To say that Hurricane Harvey shook the region of Houston seems like an understatement. In the aftermath of the storm, needs were real, and in many cases, work still continues from the devastating storm. Amidst the chaos, stories of human generosity began popping up everywhere: people in boats helped neighbors get to safety; some opened their homes as shelters; others worked tirelessly to help strangers clean out their homes. Organizations and volunteers from all over the country came to Houston to help. But the story in the media was consistent: the response to Harvey was led by generous churches.
WE HAVE A LOT OF GENEROUS CHURCHES
It doesn’t take a hurricane to prompt generosity. But unfortunately, it sometimes takes a hurricane to prompt stories of generosity. Let’s start fixing that. There are almost 600 churches in UBA, so there are a lot of great stories to tell. This is but a sample of those stories:
The Fellowship, West University Baptist Church, and South Main Baptist Church in Pasadena, among other churches, have been cooperating with each other for years to engage an unreached people group in southeast Asia.
Churches from across the country and the association used UBA as a connection to churches with Harvey-related needs like damaged facilities, and UBA dispersed tens of thousands of dollars in that effort. But UBA’s office building was also significantly damaged. When they found out, Houston’s First Baptist Church reached out—unsolicited—and offered timely financial assistance to get the building repaired quickly.
Iglesia Bautista Restauración, Iglesia Puente para Cristo, Iglesia Bautista del Redentor, Iglesia Cristiana Fortaleza y Esperanza, and Iglesia Bautista Berean all collaborate together to support a medical mission, a full-time missionary, and a church planting strategy in Senegal (which you can read more about here).
A wide variety of UBA churches also collaborate together to conduct one of the most innovative prison ministries in the country. These teams of volunteers teach Bible storying, organic discipleship, and church planting techniques both to those eligible for parole and those who are not. Many people have come to faith in Christ, and several churches have been planted as a result of this ministry. River Pointe Church stepped up their giving to provide mileage reimbursement for UBA volunteers serving in several prison locations in the area. Churches whose pastors or members form a part of the prison ministry team include Eyes on Me, Covenant Fellowship, Agape Community, and Houston’s First Baptist.
And then there are the stories of church replants all around town, but I’m going to save those for a future UBA video because those unique stories of generosity deserve to be seen.
WE’RE BEGINNING TO SHOW, AND TELL
Speaking of things that deserve to be seen, the following video is about what can happen when generous churches partner together for the sake of the gospel. The projects these churches work on are featured in the video, but I’ll name some of the churches here: Agape Community Bible Church, First Southwest Baptist Church, West University Baptist Church, and Iglesia Bautista Horeb.
In last few decades of UBA, it has not been our practice to publicly acknowledge those churches that financially support the collective work of the association. The work and ministry of the association would be impossible without the support and investment of these churches, but for myriad reasons, we just haven’t shared very much public appreciation. That changes this year.
In order to celebrate the generosity of churches in our association, we have created two categories which recognize significant financial investment in the life of UBA. Those lists are Top 10 Investing Churches by total sum and Top 10 Investing Churches by per capita contribution. As you can see from the graphic, in 2017, Woodridge Baptist Church- Kingwood led both lists and University Baptist Church was also on both lists. Six of the ten churches on the per capita list run less than 100 people in attendance, yet their investment in UBA is huge!
About the same time I was wondering how to express my gratitude to these 18 churches, the pastor of Ecclesia Houston, Chris Seay, reached out to say that he wanted to bless UBA pastors with 56 tickets to an Astros game! So in an effort to reward generosity with generosity, I extended those tickets to churches in our Top 10 lists and then on to those who have served most consistently on our Associational Leadership Council. Thanks to the generosity of a UBA church, several pastors, staff members, and their spouses got to have a night out at an Astros game!
GENEROSITY IS A VALUE
The idea of “associating” is simple: together we can do more than we can apart. The same principle is at the heart of any team endeavor. There were always times as a soccer player when I wanted to put my head down and dribble through the opposition. On some good days, I might have been able to succeed. But if I remembered why I was on the field, I remembered that I wanted to win. So,I would make the pass or the run that would set up my teammates to score goals. Maybe I didn’t get the individual statistic, but I received the prize I played for.
Associations fail when churches bring a “vending machine mentality” to collaborative endeavors. When churches look to plug in their quarter, receive their service, and stay contained to the bounds of their transaction with little concern for the bigger picture of churches and lostness in the city, the entire body of Christ is weakened and progress toward accomplishing the Great Commission slows to a crawl.
Successful associations must have generosity in their DNA, which means having churches with generosity in their DNA. Churches within successful associations ask, “What can we bring to the collective effort of accomplishing the Great Commission in this city?”
Generous churches go one important step beyond giving churches. Like generous people, generous churches delight in giving time, talents, finances, and sweat equity toward accomplishing the goal. Don’t confuse generosity with inattention to metrics or bad stewardship. Organizations can always be made better, and learning can always increase our effectiveness. Generous churches contribute solutions in our ongoing quest to strengthen churches, plant churches, and make disciples.
Generous churches aren’t merely altruistic, they understand the enormity of the task. Generous churches understand that every church—regardless of size—needs to be part of a team, so generous churches spend time making the entire team better. After all, we play the game as a team. And we’re better together.
Josh Ellis is Executive Director of Union Baptist Association. He has a PhD in Leadership Studies and has served on the UBA staff since 2005. With both practical and scholarly knowledge, he leads the association into innovative collaboration for the sake of strategic gospel advancement.