UBA welcomed Josh Ellis as the new Executive Director on April 2. Dr. Ellis has been officially on staff working with UBA for over ten years. However, his first experience with the association was in 2001 when he contacted his former professor, Dr. James Furr, to help him learn about church consulting. Dr. Furr, who was a Senior Church Consultant with UBA at the time, graciously gave of his time and wisdom and encouraged Dr. Ellis to enroll in a UBA program called LeadersEdge—a program designed to help leaders understand and engage in transformational change at the personal, congregational, and community level.
EXPERIENCE IN UBA
Dr. Ellis first came to the UBA staff as a volunteer doing research to discover and learn about the various ethnolinguistic people groups living in the Houston area. His role has increasingly expanded and diversified since then. After a year of volunteering and finishing his master’s degree, he was officially hired as paid staff, adding some church consultations in the areas of long-term strategic planning and scenario development. He also served as a liaison to several of our ethnic congregations. He has learned how to simplify his various roles for his kids, calling himself "Pastor Daddy" when he goes to preach at various congregations. His oldest son has even started noticing when he has meetings—it's the days Dr. Ellis wears "special shirts."
Within a few years, he developed better proficiency in demographics and began assisting churches in understanding how their communities were changing. He also began offering guidance in selecting sites for future campuses. Having completed a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies, Dr. Ellis gained a knowledge base that supported his lifelong interest in leadership. The degree allowed him to offer better leadership-related counsel to churches—programs like Leadership Cafe—and better prepared him to assume more leadership responsibility within the UBA staff.
The biggest thing Dr. Ellis has learned during his time at UBA is this: All churches are better together and can do more together than they can apart. Houston may have the most megachurches of any US city, but if Houston only had the megachurches, the gospel wouldn't reach every man, woman, and child in their heart language. UBA has taught him the reality that no church that should try to take on the city by itself, nor is there any church that could take on the city by itself. When churches cooperate, collaborate, and support one another, multiple fields get planted, and multiple harvests are collected.
Dr. Ellis looks forward to seeing how UBA can be both a larger and tighter network. He would love to see churches that are not heavily involved in the association currently form tighter bonds within the UBA. He would also like to see UBA become a larger network because he knows there are untapped resources in our pews at this moment. There are potential church planters, pastors, ministers, and missionaries that will be called and sent, thereby expanding the UBA network.
A primary challenge for UBA will be helping churches understand what it means to be a part of a collaborative network. The network is only made better when each part of it is bringing what they have to the table, sharing ideas, pointing to pockets of darkness and asking for help, raising awareness of issues, and building relationships with one another. The association is not after churches to be names on a list in order to give the impression of being a large association, rather UBA wants to be a vibrant, diverse network of invested, cooperating churches.
Another challenge Dr. Ellis anticipates moving forward is communicating what the churches within UBA are doing to reach new believers and make disciples. But it’s a challenge to tell those stories in a way that is accessible, sharable, and high quality. UBA's new website format is a step in that direction- it’s not a bulletin board of things going on, it’s a collection of stories, strategies, testimonies, and opportunities to equip churches for ministry.
Moving forward, Dr. Ellis sincerely hopes to see more churches, more new believers, and more reproducing disciples, as Houston will only continue to grow. He believes there is a lot to learn from Jeremiah 29, especially verse 7, where God reminds the exiles to pray for the city where he has exiled them because their welfare is tied to the welfare of the city. He hopes to see a movement of God that is overwhelming and undeniable, a movement that praises the name of Jesus Christ alone and hopes that UBA will be the absolute best steward of opportunities within that movement.