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.
by Robert Earl Houston
This evening, I sent to Evangelist Kimberly Lewis-Stidum a collection of sermons that were written by her dad, the late Dr. T.L. Lewis. Dr. Lewis was my mom’s pastor in Portland, Oregon and we were friends and colleagues. Dr. Lewis and I served together while he pastored Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Portland and he was on my Ordination Council at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and then assisted in my installation services at Greater St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in 1989.
We preached for each other frequently. Even when he went to California, it was Dr. Lewis who told me about and subsequently recommended me to Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Fresno, California and I worshipped with him at his congregations, Macedonia Baptist Church in Pomona, California and finally at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Los Angeles.
As I was assembling the file of his sermons, I ran across a sermon I preached at his church in 1991 (I believe it was) as the Morning Star Church was dually celebrating his pastoral anniversary and his departure as he went to Pomona, California. Given all of the recent things that have happened in ministry, I thought I’d share this with you.
Please forgive the scholarship of this sermon – I was a grand 28 years of age at that time. It’s in all caps because that’s how I use to write. I pray you find some relevancy in this message (see the attachment).
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.
by Robert Earl Houston
There is a little-known procedure that is fulfilled during the filming of television programs and movies – it’s called “product placement.” When an actor is drinking a cola and it happens to be a Coke – it’s not there by accident. The makers of Coke have paid for the right to put that Coke in that movie or television program.
When the closing part of a movie calls for the hero and heroine to fly off into the sunset and they board that American Airlines jet – again, it’s no accident that American’s jets are featured. American Airlines has paid for the privilege of getting their brand there at that time.
Earlier this week, one of the friends of our church was on her way to work and as she and a co-worker headed into work, a terrible wreck was on the side of the road. If memory serves me right, the car had hit a tree and the safety inflatible bags deployed, and apparently the driver was injured. She pulled her car to the side of the road and she and the co-worker began to assess the situation and help the driver. But check this out – they were both nurses and they were on the scene long before Paramedics could arrive.
That’s product placement.
God has a way of putting people in the right place at the right time. Whether it’s that pastor who preaches week in and week out; or that Sunday School teacher who drops a word of confirmation during a class; or if someone is in need and a believer happens to be there, even though they weren’t even scheduled to be there.
That’s product placement.
I want to say to you my friend that if you’re available – if you just make yourself available to the Master’s will – He will place you. The qualifications of man can be overruled by God when He has assignment written on your life. I’ve seen pastors placed in churches to the awe of friends, family and fellow preachers – because they were placed there by the Lord. I’ve seen divorced men (including myself) get called to churches – because there was something that God needed for that church at that time. I’ve seen barriers broken at churches that were steeped in traditions because the Lord had someone ready to break the status quo and to put the church or organization where He wanted it to be.
So, the next time you wonder – why am I here – remember, that’s product placement.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.
by Robert Earl Houston
Several months ago, I introduced a list of 10 of the Best Preachers I’ve Ever Heard and I received a lot of comments about my personal list – “who should have been on the list.” Now, a few short hours from Thanksgiving, I want to issue a Part 2 to that list.
On the original list, I noted the ministries of Pastors E.V. Hill, Donald L. Parson, Robert H. Wilson, Sr., E. Edward Jones, T.D. Jakes, A. Louis Patterson, R.A. Williams, Jr., E.K. Bailey, Melvin Von Wade, Sr. and Gardner Calvin Taylor. You can see that list and accompanying videos by clicking here now.
I want to now add ten more preachers. Unfortunately, some of the ministers don’t have any video online.
DR. ARTHUR BERNARD DEVERS, I, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – Dr. Devers was my father in the ministry who introduced me to the ministry and especially manuscript preaching. When he was called to the New Hope Baptist Church in Portland in 1975, the saying was if you went to hear him you needed two books – a Bible and a Dictionary. He taught me a love for words, sentence structure and was actively preaching in the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International as he served congregations in Portland, Seattle and San Antonio.
DR. O.B. WILLIAMS, PORTLAND, OREGON – Simplistic, but profound. Low tech methods but high tech impact. Dr. O.B. Williams, one of the pioneers of the Northwest stood flatfooted and preached, with his manuscript paper clipped to sections of the text and preached folk crazy from the 1940s to 1991s. “Dr. O.B.” as he was affectionately called, pastored the church he founded for 45 plus years, served as “President for Life” of the General Baptist Convention of the Northwest, and was a stalwart of the NBCA and one of the founding fathers of the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America. He opened up his sermons with the words, “Is there any word from the Lord? Yes My dears, there is always a word from the Lord.” His smooth, sing-song method of sermon closure was imitated by generations in the Northwest.
DR. FRANK E. RAY, SR., MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – I was one of the co-chairs of the San Diego City-Wide Revival when the name “Dr. Frank E. Ray, Sr.” was suggested as our evangelist. And when I met him, I learned to respect, admire, and frankly, covet the preaching gift encapsulated in Dr. Ray’s preaching. To say he has a photographic memory is an insult – he is completely absorbed in the Word and listening to him preach is like watching a sponge squeezed and whatever is stored within him is released. His close of his sermon is the template for a generation of young preachers and his argument has won him respect across the nation. He’s one that you must hear before you go to Glory. Tremendous pastor of the New Salem Baptist Church.
DR. ASA W. SAMPSON, SR., HOUSTON, TEXAS – When I was a young associate minister, my pastor had just invited Dr. Asa W. Sampson, Sr., of the legendary Sampson brothers legacy of Texas, to stand in the pulpit of New Hope Baptist Church. I was tremendously impressed. He was dapper, long curly hair, overtly kind and courteous (he would always use “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” to the elderly sisters of the church), and his preaching (another manuscripter) was absolutely incredible. I never shall forget the sermon, “Looking At the World Through the Eyes of Jesus.” Years later, he brought me to preach for him at the Hopewell Baptist Church and I was a nervous wreck because I was standing in the pulpit where Dr. Sampson stood week after week. I still consider him a life-long friend and he is one of the best. Son of a preacher and father of a preacher.
DR. WILLIAM J. SHAW, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – Dr. William J. Shaw is different. In the scheme of things in the Baptist world, he’s not flamboyant. He’s not loud. He doesn’t major in singing. He doesn’t minor in singing. He’s intellectual but he’s dynamically spiritual. I heard Dr. Shaw for the first time at the E.K. Bailey Conference in person and I was mesmerized. His handling of the text impressed me and just as meekly as he approached the sacred desk, he descended in same order. Dr. Shaw is perhaps going to be written in history as one of the best 25 black baptist preachers in history. He not only was a preacher’s preacher, he also served as President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. during one of the stormiest periods in her history.
DR. STEPHEN JOHN THURSTON, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – I met Dr. Thurston as well at the New Hope Church in Portland and I believe he was in his early 30s and I said to him “one day you’ll be president of the National Baptist Convention of America.” I was so impressed because I had never heard that kind of preaching, fervor, zeal, singing and he brought it night after night after night. Unapologetically conservative in his theology, you won’t find Dr. Thurston hunting theological rabbits, but he is always solid in his theology. Not some times. Always solid. He blends in all facets of preaching and his strong point is his series preaching, which has led to the construction and occupancy of a massive sanctuary of the New Covenant Church in Chicago. He’s a President who doesn’t have an entourage to discourage him from mingling with the masses.
DR. KEVIN WAYNE COSBY, LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - I would do myself an injustice not to include Dr. Cosby to this list. His an academic, pastor, preacher, planner, theological school president, and one of the greatest sons that Kentucky has ever produced in preaching. Pastoring the same church, St. Stephen Baptist Church, since his early 20s, the congregation has blossomed to over 17,000 on roll, with three locations – Louisville, Jeffersonville (Indiana) and a recent third location (Elizabethtown, Kentucky). He is the honored President of Simmons College, which has made strides in accreditation and partnerships with academic, church and business institutions throughout Louisville. However, to me, the humility of how he handles the text is incredible. He stands as an academic, kills you as a theologian and then like grandmama says, “a good steak will always make it’s own gravy.”
BISHOP PAUL SYLVESTER MORTON, SR., ATLANTA, GEORGIA – He introduced the words “Changing a Generation” at an almost filled to the rafters Louisiana Superdome and the rest is history. Bishop Morton, who has led the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International for 20 plus years, is without a doubt one of America’s best preachers. His closing musical intonations are one part old fashioned gospel preacher with one part contemporary gospel artist with one part musical hymnologist. His close: “Is there anybody here?” with a drop of keys is impressive and everyone shouldn’t try this at home. He took Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans from a couple of hundred to over 20,000. When Hurricane Katrina hit the area, many of his members relocated to Atlanta and he planted “Changing a Generation Church” there, turned over the pastoral duties of GSS to his wife, Pastor Debra Morton, and he continues to plot a course. His records, albums, business acumen is to be respected, but there is nothing like the preaching of this man of God.
PASTOR MARCUS W. COSBY, HOUSTON, TEXAS – I heard him here in Kentucky for the first time and I had never seen a room explode in celebration of preaching like I did when this man of God preached. He dresses old school (black and white), he has old school mannerisms, but he has the strength and agility of a team of young school preachers. His context analysis is eye popping. His ability to allow the Holy Spirit to completely encapsulate his presentation is unbelievable. And physically, his body contorts and literally he leans completely backward without fear of falling. His ministry at the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church by way of Chicago has exploded and he is one of the nation’s best preachers.
BISHOP GILBERT EARL PATTERSON, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – Bishop Patterson was a groundbreaking minister. He not only built one of the first megachurches in the Church of God in Christ, he also bought a radio station AND had an international television ministry. THEN he became the presiding prelate of COGIC. He was a literal preaching machine and he impressed me with his knowledge of the Old Testament. He could take a complicated text and unravel it and still retain the meaning. He is sorely missed on the preaching landscape today.
by Robert Earl Houston
I recently was made aware of something that I mentioned on Facebook, but I believe it needs some elaboration here.
A minister was ordained to preach before even uttering one word. That’s right – even before their first words of the gospel are uttered, they had already been ordained to the Gospel Ministry. I have a few opinions on this:
FIRST, IT CHEAPENS THE MINISTRY
The preaching minister of Jesus Christ is not an “add water” movement. Too many churches and pastors are “in a hurry” when it comes to the preaching ministry and would rather “microwave” an unqualified minister in the hopes that they’ll be “just fine” after while, instead of “cooking” like momma used to – on the stove of experience, no matter how long it takes, and then serving it when it’s “just right.” Those who say God has called them on Monday have no business being ordained Wednesday night. It makes a mockery and it cheapens the ministry – the process is valuable. Even Jesus’s disciples went through a process. Even the Apostle Paul went through a process. And I’m sure 99.99999% of those ministers who will read this understands that this “instant ordination” cheapens the integrity of the process.
SECONDLY, IT HURTS THE MINISTER
Several years ago, I preached a revival for a senior minister, of which I was then and still are grateful for the experience. As I sat in the study waiting to come to the pulpit, I was praying and stood up to get ready to walk out of the door and glanced at the wall. The Pastor had his educational degrees on the wall – his bachelor’s degree and his master’s degree and his doctorate degree. Strangely, they were all dated on the same day – meaning that he was awarded the degrees at one time. I never asked him about it (none of my business) but I’m sure for many who saw it, it didn’t win over any hearts. The same can be said of any minister who is ordained prior to preaching – it makes them a punchline instead of a headline. It creates an unnecessary lack of credence to a minister even before they open their mouth. And it prepares the soil for arrogance, hostility and self-importance.
THIRDLY, IT HURTS ORDER
I learned order as a child. For example: A, B, C, D . . . For example: 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . For example: God, Family then Church. And I also learned (and this is written from the perspective of a baptist minister) – confession of the call, preparation of the initial or trial sermon, then licensure and then ordination. This is not a case of getting the cart before the horse – it’s a case of getting the cart out and forgetting the horse. There has to be an order – a method to this gladness. For me, I still treasure that meeting with my pastor, Dr. A. Bernard Devers, I, to confess my call to preach. I still cherish those 5 months he gave me to prepare my first sermon (which I must have rehearsed 100 times over and over). I still cherish that one year and five months of waiting until I was licensed (man, that taught me patience), and then I cherished the time (and I never pushed the issue) of between licensure (1979) and ordination (1984) and that was AFTER serving as Co-Interim Pastor at my home church and serving as candidate for pastor and/or acting pastor in several congregations. There has to be an order for ministry and any minister who “jumps the line” and goes from call to ordination cannot be taken seriously.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.