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Divided Pulpits

Photo on 6-23-13 at 11.31 AM #2by Robert Earl Houston

I am concerned about division. I’m concerned as a believer, as a preacher, as a pastor, as a church member. I don’t like to see nor experience division in the body of Christ. I’m not a proponent of splits especially in our denominational structures that have taken us from one convention in 1914 to well over 20 conventions, reformations, and fellowships in our African-American baptist context. We are so divided it’s hard for any one group to make an impact upon society because of our fragmentation.

I’m reminded of when the National Baptist Convention of America split in 1989. I was a young pastor, just started my pastoral ministry in Portland, Oregon and then watched my home convention split and the reverberations spread across the country. Those who had served together for years and many of them icons were now drawing borders and fellowships that had existed for years were now laid bare on the ground. 

There was an incident that occurred when a pastor from NBCA wrote a pastor from NMBCA and stated that since the National was splitting, a decades long fellowship between the two local churches was no longer in his best interest. I said it then, it was a sad day when we can’t worship together on a local level.

However, there is a move afoot and I think it’s worthy of mention that it seems that we are becoming increasingly divided due to stances of theological proportion. Back in the day, E.V. Hill could preach in Los Angeles in his pulpit on Sunday morning, appear on the Charismatic TBN broadcast with Paul and Jan Crouch Sunday evening, fly to Denver to preach to a Focus on the Family event and then wind up at a City-Wide revival at the end of the week. In other words, he had no problem flowing from reformation to reformation. He preached for liberals, conservatives, pre-trib, post-trib, pentecostals, baptists, methodists, episcopalians without any hesitation, in order to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The problem, as I see it, is that many pastors are willing to die on ant hills instead of mountains. We have too much in common in the word of God to sacrifice it on a small list of differences that will either cause us to express disdain or withdraw fellowship because, frankly, what we think is a sacred cow is nothing more than putting personal ideology over biblical practice.

Hot button issues aside, we are becoming the Baptist Hatfields and McCoys. I can’t come preach for you because your people shout. You can’t come preach for me because I have women in the pulpit. I can’t come preach for you because you don’t have a higher degree. You can’t come preach for me because you aren’t conservative enough in your theology. I can’t come preach for you because your church is not large enough. You can’t preach for me because all you’ll do is squall at the end of your sermon. And while we play these ecclesiastical games, our churches are thinning out and pulpits are dying.

Even if a stance evolves or shifts there is no reason to cut off fellowship completely. I had a friend that was “ride or die” and when I changed a stance, all of a sudden I became an anathema to him. I tried several times to call – not to chop it up theologically, but just to call and say hello. No response. Called several times. No response. So I had to write off a friend that I had worked closely with for many years because of the foolishness of an ant hill mentality.

I long for the day when denominations will cease. But I long more intensely for the day when division among baptists will cease.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.

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Homegoing of a Saint: Senior Apostle Ernest Leonard, Union, New Jersey

APOSTLELEONARD

Dear Young Preacher

by Robert Earl Houston

Houston08282013This 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

Happy (and busy) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Weekend

by Robert Earl Houston

Dr. C.B. Akins

Dr. C.B. Akins

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.

IMG_8531Today, 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.

Where Are The Black Pastoral Bloggers?

by Robert Earl Houston

Where art thou? . . . (Genesis )

I’ve been “blogging” off and on for several years. Recently, I discovered a way to combine several of my enterprises, namely “Homegoing of the Saints” which puts a spotlight on those African-American pastors who go home to be with the Lord; the “Vacant Church List” which was the first listing for African-American Baptist pulpits online (and I’ve done it without charge or entry fee for years); and then I’ve put out several notices, etc. and developed a fairly strong following. Since being on WordPress since late last year, I’m approaching 250,000 visits. God be praised.

In recent years other pastors have been regularly blogging – H.B. Charles, Jr. has an excellent blog and leans heavily on preaching themes. Dwight McKissic has an excellent blog as well and he “gets after” Southern Baptist Convention issues and is one of the leading SBC bloggers.  Kip Banks, General Secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention recently started a blog and there are other brothers out there blogging – but to my knowledge, that number is less than 25. Shaun King’s Shaun in the City is one of those mind-stretching blogs and he is very transparent in his church planting saga.

Where are the Black Pastoral Bloggers?

The purpose of this blog today is to encourage African-American Pastors to blog. Blogging is to participate in a form of social media that is more probative than a 140 word tweet or a quick flash on Facebook. It’s not expensive – there are free sites available and many internet providers are available so you can personalize the site even more with your own name (which I recommend).

The diaspora of African-American pastors should be reflected in the blogosphere. Pastors who are in the rural parts of the nation, I believe, are just as significant in their struggles, triumphs, etc. as those who pastor mega-churches. Those pastors who came before us carried to the grave pieces of wit, wisdom and experience that I know would have been a blessing to this generation. You can participate.

I would love to post and re-post articles that I’ve discovered from those of African-American hue. I think that our experiences are just as real and profound as MacArthur, Stanley, Piper, Stetzer and others. Matter of fact, I ran a search for “best pastor blogs” and maybe 1 or 2 blogs of people of color were even mentioned.

It’s because we have a story to tell that we’re not telling. We have great minds, great talents, great experiences that should and need to be heard.

I’m not a mega pastor. My congregation (on roll) is around 700 members or so. We don’t have one church in multiple locations. We have our issues like everyone else. But blogging for the pastor gives you a discipline in word construction, sentence structure, and analytical thinking that enhances your pulpit presentation. Trust me on that.

Just a word of warning – blog but don’t vent. Never take to the national stage your local church issues. If “Sister Sally” is kicking your tail in business meeting, don’t make her a national issue. If “Brother John” just cussed you out last week, don’t make him a national celebrity. In other words, be careful what you blog about – if it’s murky to you – it may leave room for a church member to misinterpret what you were trying to say.

I will make this promise to you – if you have a blog or know of a blog that will be helpful – I will make a link to it from my site – and if you have one, I hope you will do the same.

One final word – this is not to demean other races – that’s not my purpose. My purpose in this fast-changing African-American led church, is to encourage pastors (not laypersons, not associates) but pastors to share their views.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED

Streaming Live

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

Sunday Re-Cap, January 6, 2013

by Robert Earl Houston

This was one of the best Sundays I’ve ever experienced as Pastor of First Baptist Church here in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Before I discuss the service, I’m a worship leader. No doubt about it. I love to worship the Lord, but today, I re-introduced a song to the church and I believe they fell in love with the song as well. It’s an old Andraé Crouch hit, “Jesus Is The Answer.”  The lyrics are simple yet profound:

“Jesus is the answer | For the world today | Above Him there’s no other | Jesus is the Way!
Jesus is the answer | For the world today | Above Him there’s no other | Jesus is the way!”

I’ve been dropping tears all day about that song. I don’t know why but that song has really moved me today – not with sadness, but with an awesome joy.

We had one of the largest crowds today that I’ve seen at the 8 a.m. service. 11 a.m. service was very well attended. The Magnificent Mass Choir sang and we recognized birthdays as we normally do on the first Sundays. Today is the start of Loyalty Month, where we ask every member to “check in” during the month of January.

By the way, I love me some FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH!

The word was the beginning of our new sermon series, “Construction Zone” which coincides with the remodeling of the church. Today’s sermon was from Philippians 3:12-13, where Paul emphasis is on his pursuit of relationship with Christ and that he must now put things behind him and press toward the mark.” God was kind to the preaching moments.

We received two adults into the fellowship of First Baptist Church.

I met with our Associate Ministers this evening at 5 p.m.

NFL PLAYOFFS:

- The Baltimore Ravens looked playoff-ready and took out the Indianapolis Colts, 24-9.
– The Houston Texas (as expected) defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 19-13.
– Seattle Seahawks beat Washington and RG3 (knee injury), 24-14.
– Green Bay Packers easily handled the Minnesota Vikings, 24-10.

2012 Re-Cap

THANK YOU! For the first few weeks of this new blog on WordPress.com 56,000 people have viewed the blog in just that short period of time. I’m very humbled by your visitation and support.  We also have  been blessed by all of the new friends and fellow bloggers out there. I owe a debt to H.B. Charles, Jr., who inspired me to write – not just take up space – but write. 

This year’s numbers as of 6 p.m. on December 30, 2012:

Visitors – 56,000

Posts (Articles) written – 155
Photos uploaded – 115

Busiest day of the year – December 27, 2012 with 935 views. Most popular page that day: Homegoing information for Dr. H. Devore Chapman.

Top 10 most popular posts of the year:
1.  Home page
2.  Homegoing of a Saint: Rev. Michael K. Wilson
3.  About Robert Earl Houston
4.  Homegoing of a Saint: Dr. Roy Jeffcoat
5.  Engagements
6.  Vacant Church: Mt. Sinai Tabernacle (page closed)
7.  Homegoing of a Saint: Dr. H. Devore Chapman
8.  Vacant Church: First M.B.C., Monroe (page closed)
9.  Hot Links
10.  Homegoing of a Saint: Dr. Jerome Kirby

Most Popular REH Blog Posts (non-funeral, vacant church related):
1.  Dear Angry Pastor
2.  How to Apply for a Church (Friendly Advice)
3.  The Ten Expository Preaching Commandments
4.  Ten Things Pastors Will Face in the Future
5.  Master, the Storm is Raging
6.  Clergy Appreciation Month
7.  Have You Lost Your Axe-Head?
8.  The Cake of Preaching
9.  Sheep Stealing
10.  Every Preacher Needs a Friend

Top 10 Nations that view this site: 78 NATIONS viewed this site!
1.  United States
2.  Canada
3.  United Kingdom
4.  India
5.  Philippines
6.  South Africa
7.  Australia
8. Germany
9.  Netherlands
10.  Bermuda

Top Referrers to my site:
1.  Facebook
2.  Findingyourplace.com
3.  Yahoo
4.  Google
5.  ABCpreachers.ning.com
6.  Firstbaptistfrankfort.com
7.  Live.com
8.  Twitter
9.  Hbcharlesjr.com
10.  Pnbc.org (Progressive National Baptist Convention)

Top “clicks” that people utilized from my site:
1.  sermonsharingservice.com
2.  providenceatlanta.org
3.  orchardknobweebly.com
4.  hbcharlesjr.com
5.  firstbaptistfrankfort.com
6.  dwightmckissic.wordpress.com
7.  nbcainc.com
8.  nationalbaptist.com
9.  nmbca.com
10.  whwhiteministries.com

Top Search Engine Terms (how you got here)
1.  Robert Earl Houston (ministries, .org, vacant churches, the wire, etc.)
2.  First Missionary Baptist Church Monroe, LA
3.  Pastor Danny Kirk
4.  Roy Jeffcoat
5.  Jerome Kirby
6.  H. Devore Chapman
7.  Derek Witcher
8.  Pastor Michael Wilson
9.  Orchard Knob Baptist Church
10.  Mt. Sinai Tabernacle

Shares of what people read on the site: (via Facebook, Email and Twitter)
1.  Homegoing of a Saint: Michael K. Wilson
2.  Homegoing of a Saint: Michael Burton
3.  Homegoing of a Saint: Roy Jeffcoat
4.  Homegoing of a Saint: Jerome Kirby
5.  The Ten Expository Preaching Commandments
6.  Homegoing of a Saint: James Rodgers
7.  Homegoing of a Saint: Brenda Little
8.  Dear Angry Pastor
9.  Homegoing of a Saint: H. Devore Chapman
10.  That Takes a Lot of Nerve

Most Comments to Posts:
1.  Homegoing of a Saint: Michael K. Wilson
2.  Homegoing of a Saint: Jerome Kirby
3.  Homegoing of a Saint: Roy Jeffcoat
4.  Vacant Church: New FBC Jefferson Gardens
5.  About Robert Earl Houston
6.  Every Preacher Needs a Friend
7.  Dear Angry Pastor
8.  35 Years in the Making
9.  The Obituary for Sunday School
10.  Homegoing of a Saint: H. Devore Chapman

Preparing for Sunday

by Robert Earl Houston

SOMEWHERE OVER TENNESSEE – I’m in mid-flight preparing to land in Louisville in about 30 minutes. My body is really tired. My plane was delayed for two hours (it was coming from the west coast and was delayed from both Orange County, CA and San Francisco, CA.

But my heart is not tired, but excited about Sunday. If there was ever a time I need a good, solid word from The Lord, it’s tomorrow. God is providential. He knew everything this week and how everything would turn out and that I was not scheduled to preach in the morning – it’s Ushers Day and we have to capable speakers – Rev. Anna Jones and Dr. Cheryl Walker.

There is a time when the preacher who preaches needs to be preached to. My spiritual battery is admittedly very low – but not so low that it couldn’t receive a jump or a jolt. I come to the worship tomorrow weary, beat-down, and without going into a lot of detail, disappointed. But this is what Sundays in worship are for – to hear a word from The Lord.

I’m in need for a word badly. You won’t hear too many pastors say this, but i will – I couldn’t preach tomorrow if i could – i’m too pained, I’m too damaged, and I need to be ministered to. No pastor should show up just for the sake of preaching, when he’s troubled in spirit of his or her own self.

I’ve stood in times of divorce, church issues, death in my family, and other issues – but this week I just can’t do it. And I’m believing God that after hearing two dynamic sermons, I’ll be ready to get back to living again.

As of now, I just want to hear a preached word!

Permanently Healed – the eulogy of Sis. Emma F. Jackson

 

or:

Permanently Healed – <— click to hear the audio

THE WIRE

by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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