Monthly Archives: February, 2013

So You Want to Plant a Church?

By Robert Earl Houston

I’ve had the opportunity to serve in established churches and planted churches. I believe that there is a purpose in planting or starting a church and just with anything else, there is a right reason and a wrong reason.

I need to state my conviction that I don’t believe that God’s anointing is upon all of our plans. Sometimes we do things that are contrary to the will of God and then try to defend it by saying The Lord is leading me to do so. However, The Lord is not behind every church plant.

When living in San Diego, after leaving a church, I was approached by several people to start a church. Matter of fact, there were those who expected me to plant one and some reached out and offered to assist me to do so. There was something missing.

The voice of the Holy Spirit. I did not hear from him and did not proceed in my plans. Instead, I trusted God – preached across the country for a year and then accepted an invite to serve in Nashville and then eventually Frankfort.

Three questions to ask yourself when planting a Church . . .

#1 – is this a birth of joy or pain?

Are you starting a church because of genuine inspiration or is it because, according to your timetable, you’re ready to be a pastor? Starting a church because you want your name on a marquee is not a reason to plant a church. Nor should you plant one because you got mad with your pastor or a handful of members “ran you off.” I believe that some transitions prepare for your next assignment, that you nor the public can see. Also, patience will help you prepare for what God has for you. If you received your calling to preach one week that does not mean you’re ready to pastor next month. Also, don’t let people call you to pastor – make sure it’s God and not people. It will activate the insurance policy – “and lo, I’m with you . . .”

#2 – Is there a real need?

Planting a church a few feet away from 10 other churches doesn’t make any sense – planting should be done where there is fresh soil. For example, if I were going to plant a church, I would consider a new community or location that has not been evangelized. If the north is covered, consider the south. If Green Acres is covered it’s churches, consider Shady Acres. If you find a community with hundreds of homes and no churches, there is a prime spot for planting

#3 – Am I building with recycled goods?

This is a biggie. Are you building with a group of people who are leaving with you with the Pastor’s permission (or were they your loyal supporters in your previous church) or are you soliciting members without the Pastor’s permission? That’s one of the lowest versions of snick-thievery when a minister starts a church with the purpose of doing harm to his or her pastor. I’ve had two ministers start churches under my watch – Rev. Edmond Perkins in San Diego and Rev. Carole Jacobs in Frankfort. Both of them came to me, shared their vision and left with my support and blessing. Matter of fact, I actually moderated the meeting and installed Pastor Perkins and Pastor Jacobs and I have a wonderful relationship. They left right.

I do know this – there are unsaved sinners in every city that need to hear a word from The Lord.

The difference is motive.

Free advice:

- If someone says to an associate minister, “if you join my church, I’ll ordain you . . .” Don’t fall for that cheapening of your ministry. Make ordination a commencement of your ministry and not a benediction.

- Consider the costs involved. Starting a church is more than a notion. Never start a church that digs a hole for you financially that will cripple the work. A church that is stuck financially creates discontent among the members.

- Find a pastor to talk to who has planted a church. It’s not easy. It may mean that you’re going to have to throw away the delusion of armour bearers, anniversaries and air flights – and wind up being the pastor, the bulletin maker, the secretary and the janitor.

- Seek the voice of the Spirit. Don’t consider the voice of supporters alone. And remember, some the people who say, “I’m going with you” should not be counted until they actually sign on the dotted line and commit financially.

- Consider the relationship with your home church. If you splinter it or split it, you may reap a whirlwind personally or denominationally or socially.

I welcome your comments below.

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Whatever Happened to Prophetic Preaching?

by Robert Earl Houston

One of the facets that cannot be ignored during this month of Black History is the affect of prophetic preaching in the African-American experience.

If it weren’t for those voices who preached about social justice, sometimes all by themselves, Lord only knows where we would be today. Preachers like E.V. Hill, Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr., Adam Clayton Powell, Gardner Calvin Taylor, Ralph David Abernathy, William Augustus Jones, J. Alfred Smith, Sr., and others, who sounded the alarm to awaken the social conscience of not only black America, but of the entire nation. They challenged this nation during a time of war, social unrest, discrimination, and other maladies. They challenged not only those who heard them in the comfortable confines of their churches, but they led peaceful protest of governmental policies in the streets.

They preached against the marginalization of the negro.
They preached about the lack of adequate housing and employment.
They preached about strengthening of the family structure.
They preached about unjust verdicts received by the negro in court cases.
They preaching against the violent methods of protest.

Fast forward to 2013 – what has happened to prophetic preaching?

Before I delve into this matter, I will confess that I am not called to a prophetic preaching ministry. I am an expository pastor/preacher/teacher and I’m quite comfortable where God has placed me. I’m in a community where a goodly amount of people gather and it is necessary for me to address some issues, events and circumstances within a biblical context. However, at this point, I’m not called to preach prophetically, however, there are times when the prophetic utterance occurs within the context of a sermon.

I think that those men and women of that day were called to that ministry. By divine reckoning, their personalities and ambitions complemented the prophetic preaching ministry. None of these men were afraid of the consequences. Their reputations were never “on the line” and they were not concerned about opinion polls or how they would be perceived by Associations or Conventions. In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was publicly fired from denominational office by National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. president, Dr. John Harrison Jackson, which was one of the major factors which led to the formation of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Prophetic Ministry means that you depend not upon a pulpit nor denomination for survival. That speaking out against injustices is your passion. Dr. King showed us that speaking out does not have to be laced with profanity nor ignorance. He showed us that non-violent demonstration is how you affect change that can be lasting. Dr. King and the “fathers of the movement” showed us that eloquence defeats ignorance, that prayer defeats strongholds, that social justice trumps injustice.

What has happened to prophetic preaching?

I think what has happened is that prophetic preaching is not a priority in most of our ministries. Using the words of Tip O’Neill, “all politics is local.”  And if you live in an area where the people are not suffering as a whole like in other parts of the country, God may not have called a minister to that mantle. I was asked by the Chairman of an initiative of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., who wanted to know if I wanted to sign onto a project to combat teenage pregnancy, especially among church teenagers. The shock in his face when I told him, “to my knowledge, there are no young teenage girls in my church that have been pregnant in four years.”  That’s true. However, in his area (Washington, DC), it’s an epidemic.

Everyone is not called to preach prophetically. I don’t think it’s wise to beat a drum that nobody will hear. For example, to demonstrate and “speak truth to power” when there is no one of power in the room and then go and brag about “I really told that Sarah Palin off today” is missing the mark if Sarah Palin was not in the house.

I recall from the civil rights marches of the 1960s that the “powers that be” heard the voices of the prophetic. They couldn’t help but because the prophetical voices were not tethered to pulpits and ivory towers of churches. They took to the streets, they grabbed bullhorns, they marched (not in gators), and made headlines until President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and President Richard Nixon heard their voices.

They were brought into the White House not to preach prophetically, but because they already had.

I applaud those who are called to speak on behalf of the defenseless, the poor, the destitute, those who suffer injustices within their communities and in this nation. Somebody has to speak for the Lord and for His people in times of great injustices. However, I firmly believe that you have to be called to it. The Church of God in Christ has a “theme song” that says: “This is the Church of God in Christ | This is the Church of God in Christ | You don’t join it | You must be born in it | This is the Church of God in Christ.”

I feel that way about prophetic preaching. It has to be birthed from the preacher given the times. God bless those who speak prophetically to our cities, states, nation and world.

I welcome your comments and discussion to this blog below.

Earring in the Preacher’s Ear

by Robert Earl Houston

I’m going to give a disclaimer right off the bat. I am unapologetically old school when it comes to ministerial training. My father in the ministry, the late Dr. A. Bernard Devers, I, of Portland, Oregon was trained by one of the best, the late Dr. C.E. Williams of Seattle, Washington.

When I came to him 35 years ago to tell him that I had been called to preach, I entered into sacred covenant with him. I literally put my life (and my preaching career) in his hands. I had to trust his judgements, decisions and even if I thought I didn’t agree with him, time would be the ultimate judge. He was not infallible, but he was correct and as a 17 years old preacher with zero experience, my job was to be that sponge to learn from and of him – both right and wrong. I became a disciple.

Having said this, there is a phenomenon that is occurring in the Black Baptist church that did not appear 35 years ago – and that is the minister with an earring. I’ve seen young preachers with them. I’ve seen young pastors with them. And not to be outdone, I’ve seen middle-aged preachers with them and even senior aged pastors with them.

I want to first say that there is no biblical command in the New Testament concerning ministers and earrings. Matter of fact, the Bible is quite clear about jewelry and females (1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 3:3, 1 Timothy 2:9-10, for instance) however there is not anything spoken of regarding men and earrings because it was not custom of the day for men to wear earrings, which were normally worn by women.

However, in this day and time, because of the influence frankly of athletes, rappers, and entertainment figures, more men are wearing earrings than in any other time in history. Also, it is not unusual for a young male baby to have his ears pierced as a female would be. Culturally, things have changed.

Initially, in some communities, the thought of a man wearing an earring was supposed to represent something non-masculine. However, who will walk up to Shaquille O’Neal or Michael Jordan or Denzel Washington and hurl that charge today? It has become acceptable in our societal culture.

But what about the pulpit? Again, this writing is not about the pew, this is about those of the male gender who have been called to preach. I want to make three observations and obviously these are not directives, these are suggestions:

1.  NOT IN THE PULPIT

I’m old-fashioned on this. If you have an earring, don’t wear it in the pulpit – whether you are preaching or not. Wearing an earring doesn’t not make you “hip” or “more relevant” to those who will hear you. It will make you look more vain than anything else.

I found this nugget from the Reformed Church of God:

Also, jewelry of this type for men only appeals to VANITY. Human beings naturally want to be accepted by the world around them. But what does God say about this? “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:15-16). Christians must come out of the world (Rev. 18:4). And people should remember them for their CHARACTER—not whether or not they bought into the latest fad.

I agree.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved away from the loud colored suits and into less fashionable attire. Many years ago, a minister of national renown used to hit the pulpit with huge rings on his fingers and a starburst diamond garnish to hold his tie in place. It literally was so bright under the lights that 30 years later, I remember his clothes and not one word he preached.
Truth be told, as preachers, we can get a little too worldly in our attire and too vain to where it not only is a distraction to the congregation, it’s a discouragement to preachers and pastors who may not “measure up” with you.

I have found out that a $700 pair of shoes doesn’t help you preach any better. A $1,500 suit doesn’t exegete the text better. And a huge rock in your ear may cause deafness in the pew.

Secondly, IF YOU GOT ONE, WEAR IT LATER

Paul’s discourse about “if meat offends my brother” (1 Corinthians 8:13) is applicable here. If that earring is going to cause someone to stumble (spiritually) or tune out your sermon (no matter how much whooping sauce you apply), don’t wear it.

Look, it takes all of ten seconds to remove that earring (or earrings) out of your ear (or ears) before you hit the pulpit. This is just not for those who are preaching, but for preachers on the platform or even (hang on) in the audience.

The truth is that some of our seniors just won’t understand, period. I don’t expect a “Miss Jones” (fictitious) who has been “baptist born and baptist bred” to break from everything that she knows about preaching and her expectations of preachers to all of a sudden have an epiphany about your style choices. Don’t make her work that hard, put them away.

You have every right to wear what you want to wear. But consider this – why don’t you hit the pulpit in a swimming outfit? Why don’t you come to the pulpit with a fifth of alcohol? Why don’t you just come to church naked, you won’t be on the platform?  You know the answer – because whether you sit under the lights or in the audience there is a certain decorum that is expected of those who preach the gospel.

Lastly, WEAR THEM CASUALLY.

I know, you paid for them. They were a gift. Well, then wear them away from church. Wear them at your secular job. Wear them at home. Wear them at social events. But not, my brother, at the church.

The story is told of a woman that was on her deathbed. She was blind and the doctors had informed the family that she had little time to live. She asked for the chaplain, who worked at the hospital to come in. He arrived and started to pray and prayed until the tears ran down her cheek. She asked him to come close to hear and she reached up to touch his face. Her expression changed and she said: “Oh . . . I thought that was a preacher. When is he getting here?”  Point made.

You have more than enough opportunity to wear your earring. Enjoy the use of them, you paid for them. But, in my opinion, the male preacher of God can go a little while, from Sunday School to the Benediction of worship, without his “bling bling.”

One thing I noticed. When it’s “showtime” – Shaq doesn’t wear his; Michael didn’t wear his; and Denzel didn’t wear his (unless his character called for it).

I welcome your comments and observations.

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Good-Friday

Homegoing of a Saint: Rev. Greg Price, Dallas, TX

from Legacy.com

DALLAS, TX – Pastor Gregory Lee Price, Sr., of the New Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church went home to be with the Lord on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.

He leaves behind a legacy of a life well lived with a host of family and friends to carry on in his footsteps. Led by God, Pastor Price accomplished unimaginable things in his 54 years of borrowed time.

He will live on in hearts of many people whose lives he made a remarkable impression on.

He leaves to mourn his wife, Marquita Price; 5 children and 1 step son and a host of other relatives and friends. Wake: Friday, February 15, from 7-9 p.m. at the New Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 219 N. Goode Rd., Wilmer, Texas. Service: Saturday, February 16, at 12 noon at Beth Eden Baptist Church, 1125 East Redbird Lane, Dallas, Texas.

Streaming Live

Streaming of Pastor Jackson’s Homegoing is http://www.newmtzion.org or NMBC.org

An Open Letter to all Pulpit Committees in 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

First, I want to thank  you for serving in such a high-profile position within your congregation. The congregation has placed within your hands a very sacred trust and literally you are making a decision that will have eternal and temporal impact upon your lives of your congregants. It is a very serious matter and you are to be applauded for agreeing to serve.

However, as a pastor, I want to talk with you briefly about a trend that is disturbing. Before I begin, I want to say I don’t have a dog in this fight. But as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and one who has been through the process – I’m seeing something now that was not present even five years ago when I began the process at my current assignment in Frankfort, Kentucky.

I’m referring to a breach in confidentiality in the process.

Churches are now advertising publicly via the internet and press release, the names, bio and personal information of candidates for their pastoral assignment. Even to the point of trumpeting the information in local newspapers, which are now carried by the internet as well.

Here’s why you shouldn’t do it:

a.  It undermines the credibility of the candidating pastor in his current assignment. Imagine the shock, horror, and in some members’ eyes, glee, of reading that their pastor is being considered by another congregation. There is a sad double-standard that unfortunately is truth – some people belief stuff because it’s on the internet – and to see that their soul-watcher, beloved or despised, is under consideration, adds a needless stress to a candidate’s current environment.

b.  It makes the candidate wonder. To me, if a church will fire off a press release, I wonder what else they are capable of firing off at a moment’s notice. Will they fire off a press release as a rebuttal to a pastoral decision? Will they fire off a press release if the pastor becomes ill with a terminal disease? It sets up an unfriendly environment upon the pastor’s arrival.

c.  It breaks confidentiality. I have yet to see a pastoral application that says, “by the way, everything we do will be public and you have no control of the process.”  Pulpit Committees have a fiduciary responsibility to keep the name of the pastoral finalists confidential and then when the time for decision making comes – keep it in house. You’re church is not that big to where you need to post information on the internet – unless you’ve agreed on one candidate, the committee feels that a significant majority of the church will accept the candidate and the vote is soon. Posting that information six weeks in advance is a serious breach of confidentiality.

Candidates – a word to you.  Insist on confidentiality in the process.

Homegoing of a Saint: Bishop Wenzell P. Jackson, Bronx, New York

Updated information from Mount Hermon Baptist Church:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mount Hermon Baptist Church
1170 Nelson Avenue
Bronx, New York 10432

Viewing – 12:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Services – 7:00 p.m.

 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church
6190 3rd Street
San Francisco, CA 94124

Services – 11:00 a.m.

 

Interment will be in the San Francisco area.

Audio of Bishop Jackson’s Sermon, “Does Everybody Mean Everybody?”

http://sermon.net/hardaway/sermonid/220376

From DNAinfo.com:

Pastor Wenzell P. Jackson

HIGHBRIDGE — The Rev. Wenzell Jackson, a Bronx church and community leader with a powerful singing voice and a knack for bridging divides, died of a heart attack Tuesday morning, according to his church. He was 47.

Jackson was the chairman of Community Board 4 and, for the past decade, the senior pastor of Mount Hermon Baptist Church, where an impromptu meeting and memorial was held Tuesday evening.

Tamra Jackson, the pastor’s wife of 24 years, addressed the stunned congregation there.

“We just have to wonder why God does what he does,” she said. “I know that my heart is gone.”

Later she added, “But God knows why he does what he does. He’s got a great angel up there.”

Originally from San Francisco, Jackson arrived at Mount Hermon Baptist Church, at the corner of Nelson Avenue and 167th Street, in 2003.

Members said Tuesday that he was well loved there, regarded as approachable and with a healthy sense of humor and sensitivity to the needs of young people.

Dejinay Reed, 24, said he had helped her win a $2,000 college grant funded by the nearby Yankees and that he encouraged her and others her age to be active in the community.

“He fed us spiritually and emotionally,” said Reed, who called the pastor, “PJ.” “We were his children.”

With his lively baritone, he was known for his arresting rendition of the gospel standard, “My Soul Has Been Anchored in The Lord.”

“I yearn to hear that beautiful voice (God gave you) sing ‘My Soul [Has Been] Anchored In The Lord,’ just one more time,” one person posted on Jackson’s Facebook page Tuesday.

“Haven’t heard anybody sing it better,” another wrote.

Jackson formed bonds beyond the church as well.

Last year, he was invited to sing the national anthem at Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s State of the Borough address.

“Pastor Jackson’s passing is a big loss for The Bronx and the community he so strongly and passionately served as both a public servant and clergy leader,” Diaz said in a statement Tuesday.

Jackson was voted chairman of Community Board 4 a few years ago, not long after the board failed to block the construction of the new Yankee Stadium atop local parkland, which many residents opposed.

Some board members were still reeling from that ordeal when Jackson took over, according to the Rev. Earl McKay, a board member and the pastor at Church of God of Prophecy.

“More than anything, I think he brought a great degree of calm and order to the board,” McKay said.

Jackson also headed the 44th Precinct Clergy Council and organized a coalition of Highbridge clergy that met at Mount Hermon to discuss urgent neighborhood concerns, McKay added.

He frequently dissolved into infectious laughter at community board meetings. Last year, he occasionally reported to the members on his weight loss — nearly 80 pounds by year’s end.

Jackson’s disarming personality combined with his fierce commitment to the community made him a cherished leader who will be hard to replace, said Robert Garmendiz, another board member.

“It’s going to leave a really big void for all of us,” he said.
Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130206/high-bridge/rev-wenzell-jackson-dies-stunning-church-community-board-he-led#.URKcAuPwVis.aolmail#ixzz2K9Tq7h25

Bible Study – Tuesday, February 5, 2013

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/58988297″>Bible Study – February 5, 2013</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user15488363″>Robert Earl Houston</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

My Heart is Broken


by Robert Earl Houston
February 5, 2013

A few hours ago I received a telephone call about a dear friend and someone who I consider like a brother had been called from labor to reward. I have not published his name or information as of yet, because I’ve not received that release from his family or church. My heart is broken.

It’s broken because I just spoke with him last night. He was one of those friends that you could call and just “shoot the breeze with.” I looked forward in speaking to him, running some things by him, sharing a joke with, or getting his insight into some issues. He was my friend and my hero.

I was looking forward to him coming to preach for me this year. I’ve preached for him in the past and was looking to spoil him with our Kentucky hospitality. I wanted him to meet my wife in person – they’ve spoken on the phone – and wanted him to see the splendor of the place called First Baptist Church, one of the oldest African-American congregations in this area, at 180 years.

However, this death has been profoundly personal and sad to me. I look at my contemporaries who pass away suddenly and I wonder why they’re gone and I’m still left here. The words of my pastor, Minister Barton Elliott Harris, ring out in my spirit, “because you have more work to do.” But what troubles me is that when is that barometer reached? Most of those who pass young or in younger ages (we were about the same age), still have goals, agendas, milestones that we want to reach – but unbeknownst to you – you can be working, planning, strategizing while God is looking and saying, “But your work is done.”

In this age of social media, his name, church, etc. are already out there. I’m not going to mention it here in respect to the grieving widow and family, who need at least some time to deal with the impact of his homegoing. They are in my prayers and I hope that if there is a lesson to be learned that it would be that just because we know it, don’t mean we have to tell it.

When my day comes, and I don’t know when it will be, I would hope that if Jessica survives me, that my friends will give her the space to grieve. That it not become “internet chatter” immediately. Nothing is like the pain, I’m sure, of finding out that your loved one has died on the internet vs. hearing it from a concerned loved one. In most cases, I try not to publish the homegoing of someone until I get a green light from somebody who has some authority – otherwise, I wait for the papers or other media to publish.

I’m reminded when Dr. E.V. Hill was in the grasp of his last days on earth and someone posted online that he was dead and it spread like wildfire. The family knew of me and my website through a former church, and asked me to put out a statement that Dr. Hill was still, very much alive. Which I did. He passed about 72 hours later – but it caused the family some much needed relief for a few hours.

Well, my heart is broken. Today I spent three hours in my car – just driving. Nowhere in particular. Stopping to cry. Stopping to laugh at an old joke. Sometimes just to seek solace from the Lord. I plan to be there at his homegoing, Lord willing. My former pastor, Bishop Darryl S. Brister, once said, “in this life, you don’t get more than a handful of true friends that you can count on one hand.”

Today, I lost a finger.

NOTE (FEBRUARY 6, 2013) – This blog is about my dear friend, Bishop Wenzell P. Jackson, senior pastor of the Mount Hermon Baptist Church of Bronx, New York. Please keep his family, relatives, church members, and friends in your prayers.

THE WIRE

by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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