Although it is Thanksgiving weekend that will be filled with family, friends, food and of course, football, the culmination of the holiday this year cannot be football or basketball or hockey games on Sunday. This year, due to what has happened in Ferguson, Missouri – the culmination has to be preaching.
For those pastors who will be home Sunday or for those associates or guest preachers who will be filling pulpits across the country, to simply preach without making a reference to or directly speaking to or prophetically preaching to the pain of the African American community and the society at large is malpractice.
Someone once asked his pastor, “what I do I preach?” The pastor told him to get out of his ivory tower office at the church, go to the hospitals, hang out in the barber shops, go to the grocery stores and then he would find more than enough to preach. Preaching that is void of connectivity to current and relevant circumstances is not preaching, it’s a speech in a robe.
The circumstances of Mike Brown’s death are certainly well known. I think what the majority culture of this country fails to realize is that the anger in the streets is not about another death, because when you pull out the statistics, you are more likely to be killed by a member of your own race than from another (i.e., more blacks kill blacks; more whites kill whites; more asians kill asians” according to FBI murder statistics. In 37 years of ministry, I have buried victims of murder and in not one instance was it someone who was killed from someone outside of their race.
That’s not the issue. The issue is that the perception within the minority races of this country is the cavalier nature of our value when it comes to the color of authority – when those men and women who wear uniforms as police, state patrol, national guard, etc., a reasonable argument could be made that instead of “taking down” a suspect via a disabling shot to the arm or leg, that deadly force is not the last option, but the first option. Further, it is well believed in our community that if a person of color (especially one who has no money) is dealing with judicial system they are less likely to succeed or they are less likely to receive adequate and aggressive representation. Sentencing statistics are staggering and prior to President Obama’s administration, a man convicted of a small portion of “rock” cocaine would get a greater sentence that a man convicted of a small, more-potent portion of “powder” cocaine.
Whether it’s true or not, it’s the perception. Add to the mix that we are losing our heroes. Our politicians that represent us are rarely seen in the community once they are elected. In my area, our state representative is visible and viable. We all know where his office is, we all know where he worships, we see him in the grocery stores and at community events. But the truth of the matter is that many of our politicians show up to our churches to campaign for votes, many of them rarely stay for the entire worship, and it is rare to see any even give during the offering. Even our celebrities are found with clay feet. They are not the larger-than-life personalities we once thought they were. Whether it’s true or not it’s the perception.
Freedom of expression is a Constitutional right. Rioting is not. I propose a different type of rioting – let’s riot in our communities. Let’s fix them ourselves. Let’s employ our anger into making real change. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and those of the movements of the 60s and 70s fought for our rights as citizens. Now we must make our citizenship real. We cannot complain when less than 40% of us vote. We cannot complain when 80% of us try to escape jury duty. We cannot complain when we fill up an auditorium to see Beyonce and Jay-Zee at $200 a ticket and then stay home on Sunday mornings and disconnect from our communities in the worship hour.
This weekend we need to preach Biblical answers to our feelings of pain, hurt and ethos. This weekend we need to dig deeper and yes, even suggest that justice also has to be meted out with grace and forgiveness. We need to preach that misplaced anger only damages ourselves. During the Rodney King riots, I visited a friend who worked at the Arco Tower in Los Angeles and we were there watching the riots and noticed that it only happened in one part of town – the African-American part of the city, and it was literally on fire – black businesses, black homes, black stores, black car dealerships, black churches.
Our communities are hurting. Our young men are without viable fathers in the home. Our young girls have been valued for their whirls and gyrations instead of their beauty and brains. Our institutions of higher learning connect during the day and disconnect after hours with the communities in which they serve. Our school boards don’t represent the community. Our elected officials rarely represent the communities. Our leaders have gotten older and less imaginative. Those who speak for us really don’t in many cases because of their lack of a God-directed voice or agenda. The recession may be over on Wall Street but the depression is still gripping our communities – especially in our larger cities.
This is not just a “black problem” because any part of the larger context of society that is in pain creates a context of pain to the larger whole. Every community has its set of problems but it’s effects affects the larger society. The millions who our President wants to bring out of the shadows should not be viewed as “less that human” because they sought for themselves and their families a better life. However, the plight of Hispanic-Americans affect the larger context and therefore the larger discussion within our society as well.
The issue of Mike Brown cannot be solely rested as a black problem. It is a complete breakdown of the system. Why deadly force was preferred instead of other methods including tazing of which the officer was to have said to the grand jury that he didn’t prefer to carry it because it was uncomfortable. Why a dead body was let to stay in the hot sun for four hours and no immediate response by EMS services because it “was a crime scene?” Why a grand jury, secretive in nature, was allowed to meet and yet details from their proceedings made it to television and print media and no judge acted accordingly to slap a gag order on all participants or at least considered dismissing that grand jury and impaneling another? Why a Prosecuting Attorney handling one of the biggest cases in the area’s history would boldly come to the microphone and say that instead of him pro-actively handling the case, that he “turned it over” to two other attorneys within his office? Why the National Guard was ordered deployed and yet black businesses were left to burn unprotected? And finally, why make a decision that everyone knew was going to kindle emotion and reaction be announced in the middle of the night, after office hours, after everyone knew in law enforcement, judicial, government and schools, instead of during the daylight hours when it would have been less attractive to the potential of danger? These are not black problems – they are societal flaws that need to be addressed.
We cannot be satisfied with a small percentage of us voting. It’s got to not only be voter-eligible but we need to become candidate-eligible. We’ve got to encourage people of color to run for offices – even if they don’t win, we need to be on every ballot in every state – regardless as to the political party.
This weekend – my brother, my sister – no matter what denomination you hail from; No matter what convention or fellowship you are a member of; No matter what side of the political spectrum you stand upon; Roll up your sleeves, humble before the Lord, dig deep, search the Scriptures, get into Logos, WordSearch, whatever resources you use . . . This weekend – YOU MUST PREACH.
by Robert Earl Houston
I thought it was a really stupid joke.
Many of us, who first heard of this through the medium of social media (because you only hear about ebola on my major cable news outlets) passed a gem on, initially, that said that the Mayor of Houston, Texas, Annise Parker, had subpoenaed sermons from four pastors regarding sermons, preached across their respective pulpits, on the subjects of homosexuality, gender identity or on the mayor herself. Further, that any of those ministers who failed to comply could be held in contempt of court.
I thought it was a faux Fox News Story. I look at Fox News like I look at a fun house. Lots of clowns, shooting canons and mirrors, and of course, all anti-Obama all the time news coverage. When I saw Fox News’ brand on the report, I dismissed it as a gag and joke. But then, more of us started digging into the story and found out – it was true.
The subpoena was the result of a lawsuit filed by Pastors Jared Woodfill, Steven F. Hotze, F.N. Williams, Sr. and Max Miller against the Mayor, the City Secretary (Anna Russell) and the City of Houston. The subpoenas target five pastors in Houston – Pastors David Welch, Steve Riggle, Khan Huynh, Magda Hermida, and Hernan Castano. The lawsuit was filed due to their opposition to an ordinance known as HERO (Houston for Equal Rights Ordinance” which bans discrimination among businesses that serve the public, private employers, in housing and in city employment and city contracting. A petition drive was enacted (17,269 signatures were required for ballot approval and 50,000 signatures were submitted) and the city ruled thousands of signatures ineligible and did not place the contesting item on the ballot, triggering the suit by the ministers.
Oddly, the law firm representing the mayor, in preparation for the January 2015 court case, issued a subpoena requesting all types of items (see the link), but it is item # 12 that has created a firestorm:
“12. All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
This is wrong on so many levels. First off, there is no precedent in American Jurisprudence that allows a municipality to sue or contest a congregation or a pastor on the basis of their speech. I will agree that some pastors are loose canons or suffer from preaching a gospel that is not in print – HOWEVER, even dumb speech in this country is protected speech. Even speech that I may not agree with still is protected by our U.S. Constitution, which gives no authority to a Mayor to subpoena SERMONS.
This seems, to me, to be extra-constitutional. The outcry from Pastors and Ministers across the country is defeaning (oddly, I’m yet to hear or read of any official statements from any of African-American Christian conventions, although at least two of the suing ministers are black and baptist).
The right to preach is sacred in this country. This nation which has produced orators, revivalists, prophets, and encouragers has also produced crazies, idiots, flimflam artists, bigots in robes, as well. However, it is all protected free-speech. I may not agree with what you have to say, but I have to understand that you have the right, if it’s your pulpit, to espouse it. It may not be pretty, but it’s how things are done in this nation.
The Mayor has been doing spin control. But this may be too little, too late. She began to blame her opponents for the broad original language to “deliberately misinterpret the city’s intent.” City Attorney David Feldman called it “a media circus.” But in this case, the circus did not come to town, the city by subpoena, brought the town to the circus.
This post is not to comment upon the HERO ordinance. (I don’t live in Houston, I live in Kentucky) No, my goal is to enlighten and condemn the city of Houston for coming after ministers and demanding their sermons. Religious beliefs are protected beliefs, even when they are considered anti-government. Our own Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, Dr. William Augustus Jones, and other ministers rallied against policies of the government including war, poverty, racism, etc., but not once was a city municipality so stupid to request copies of their sermons, as if to send out a “warning shot” to other ministers, don’t try this in your pulpits. It may not be the intent, but it is the appearance.
On Friday, Mayor Parked announced that the city (these are attorneys that are contracted) had refiled its subpoenas. On twitter she wrote: “City just refiled subpoenas in #HERO. Clarified our intent. No mention of sermons. All about petition process instructions. Never intended to interfere w/pastors & their sermons or an intrusion on religion. Our discovery motion now clearly focused on petition.”
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.
by Robert Earl Houston
I am a fan(atic) about preaching. I love preaching and love the art and craft of gospel preaching. My portfolio of favorite preachers crosses denominational lines, age barriers, and gender. I just love great Bible-based preaching.
Preaching is not my issue. What I’m concerned about is that we are making unrealistic prognostications over the pulpit that sound like the Will of God, however, it’s not really in His will.
To be in a room full of believers and then promise them that in 7 days they will all be blessed or in 6 months they’ll all have brand new houses seems to me to be in the realm of preaching malpractice.
To be in a Pastor’s Conference and then promise to every Pastor that when you get home your church is about to “blow up” and that you’re about to move into the national arena seems to me to write a promissory note that cannot be cashed.
To be in a conference and tell the room that when you get back home you’re ministry is going to increase and see things that you’ve never seen before and then you return and get put out, it seems like either the prophet was confused or the hearer confused – I choose the prophet.
In an effort to create empowerment in the body of Christ, some of us have forgotten that “the poor will be with you always.” (Matthew 26:11). It’s God’s will, yes, that you would prosper as your soul prospers (3 John 1:2) but if you look at most translations of that original text, it’s conjunctive with health and not wealth.
I have been in services and prophesied over and there have been times when the prophesy just flat footed did not come true – by no stretch of the imagination. I’ve become convinced that to speak “thus saith the Lord” without any authorization or authenticity from the Lord is to basically lie on the Lord in order to score spiritual points with a crowd. It may make good television but it does not make good and faithful believers – and it opens a door to doubt causing serious spiritual damage to the one who receives it.
I’m currently preaching through a series on healing but I also am fully aware that as I preach it, all healing is not in my hands nor in my words. God has the final say so. And people still die. People still get sick. However, I can honestly say that if the Lord wills so, He can heal – and he can heal you with or without the medicine or with eternity.
I vividly remember hearing the story of a minister who had a member come forth during worship, riddled with cancer, and then he prophesied over her and said “in 7 days, God is going to heal you completely.” She died 5 days later. The minister’s daughter went to him and said, “Daddy, I thought you said that she was going to be healed.”
I think it would be appropriate to stick to the book (The Bible). Encourage yes. Placate no. Offer hope in Christ yes. Offer hope in our words no. Be authentic yes. Be a showman no.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
by Robert Earl Houston
In this wonderful nation of ours there are over 300,000,000 people who live here. There are 50 states, over 3,100 counties, over 30,000 cities. There are four major traditional baptist conventions, each claiming over 1,000,000 members. There are easily at least one state baptist convention in each state, some have as many as 4 or more. There are hundreds of district associations, state conventions, district congresses, state congresses, general associations, national conventions, local/state/national fellowships, and on and on and on.
So why is it that we only utilize a handful of preachers to speak at these events?
No one will dare say it, but in the hallway of most of our conventions, the same faces and names appear on the program year after year after year. Surely by now there should be some new faces and voices emerging from the diaspora of the African-American church experience. However, it’s the same people preaching conventions all over the nation – basically utilizing the same five sermons – and frankly, it’s tiring.
Our General Association of Baptists in Kentucky had invited a minister to be our guest speaker this year and he fell ill and was unable to be here. Our State Moderator and his wife were on the way to Cancun, Mexico when he received the news – a little less than 3 weeks away from the annual session. After consulting with a friend and praying over it, he selected Reverend Cory Ramont Morris. A minister that most of us in Kentucky had never heard before. However, by the end of the week, he became the talk of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Great theological mind. Young but seasoned. A rare ability to connect with the old, the middle aged, and the young. Tremendous delivery. Friendly and approachable. Not haughty and not stuck up. And yes, a close that could easily be construed as one of the best I’ve heard in recent memory. Outstanding scriptural approach and exegesis. Teaching while preaching.
And we LOVED it.
Maybe our problem is that we look to the stars of the church rather than to the Hills (from whence cometh our help) – and instead of considering those who are solid in the faith, upcoming, and striving pastors – we get the same old soup in a new bowl with all gravy and no meat. My former pastor, Bishop Darryl S. Brister used to say “all you need is one moment of exposure to change your life.” There are a plethora of ministers who if just given the opportunity to be programmed, you may discover what all the fuss is about in their local communities.
Case in point. A West Virginia pentecostal pastor has been attending a Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma for years and gets the opportunity to meet the host. One year, one of the speakers can’t make it, and the host calls him and asks him, at the last minute to fill in. The minister preaches a dynamic sermon and most people had never heard of him. The conference is televised and the owner of the world’s largest Christian television network sees his presentation, picks up the phone, calls him, and brings him to his network studios, and launches him into preaching history. The host was Bishop Carlton Pearson. The event was Azusa. The network owner was Paul Crouch. And that West Virginia minister, who admitted that at one point he was the pastor, musician, usher and janitor, is named Thomas Dexter (T.D.) Jakes.
Because he was given a chance.
I was the recipient of opportunities. Outside of my home church, people like Dr. O.B. Williams, Dr. J.A. Boles, Dr. S.M. Lockridge, Dr. Ray Williams, Dr. H.F. Dean, Dr. Willie T. Snead, Dr. Melvin Wade, Dr. R.C. Williams, Sr., Dr. Clyde E. Gaines, Dr. A.E. Reid, Dr. A. Russell Awkard, Dr. Bernard Crayton, Dr. C.B. Akins, Dr. Walter Parrish, III, and others GAVE ME A CHANCE. They took a chance and gave me opportunity to preach or serve in conventions – even when I was pastoring a storefront church and pastoring for free because the church was not in position to pay me; even when I was pastoring a church and I had to make it to the conventions on my own dime; even when I was fighting for my pastoral life and the storms were raging at full blast; and even at the church of my dreams – I have been the recipient of an opportunity.
I’ve preached for state conventions in Oregon/Washington/Idaho; Kentucky; California; North Carolina.
I’ve preached for district associations in Oregon, California, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
I’ve preached for city-wide revivals in Newark, NJ, Gary, IN, Albuquerque, NM and other places.
I’ve preached in Revival or for special occasions literally around the nation.
Because I was given a chance. Maybe before the next leader of a group invites Rev. Dr. So and So or Bishop So and So or the Pastor who is pastoring the large church over in the next state or many the denominational leader who you know really can’t preach, but has a big name.
There are gifted young pastors, middle aged pastors, even elderly pastors who have never been given the opportunity to preach because they didn’t graduate from a certain school or they didn’t have the opportunity to complete college or they had a family to support and sat under the feet of their pastor or college was not for them – and yet they minister faithfully, biblically and with integrity. They are in every state – just waiting for a chance.
I’ve always prayed, Lord, if I ever get in the position to help someone else up, please help me to do so. I wonder what would happen if our conventions do today what they use to do in yesterday and give an opportunity to young preachers like E.V. Hill, Melvin Wade, Stephen Thurston, A.L. Bowman, Sandy Ray, C.L. Franklin, Jasper Williams, E. Edward Jones – and other young pastors who were given the opportunity to preach nationally at a young age.
When our session in Lexington closed after hearing a session that will live in the annals of history of this 149 year old institution. The name of Corey Ramont Morris will stand in the hearts of minds of the delegates that trusted their Moderator to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. We didn’t know him then. But we know and appreciate him now.
Give somebody else a chance.
YOUR COMMENTS WELCOMED.
by Robert Earl Houston
I think it needs to be said that Dr. Melvin Von Wade, Sr. is DESERVING of the honor bestowed upon him at the “Living Legend Luncheon” and be inducted into the hall of great preachers in the E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference and Pastor Bryan Carter. Last night, I walked through the exhibit of the Living Legends and I’m grateful that I have heard personally most of them.
I’ve known Dr. Wade since the 1970s when the late Dr. E.C. Wilder would bring him to preach for the St. Mark Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. I had never heard nor seen preaching like that and after I had been called to preach – I studied him (among several great preachers) because I marveled at how his handled a manuscript.
His support of several younger pastors including myself and my brother, Dr. Bryant C. Wyatt, Sr. and preachers all over the nation, pushed us into leadership positions in the State and in the National. Because of his labor, the four National Baptist Conventions met together twice . . . with his strong influence and input.
He’s been like the college professor that you both respect and revere. I will never forget, and he doesn’t do often (at least with me – smile), after I had gone through my season of storms, he very calmly and quietly said, “Houston . . . you never quit.” That meant much to me.
For generations of preachers, Dr. Wade has been the Rolls Royce of manuscript, expository preaching. For those of us who would have fallen into the trap of not challenging the congregation with our vocabulary, Dr. Wade taught us how to go behind words and get their meaning and sharpen our vocabulary when preaching. To use his words, “I learned a new word.” He taught me the way – he is an avid reader of all material, including Reader’s Digest. I think one of the things that any young preacher could learn from him is to read, read, and read some more. Alliterations don’t come without the benefit of feeding your mind and spirit.
He, along with his brother in the faith, Dr. E.K. Bailey, did not do what previous generations did when illness struck. Instead of being silent, Dr. Wade shared with his church, community, and the nation his illness, the procedures, and he walked Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, where he has pastored almost 40 years, through his season, and it became their season. In the process, it created a stronger bond between Pastor and Church, which is a testament to his transparency in illness.
Dr. Wade is a man of prayer. I remember that before he came to the Presidency of the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America (and he appointed me as his special assistant and webmaster), he was the first one to say to a convention, we’ll rise up early in the morning and seek the face of God. On the national level, he appointed Dr. G. Thomas Turner of Columbus and the room would be standing room only. He made prayer not just a platform but a new paradigm for national conventions – most of whom now have early morning prayer sessions.
He got his spiritual training from his father, the late Dr. J.C. Wade, Sr. and his mother, “Momma Wade.” She is a woman of prayer. I never forget that during the NMBCA, I was also the photographer for the convention and at one of the first sessions of prayer, she called me on the carpet for walking during prayer. When I told her I had approval from Dr. Wade to take photos, she looked at me and said “all right . . . just don’t walk too much reverend.” What a joy it must have been for her, in her mid-90s be present to see her son receive this honor. She has seen him go from baby to child to college graduate to Texas pastor to California pastor, national icon, District Vice Moderator, State Vice President, National President, Delegate to the World Baptist Alliance, and now, inducted into the EKB Preaching Conference Living Legends.
When I found out I had cancer, I put in a call to Dr. Wade. I was scared. I was nervous. And just like I knew he would be – he was cool, calm, collected and after we talked about the procedure, etc., he said, “Houston, let’s pray.” When he prayed he didn’t just pray for healing, but he prayed that this would provide a testimony that only the Lord could give. He’ll never know how comforting his prayer, among many, was to me and my family.
He went to Mount Moriah about the same time that my father in the ministry, Dr. A. Bernard Devers, I, went to New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Portland. They were part of the young guns in the National Baptist Convention of America and Dr. Wade was a fixture at late night and evangelical board services.
When I had resigned my church in San Diego during a very painful divorce, I thought for sure that I would be removed from my post in the National, State, and District works. Dr. Wade didn’t ask me to quit or resign. It was basically, “do your job” and I did. As a result, when I moved to Nashville, I left the west coast as his National Special Assistant, the State Corresponding Secretary, and 3rd Vice Moderator of the Progressive District.
His family – his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his siblings, his parents have been through some much down through the years but his faith has never depleted. In his sermon at Concord during the conference, he related the story of challenges of health, church, and how at each point that would have broken him, that the Lord restored him.
His connections are vast. He is known in the preaching world (and I’ve met some of the nation’s best preachers through Dr. Wade), political world, and in the gospel music world. He’s a fixture at the Gospel Music Workshop of America and Board Member and knows most Christian artists. I met a young Houston school teacher through Dr. Wade, “Houston . . . meet Yolanda Adams . . . she’s major.” I was part of a panel of Pastors and Musicians at GMWA and he said, “Houston . . . meet Donnie McClurkin.” I’ve met more preachers and pastors and bishops and denominational leaders and musical artists. He’s one of the influences on me musically because he kept me on my toes and he influenced me to grab the old songs and introduce them to this generation.
True story: I went to the convention in 1990 after the NBCA/NMBCA split and Dr. Wade was on program. He took that old children’s song, “Everybody aught to know who Jesus is,” slowed it down, almost to a meter, and (forgive the linguistics) killed everything big enough to die in the room. I came back to Portland and was in revival and opened with his arrangement of that song and . . . the Lord was kind.
Perhaps his modeling of pastoral ministry is worth mentioning. When Dr. O.B. Williams went home to be with the Lord, Dr. Wade was present at the service and Dr. Williams’ widow, Willa (Sister O.B.), was heavily mourning her husband at the service, uncontrollaby weeping and wailing. Dr. Wade, walked out of the pulpit, held her hand and would not let her go through the entire service. His presence in that spot spoke volumes and Sis. Williams was comforted.
I will never forget when he was on to preach at the NMBCA I believe it was in Houston or Dallas. Someone stopped by the Finance Office, that I worked in during Dr. Wade’s tenure as General Secretary. He was quietly meditating for the message. The gentleman kept on talking while Dr. Wade was spiritual preparing. He finally said when we told him that Dr. Wade was preaching, “what are you going to preach about?”
Dr. Wade looked up and said “the Lord.”
I think that sums up his preaching ministry over the past fifty years. “Dr. Wade, what are you going to preach about?”
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
by Robert Earl Houston
DALLAS, TEXAS – I am here attending the E.K. Bailey International Expository Preaching Conference (EKB). I haven’t been since the home going of Dr. Bailey several years ago.
My conference career began by going to the Lacy Kirk Williams Ministers Institute sponsored then by Bishop College here in Dallas. It was at that conference that I had the opportunity to meet ministers from across the country in close vantage point and learn a few things along the way. Sadly, Bishop College closed, but several ministers have kept the Institute going, and one year I was invited to be on faculty. Very honored by that.
Then I found out about EKB. He had a Church Growth Conference that I had heard about and then he created the Expository Preaching Conference to share with the nation what the National Congresses could not or would not. While the Congresses were holding pastoral conferences which featured great preachers – but you left there wanting to be a great preacher, but nobody wanted to share what they knew on a broader scale.
Then along came Dr. Bailey. He called in some of his noteworthy friends, mentors, and yes, those he mentored. All of a sudden, you had a venue that taught you how to be a black expository preacher. He and his team taught you how to look at a text, dissect the text, make it palatable and how to serve it with a dash of soul. His conferences literally transformed the nation. You came to hear Dr. Bailey, Dr. Melvin Wade, Dr. Jasper Williams, Dr. Warren Wiersbe, Dr. Timothy Winters, Dr. William Shaw, and other great masters of the pulpit.
The along came three preachers – Drs. R.A. Williams, Jr., George Waddles and the late Larry L. Harris, Sr., who produced another conference that dealt even deeper and became a crash-course on expository preaching using culture, syntax, original languages – it was a dizzying week. I went to that conference (it was closer to me when I lived in San Diego). In that conference it was early morning to late afternoon classes, evening worship and then a series of preaching using the original languages became another facet of black expository preaching.
Fast forward to 2014. Dr. Bailey is gone. God bless the procession of his memory. When you walked into the Fairmont Hotel, they have his sermons streaming on a screen. Before his death, his hand appointed a young man that most of us had never heard of – Bryan Carter, to lead the Conference. Eventually, Dr. Carter would work hand-in-hand to consolidate EKB and her S.T.A.N.D. Women’s Conference, which now meet congruently.
I see very clearly why Dr. Bailey selected Bryan Carter. He’s likable, he’s comfortable in his own skin – he inherited one of the greatest pulpits in Dallas and he seems so down to earth, so friendly. I saw him work the hallway and it reminded me of E.K. – he would walk a few steps, shake hands; walk a few more, shake more hands; We’ve been Facebook and Twitter friends – but this week I had the opportunity to meet him. Matter of fact, we took pictures together (and I was honored that he agreed) with my phone and then he asked one of his assistants to get his phone, “I want to take a picture with Dr. Houston.” Man, I was trying not to blush.
Truth of the matter is that the baton has been passed. Those of us in our mid 50s and higher – we’re now the senior sages of preaching. There is a young group coming after us – led by people like Bryan Carter, E. Dewey Smith, Jr., H.B. Charles, Jr., who are not only keeping alive expository preaching but taking it to levels that are what were not available before in E.K.’s day, but certainly have his fingerprints all over it.
Dr. Carter’s team is impressive: Steven Lawson, Chuck Fuller, Lance Watson, James Allman, Clayborn Lea, Robert Smith, Jr., E. Dewey Smith, Jr., Melvin Wade, Keith Reed, Scott Lindsey, William Curtis, and others. To my remembrance, only Drs. Wade and Smith were there the last time I came to EKB.
The baton has been passed at EKB. The conference (and Concord Church) is in sound hands. By the way – he was the keynote speaker this morning. I sat with one of my contemporaries, Dr. Maurice Bates of California, and we marveled at the depth, stewardship, and preaching of Dr. Carter. Matter of fact, he preached so strongly today that Dr. Bates said “give him the mike” after he sat down very quietly while the congregation was praising God.
I walked up to him and said “there has to be some billy goats in Dallas walking around confused, because you just preached their horns off.”
The new generation is here.
YOUR COMMENTS WELCOMED.
by Robert Earl Houston
Please pardon this post, but I’m on a short vacation (I’m absolutely worn out) and I brought my briefcase with me, and it hasn’t been opened this week, because I just need a break. Doing the Senior Pastor and Musician thing every Sunday wears you out because not only does your heart have to be open to preach, but you also have to prepare a choir and church for praise. It’s a daunting task and last Sunday, it caught up to me.
Recently, I was in a restaurant in Georgia (last year) and some parishioners from a church in Atlanta were there and I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation (they were pretty loud – smile). And they talked about worship, which made my ears perk up. They talked about “getting our praise on” and how so-and-so ran down the aisle and how so-and-so really “killed the church” singing this morning.
Oddly, there was no mention of the sermon, the text, or even what the preacher preached about.
Now, a year or so later, I hear that conversation ringing in my spirit. What ever happened to Preaching?
Has preaching become passé?
Has preaching become secondary to an emotional experience in worship?
Has preaching become of the gospel become reduced to “oh, whatever?”
Has preaching become that something that occurs between the choir’s last song and the invitation?
I wrestle with this as a pastor, because I take seriously the preparation, prayer, dissection, application and assimilation of the sermons that are preached across the pulpit of First Baptist Church. I’m not really interested in making the word “watered down” or lacking any correct theological application. I prepare for the pulpit like a prize fighter prepares for a fight. I prepare for the preaching moment like a pilot checks his aircraft for takeoff. I prepare for the sermon in such a way that it’s not just edible like ice cream, but it’s filling like steak.
I am afraid that a “me-experience” in church is killing application of the word. I don’t want to be known as a singer who preaches or a musician who preaches or a shouter who preaches – I want to be known as a preacher FIRST AND FOREMOST. I don’t show up “to get my shout on” – I show up to help communicate the truths of the gospel in a spiritual fashion that brings glory to God and not to the preacher.
I’m scared of churches that jump and shout and then walk out on the preached word.
I’m scared of churches that will bend sound doctrine to attract a crowd.
I’m scared of churches that poach those who are not doctrinally settled yet and present the “easy way” out.
Preaching will have some “uh-oh” moments and some “dang….” moments. Some sermons, if you ask most Biblical expositors, will hit the preacher long before the congregation hears it. It’s almost watching a football player after a long-hard fought battle explain to a television crowd what just happened.
Biblical preaching will produce a flock of well-nourished and Bible-based individuals. The goal is growth and not swelling. In the words of a nationally known preacher, “swelling is a sign of church infection.” It also means that the preacher missed the opportunity to preach, in some cases, because more time was devoted to everything else, but the Word.
I refuse to abdicate the responsibility of Biblically sound preaching.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME
by Robert Earl Houston
Recently a nationally-known minister has been all over the internet for his quotation of a rap song uttered across the pulpit. It’s lyrics shall not be repeated here and portions of the video have been scattered all over the internet. For some, it was felt to be appropriate. For others, they are aghast at the use of the language especially of the descriptives given to females.
I’m not writing to enter into the controversy. I’m here rather to hope for this generation of pulpiteers and those to follow. Today, I had a Hyperbaric Oxygen chamber treatment (HBO) at a hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. When I got on the elevator, one of the hospital volunteers was standing near to console and asked me “which floor sir?” To which I answered “The fifth floor, please.” She answered, “Yes sir, I’ll take you to the top floor.”
I believe that those of us who preach are doing ourselves a disfavor when our sermons are polluted by guttural language. Many of the preaching icons of the past and present – T.D. Jakes, Melvin Wade, Ralph West, Paul Morton, Neil Ellis, R.A. Williams, Jr., Carl J. Anderson, Gardner Calvin Taylor, Martin Luther King, Jr., Frank E. Ray, Sandy Ray, Stephen Thurston, Noel Jones, Mack King Carter, O.B. Williams, E. Edward Jones, G.E. Patterson, William Augustus Jones, Cynthia Hale, Jasmin Sculark, Gina Stewart, Tony Evans, Ceaser A.W. Clark, Joseph Walker, III, Marvin Sapp, Marvin Winans, Kevin W. Cosby, Marcus Cosby, Charles Adams, Calvin Butts, III, Otis Moss, Jr., Floyd Flakes, Fred K.C. Price, Timothy J. Clarke, Marvin Wiley, Raphael Warnock, Vashti McKenzie, Kirbyjon Caldwewll, E.V. Hill, Donald Hillard, E.K. Bailey, Jesse Jackson, Donald Parson, Jasper Williams, E. Dewey Smith, and many, many others have preached prolific, profound, and memorable messages that not only reached the soul, but also challenged the hearers to learn the truths of the word, but to elevate the hearing and mind of the listener.
I am probably one of most of us who have professionals, school teachers, and others sitting in the pews every Sunday, and while the gospel producers “low hanging fruit” where it can and should be relevant to all who here it, it should not have to be drugged through the mudslide of common language. Our children and teenagers need to be encouraged to develop in their understanding, linguistics and knowledge.
Not only that I have students who are either eyeing pursuing their education or needs a modeling of what education or reading or even self-education is achievable. And that burden falls upon the pastor, in my opinion, to lift the least, encourage the down trodden, and show them “a more excellent way.”
I take issue with those who say “Jesus would have done it” but when he dealt with common people and those who were caught in sexual situations, do you not find Jesus using derogatory language in order to make his point. His language alone provides an argument that street language will not elevate the discourse of the gospel.
I know Jesus talked to fisherman about fishing, but he didn’t share in course language even when describing a bad day upon the sea.
It just appears to me, and I speak for myself, that the linguistics of the church should not be reduced to that of playground banter. I love preaching and the art of preaching, but I think all of us bear the responsibility of demonstrating and modeling language that builds not destroys, encourages instead of divides, and demonstrates and encourages others to upgrade their own linguistics.
Lest we fall into the words of Malcolm X – “A man only curses because he doesn’t know the words to express what is on his mind.” To reach this generation, I don’t know if it’s always appropriate or necessary to quote rappers in order to be relevant.
Preachers, don’t take us to the basement or the lower level . . . take us to the top floor.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME
by Robert Earl Houston
This has been brewing in my spirit all day. I want to offer some advice to young preachers – I mean those who are teenagers/early 20s – who have been called to the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and commissioned to carry this glorious gospel into all the world with power.
Enjoy being young.
I was a “boy preacher” at 17 years of age, who received a call from the Lord during my senior year at Thomas Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon and the late Dr. Arthur Bernard Devers, I, was my pastor at that time. I missed out on some social interactions because “I’s a preacher now” that at the age of 53 I regret.
I also dismissed out of hand some experiences, celebrations (i.e. my senior prom) and other activities because I was a minister. I felt that I should be “the preacher” all of the time and I actually lost the opportunity to be a Christian witness at some functions because I was not there.
Don’t rush age.
Listen, age will catch up to you. You don’t have to pretend and personify a “preacher’s vocabulary” at 16. There’s plenty of time to answer the phone, “Praise the Lord” or even have a voicemail that says “You’ve reached Minister XYZ, the associate minister of the ABC Church located at (address). I’m busy serving an awesome God, please leave your name, message, and this ministry will return your call at our convenience,” when the truth of the matter is that you’re in Algebra class, where you usually are around 11 a.m. in the morning on a Tuesday.
While you’re young – enjoy life. I’m not saying don’t be committed to your Pastor and Church, because you should be, that’s granted. However, while you’re young – enjoy life. Travel. Broaden your mind. Broaden your experiences. Take your time in life. Read – not just the Bible, but books that will stimulate and challenge your thought processes.
Don’t make the mistake of other preachers who were called as a kid, got married (because you thought you had to in order to get a church) at 18, divorced at 19, drunk or high at 20, and then quit the ministry at 21.
Take a moment to start and develop a hobby while building a resume;
Take a moment to take in a movie while studying Pastoral Theology;
Learn how to talk english and learn slang too while learning Greek and Hebrew;
Learn how to say the words that may save you in the future – “no” and “not today” and learn how to inhale and exhale – it will save you stress in the future.
One of the worst things I did as a “boy preacher” was becoming Minister Robt. E. Houston (I learned to abbreviate Robert to Robt. from two people – my English/Journalism Teacher, Ruthann Hartley-Harris and Dr. Robt. H. “Bob” Wilson, Sr. of Dallas, Texas) before I learned who Robert Earl Houston was.
I worry about a generation of young preachers who call each other “Doc” and “Bishop” and “Apostles” and don’t know the difference between preaching and performance. Do you know what Jesus called Peter? He called him Peter.
Young preacher you don’t need armor bearers, ministry logo, a briefcase (and yes, I had one), scheduling service, business cards, websites, product, and all of the entrapments of ministry. How about becoming a great Christian and human being first? As one preacher of old once said, never build a skyscraper on a chicken coop.
Remember this – one day you’ll grow up and you’ll look back and see pictures of you in the pulpit, but where will be the pictures of you in the pool, playing pool, singing with your friends, eating a meal, wearing silly hats, and vacation venues or explorations or bike rides or just a photo of you smiling?
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME
by Robert Earl Houston
If he were still alive, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have celebrated his 85th birthday. He and my mother are around the same age and who can imagine what life would have been had his life not been cut off by the bullet from an assassin.
This weekend I participated in two MLK celebrations.
The first one was in Frankfort which is sponsored by the Frankfort/Franklin County Ministerial Alliance. I have been a part of that body of leaders since my arrival here in 2009. I’ve been the Chair of this event for the past 3 occasions and hosted one at First Baptist Church. This year we were at the St. Paul United Methodist Church pastored by Rev. Donna Aros. In our Alliance, we welcome all Christian denominations and we’ve been led by Dr. Jackson Brewer, retired pastor of First United Methodist Church and frankly – the man for the job. FFCMA started ROSM (Resource Office of Social Ministries) that ministers to literally thousands through the years with assistance on life’s necessities. We also supply prayer support as chaplains for the House and Senate of the Commonwealth.
Rev. Aros, Dr. Brewer, Rev. Glenn Spaulding of St. John AME Church serve as the program committee and this year (with great input from Rev. Aros) we expanded the setting. We invited our hispanic brothers and sisters to join in the celebration and one of the new pastors, Rev. Maikel Rojas Perez of Tabernaculo de Aviviamiento offered prayer in spanish after Rev. Jermaine Wilson, pastor of St. John AME Church, prayed in english.
Also this year we invited and received partnership with government officials. Mayor William May, Sheriff Pat Melton, State Representative Derrick Graham, Kentucky State University President Mary Sias, and Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes. Not only did they come to speak – they stayed through the entire service. Music was sweetly provided by the St. Paul UMC and St. John AME Choirs.
Dr. C.B. Akins was the guest speaker. Dr. Akins is the newly elected Moderator of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky – the largest baptist body in Kentucky. Dr. Akins has been a great friend since my arrival here and I was delighted to invite him to be our guest speaker. Dr. Akins was off the hook! His sermon was from Exodus 3:1-14 and he used the words of Maya Angelou as his subject, “Arriving on a Nightmare, Praying for a Dream.” It certainly challenged the audience and he was superb! We also awarded small grants to The Franklin County Women’s Shelter and The BackPackSnack Program.
Today, I was the guest preacher for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service sponsored by the Greater Shelby County Ministerial Coalition (GSCMC) led by my friend, Dr. Kilen K. Gray. Services were held in the newly built sanctuary of the St. John United Methodist Church were Rev. Robert Marshall is the pastor. It was my first time preaching for this group but I’ve preached in several venues in Shelbyville and actually it’s one of my favorite places to preach at in Kentucky. I’ve done revivals there and annual days there and this service was awesome.
I don’t take invitations to preach lightly. I realize that there are thousands upon thousands who could have stood at that spot. I even realize there are thousands of thousands of preachers who are better prepared, have a longer resume than mine – however the Lord continues to favor me with invites like this. I’m grateful.
First, it literally, due to the new worship space was double in size. And every pew was filled. Secondly, the worship atmosphere was tremendous. The choir (a mass choir from throughout the city), the soloists, the presentations all lent themselves to a fabulous worship experience.
When I got up to preach, the Lord was kind. My text was based on Genesis 37:21 and my subject was “You Can’t Kill My Dream.” The Lord was so kind to the worship and I was received very warmly. I’m grateful for the brothers and sisters of the GSCMC.