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one to one: uncle bill


Keith Burden is the executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. Email Keith at


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The TV sitcom Family Affair debuted September 12, 1966, and became an instant television classic. The show revolved around Bill Davis, a well paid consulting engineer and single bachelor living in Manhattan with his butler Giles French. When Bill’s brother and sister-in-law died in an accident, their three children—six-year-old twins Buffy and Jody and 15-year old Cissy—came to live with Uncle Bill. The show was one the entire family could enjoy without violence, profanity or sexual innuendo.

The white-haired Uncle Bill epitomized maturity, patience and practical wisdom. Regardless of the predicaments in which the children entangled themselves, Uncle Bill helped them get through it…always.
Like any television series, however, the children grew up, the episodes ran their course, and the show eventually went off the air. It’s sad to see something good come to an end…

Five years ago, I shouldered the responsibility of leading our denomination as executive secretary. Immediately I began to operate outside of the parameters of my comfort zone and field of expertise. It didn’t take long for me to recognize my need for wisdom, the kind you find in folks with white hair.

I found that wisdom (and white hair) in Bill Evans. I watched him closely, especially in directors’ meetings. He did not speak quickly. Instead, he listened patiently as others shared their viewpoints. He carefully analyzed and reflected on their words. At the appropriate moment he would speak, and everyone listened.
He was eminently qualified as a leader in our ranks. Having served as a Free Will Baptist pastor he understood the financial struggles of front-line Christian workers. He exhibited an incredibly positive attitude and extraordinary resilience by surviving cancer against seemingly insurmountable odds. He successfully navigated turbulent economic waters without losing his sense of humor.

He eventually became my trusted advisor and close personal friend. His door was always open, and he was never too busy to talk or listen. I came to value his broad denominational perspective and levelheaded approach to every challenge and problem. In time, I came to affectionately refer to him as “Uncle Bill.”

Bill Evans led our movement as the director of the Board of Retirement and Insurance and the Free Will Baptist Foundation. Our ministers and ministries trusted him with their money—one of the highest compliments and votes of confidence anyone could be paid. He served with honor, integrity, and distinction for many years. He finished well.

By the time you read this column he will have enjoyed two full months of retirement. The ministries he served will continue. He left them in the hands of capable men. I’m sure that others will emerge as wise, trusted advisors, but I will miss Uncle Bill. It’s sad to see something good come to an end.


©2007 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists