by Robert Earl Houston
The news has been filled this week of the unfortunate story of a young African-American pastor in Macon, Georgia, who committed suicide on this past Sunday in front of his home, in between worship services. It has been not only heartbreaking but it’s become an instrument of speculation, catharsis and intraspection.
I am amazed how some in the Christian media have taken a 15 second sound bite from a three year old sermon that he preached and tried to contemporize it to his act. The misleading headlines suggest also that it was his final sermon when, if you watch the entire sermon, he was attempting to convey the message that even ministers and pastors question God, and have their moments of loneliness and fear.
The purpose of this blog is not to go through the whys and wherefores. Frankly, that’s not only none of anyone’s business and it’s not necessary to publicly second-guess the young man or discuss knowledge, limited knowledge, any knowledge or no knowledge in deference to his wife and children, and church family, whose hearts are hurting. I’d rather want to share my own viewpoint that this is a time to grieve, even if you didn’t know him for yourself.
We should grieve because a successful ministry is now re-categorized to the annals of history. Whenever anyone does what he did in his years at his congregation and was in the midst of planning future ministries – it’s appropriate to grieve what could have been and yet pray that the congregation continues forward in the spirit of the vision that was given to them by their pastor.
We should grieve because it could have been any of us. Death has no litmus test nor does it have parameters. This year, I’ve buried several pastoral colleagues who were 50 years and younger – which will leave a void in those who could have been voices of encouragement for the next generation of preachers to follow. I look at myself at 53 and begin introspection and say to God, “it could have been me” – no matter the circumstances. I am alive today not because of earned goodness or excelling personality. I’m alive because of the grace of God.
We should grieve because another one of us have gone home. I mean another pastor. I reckon that about 100% of our churches will experience a change in leadership in the lifespan of their churches and unfortunately no sudden change of leadership is an easy transition. I spent time last night just praying for the leadership of that church as they not only bury their leader but being the grieving process and ultimately the arrival of their new leader. The bottom line is that a faithful preacher and teacher is no longer among our ranks.
Charles Wesley wrote a hymn, “And Are We Yet Alive?,” that talks about weeks like this. I was introduced to the hymn by Dr. E. Edward Jones, president emeritus of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International through one of his Presidential writings. I’d like to share it here as well:
1. And are we yet alive, and see each other's face? Glory and thanks to Jesus give for his almighty grace! 2. Preserved by power divine to full salvation here, again in Jesus' praise we join, and in his sight appear. 3. What troubles have we seen, what mighty conflicts past, fightings without, and fears within, since we assembled last! 4. Yet out of all the Lord hath brought us by his love; and still he doth his help afford, and hides our life above. 5. Then let us make our boast of his redeeming power, which saves us to the uttermost, till we can sin no more. 6. Let us take up the cross till we the crown obtain, and gladly reckon all things loss so we may Jesus gain.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.