaken.  Read on to see what you might have missed.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

2014: A look back at what our churches did

Peter Drucker used to say two questions the leader of any organization must ask and answer are these:  what business are you in, and how’s business?  In my role as executive director of UBA, I’m constantly asking myself those questions.  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Doing What Matters

The era of the modern world’s fair began with Britain’s “Great Exhibition” (often called the “Crystal Palace Exhibition”) in 1851.  The exhibits on display at the Crystal Palace included scientific and technological marvels from many different countries as well as works of art and craftsmanship. Some six million people attended the exhibition.  One of the displays was an engineering marvel, complete with hundreds of moving parts, interconnected cogs, levers and pulleys … all the bells and whistles.  The thing is, it really didn’t do anything.

Busy-ness without productivity is never acceptable, especially when doing the Lord’s work.  That’s why it’s important to me that in UBA we do things that really matter, things that help our churches fulfill their great commission responsibility.

We say that we exist to mobilize our churches to take on lostness, but what does that mean?  Why is that important?  What did we do last year and what will we do this year?  Those are all big questions, too big to completely answer in a short blog post, but let me mention a couple of things.