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
The story of UBA is a great story, and the best thing about the story may be that it is unfinished. The previous 175 years are like the overture of a Rogers and Hammerstein musical that introduces all the musical themes that will be used throughout the play. If you listened closely as you watched the videos, these themes ran throughout the story: cooperation, collaboration, planting churches, training leaders, making disciples, mobilizing for missions, doing good deeds. As we ponder the future, if we are smart, we will build upon these themes and adapt as needed to remain relevant to the times and circumstances in which we live.
The UBA story is a great story. If we wanted, we could point to our past, look at how much has been accomplished and swell with pride. When John Bisagno retired from Houston’s First Baptist Church he recounted all the things accomplished under his ministry—the thousands of folks baptized, the hundreds of folks called into the ministry or sent into missions, the score of churches planted or revitalized. It was an impressive resume of accomplishment. Then he added, “and the city is more lost today than when I began my ministry here.” Like an Old Testament prophet, he lulled us into thinking everything was fine and then he zapped us with the unexpected and unpleansant truth. A leader’s job is to tell the truth even when it is not pleasant and John Bisagno has been a great leader.
From humble beginnings UBA has grown to become the largest and arguably the most influential association in Texas Baptist and Southern Baptist life. Forget 1840, let’s go back to 1960. In 1960, UBA had 168 churches; today we have almost 600. In 1960, we had two churches than had 1,500 in Sunday School or worship; today we have two churches that run more than 15,000 and 25,000 in worship. The real value of the dollar has changed since 1960 (you can’t buy a gallon of gas for a quarter any more), but there is still no comparison between the affulence of our churches then as now. Yet for all all we have and for all we’ve accomplished, our city is more lost today than at any time in our history. Today, only one out of five people in our city identify themselves as evangelical Christians. Some follow other gods. Most claim to have no religious identity whatsoever.
What does that suggest? In 1840 a handful of churches joined together as an “association” of churches because they believed they could do more together than alone. If churches needed to work together then, it is more essential that we do so today because the task is greater today than it has ever been.
UBA is not me. UBA is not the staff, as wonderful as our staff is. UBA is an association of churches that choose to work together. You are UBA. As a reminder, [watch this final video].
PS: If you’d like to see all the videos together and more from our 175th Anniversary Celebration, go to this link on our website.