Category Archives: Wisdom

YOLO

Photo on 5-9-13 at 9.33 PM #2by Robert Earl Houston

You ever looked at your calendar, pastor? Looked at all of the events, the Revivals, the Annual Days, the Conventions, the Conferences, the Continuing Education events . . . only to discover you don’t have any time to live?

I’m in the process of deleting some events from my calendar for a very good reason – I need some time to enjoy life. I’m 53 years old, a husband, a father, a pastor of a thriving congregation, a State President, Chairman of a Publishing Board for our state General Association, a board member of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, member of the Frankfort/Franklin County Ministerial Association, and on and on and on.

I discovered three things:

# 1 – Things Will Go On Without You

At 53, I’m not trying to make a name. I think that’s already been done by history. I’ve pastored 4 churches, held positions, preached, played, sang, read scripture, counted money, and done whatever has been asked of me denominationally. I’m at the point now where notoriety is no longer sought out.

When I was at Dr. Timothy James Winters’ funeral, several of the pastors there asked me for my business card and I reached into my pocket, and there weren’t any there. I brought them with me, but it wasn’t a high priority item – I came there to mourn my friend’s death and celebrate his entrance into eternal life.

Life will show you that it goes on without you. Every group I’ve ever been a part of has continued to thrive. Every convention that I have worked for is still doing the work of the Kingdom. Even a break, brother pastor, will show you that.

#2 – There is a Generational Shift

At 53, me and many others in our 50s are hurriedly moving into the category of “sages.” Many years ago, Dr. Asa W. Sampson, Sr. of Houston, TX brought me to Houston to preach and he showed me the area of Houston where, then, many of the successful pastors in Houston lived at – It was on a street called “Sage Trail.”

The progression goes from young preacher, to pastor, to senior (whether it’s seniority or job title) to sage. The purpose of a sage is to be a resource to young pastors who are coming behind you in ministry. Of a truth, many of the preachers that I hang out with now are younger, who seek out my fellowship, advice, and sometimes ask for very blunt assessments – like many of us did 20 years ago.

Frankly, some of us who’ve been around for years and years need to move out of the way in conventions and let the younger guys give leadership. One thing that the early PNBC fathers did were to allow some brash 30 and 40 year olds give leadership to the group – men like J. Alfred Smith, Sr., Ralph W. Canty, and others. Fresh minds are not a threat to me at this age.

#3 – There’s No Place Like Home

As many of us know, being on the road can be burdensome and tiring. In my 20s and 30s – no a problem, but as I mature, I don’t want to spend 30-40 weeks on the road. It’s not healthy for any pastor to be gone so much that when he preaches on Sunday, his congregation treats him like a guest preacher instead of their pastor.

At this point, relationships with my members is more important than ever. Ministering to my wife and family, as they become older and start making the procession to the grave, is now more important than ever. A few weeks ago I went home to see my Mother and her caregiver dressed her “church style” and my family members took pictures together, thanks to a family friend.  I stepped out of the living room and into the kitchen where my aunt was and shed some tears – because I didn’t know if this was going to be the last time I would see mom alive or not.

Relationships with my wife, our extended family are now more important than ever. My church knows (I pray) that their pastor loves them very, very much. It’s been a great 5 years with this congregation and looking forward to many more – but I’m doing some things now to make myself available to them, because again, relationship are now more important than ever.

Suggestions:

1.  Travel. Not to places you’ve always gone to, but create a memory by going to new places.

2.  Try new food. I try to make a habit of checking out local restaurants. I don’t do breakfast at Denny’s in Los Angeles, because they’re everywhere – so I’ll try Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, because I can’t get that here.

3.  Try some new hobbies. In a few days, I’m going to take up two hobbies – one is playing a guitar. My father was a bass guitar player and one of the things I wanted to do in High School, but never followed through on, was playing a bass. I love acoustic jazz music and I can’t wait to learn how to play a guitar.

4.  Enjoy life. I’m on a second week of not eating processed sugar or adding it to my diet and so far it’s been great – face is “thinning out” (I’m almost back to one chin – LOL) and waist line is getting smaller. Food tastes differently, sleep is better (I try not to eat after sunset), and I have not more energy, but better energy.

Because, you only live (here) once.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.

About these ads

Church Flyers 101

by Robert Earl Houston

IMG_8271OK – we’ve all seen them. Church flyers. Whether they are advertisement of an event or celebration or anniversary or a billboard in the sky, if you live long enough in your church, you will either receive or help pass them out. Nowadays with a greater emphasis on graphic artistry, people are creating eye-catching flyers with “bells and whistles.”  I want to review a few basics on church flyers, especially for pastors and graphic artists.

1.  Remember your audience. Putting information in 6 or 8 pt. type font is really difficult to read. Especially if the most important information is found in that section.  Remember that your flyer has the potential to be read or seen by children as young as five and adults as old at 100 plus.

2.  Too much information is too much. Remember that you only are going to get a casual glance at best at a flyer. It may be necessary to drop some superlatives (“This is going to be epic” or “This is your hour” or “Holy-Ghost Filled”). We already have that implied because it’s at your church and every program is not “epic.”

3.  Have your flyer spell-checked. If I see one more flyer that spells church “c-h-r-u-c-h” I’m going to scream! I frequently use a spell-checker and even a sermon proof reader (my wife) because what may be right to my eyeballs may be completely wrong. Make sure that everything looks perfect in spelling.

4.  Don’t forget the basics. On every church flyer the following information should be there: (a) The name and address of the Church; (b) The Pastor’s Name (who would want to accept a dinner invitation if you didn’t know who’s inviting you?); (c) The title of the event; (d) The date, location and time of the event (especially if it’s off-site).

5.  No picture is better than a horrible picture. Make sure to use photographs that look good. Also CROP THEM, especially of a speaker so that their head and just a little portion of the upper body shows. Take out distracting backgrounds as well. But if you don’t have a suitable picture get a graphic (more about that next) and use in it’s place.

6.  Someone asked me where do I get those fancy photos from?  Simple – go to http://images.google.com and there is a plethora of FREE graphics there. Just be judicious when it comes to size and (big no-no) never use a graphic that is watermarked. It means that you didn’t gain copyright of it but there are more than enough out there.

7.  For the internet (especially Facebook) I use (on Photoshop) a photo size of 4″ x 6″ which works great on Facebook. But after I have composed it, I save it using Photoshop’s “Save For Web” future and I cut the size down to 800 picas width and 533 picas tall (which should automatically set).

8.  I recommend (if you refer this project out to a graphic designer) never allowing the graphic designer to put their contact information on your flyer unless you are getting a substantial cut in the costs. I design 95% of everything that we have at our church and I never put “Designed By” on the flyer. It’s a waste of time and space.

9.  I want to say that Photoshop is the bomb. So is InDesign. If you don’t have the money for either of those programs, Photoshop Elements does just as well (minus some of the bells and whistles).

10.  Be careful of putting black or dark print on a dark or black background. If you do so, you want to make sure that you make the original fonts with a stroke (highlighter) that encompasses the entire word or phrase.

11.  Borrow ideas. Nothing is original. Go to http://www.google.com and place a search for “church flyers” or “event flyers” and see what’s out there.

12.  Always use your logo. It’s like the stamp of approval for your ministry. People will begin to identify the logo with the ministry. Don’t have a logo? Get someone to design one for you. I’ve used graphic artists to produce my first basic one and our newer logo.

13.  Less is more. I was in Georgia and saw a billboard for a ministry and they had at least 15 lines of text on the billboard. I was driving 80 and may have finished one line. Make it bold. Make it pop. Make it fast.

14.  Need flyers printed and in a hurry. Here’s my secret: Once you save your completed file, go to http://www.walgreens.com. Check on their photo section. You can upload the photo and have them print the copies on photo paper (glossy pop!) and they do it within 1-2 hours, no matter the size. And they often have sales. So your 4 x 6 photo can be done with 300 copies at a very minimal cost.

Those are just a few helpful hints. I want to share with you some of the flyers that I have designed in the past:

WintersFuneral weddingthankyou

Men's Day 2 JPGGood-Friday

5-yearsHAPPYJesus Fix My Lifelovesundaysnowdayjanuary-26womenandgirls

 

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

An Open Letter to Satan

by Robert Earl Houston

IMG_8271February 22, 2014

Dear Satan (aka Lucifer, Fallen Angel, Prince of this World),

You tried again and you failed.

This morning I was involved in a motor vehicle accident which should taken me out of this life. I was in a rented Chevrolet Impala and was rear ended by a 2004 Nissan Xterra. The vehicle (that I believe you used) came at me, I believe, in another one of your lame attempts to end my life, more importantly, my ministry . . . and one again you lost.

I am part of an army of pastors, preachers, bishops, apostles, ministers, believers, and servants that the Lord has used to preach or teach or lead or assist or attend that has been on your hit list ever since the debacle in the Garden of Eden. Like many of those who you have attacked, you are admittedly crafty and subtile, however my life is not in your hands – it’s in the Hands of the Lord.

You have come at me through objects, tools, people, tests, trials, trouble, pain, illness, cancer, family, friends, associates, those who’ve I ministered to and assisted with words or finance, ecclesiastical leaders, innuendo, and sometimes by even the closest people to me (including others who are listed in the army above) . . .

. . . but I’m still here.

I guess you thought I would have folded up the tent by now.
I guess you thought I would have quit and threw up my hands.
I guess you thought I would have renounced my ministry by now.
I guess you thought I would have said there is no God by now.
I guess you thought I would sugar-coat my sermons and just serve for the money by now.
I guess you thought I would have fallen prey to ideas that would have harmed myself.
I guess you thought I would have runaway from the ministry and never served God again.

But you were wrong. What you don’t realize Satan is this: My calling is more important than my classification. My calling has taken me from Bro. Houston to Minister Houston to Reverend Houston to Pastor Houston to General Secretary Houston to Board Member Houston to Senior Project Manager Houston to Congress Dean Houston to Board Chairman Houston to Vice Moderator Houston to Assistant Pastor Houston to Evangelist Houston to Lecturer Houston to a plethora of other titles and service areas. I didn’t get the titles because of who I am. I received the titles because of who I belong to.

God has blessed me – when people tried to hurt, hinder or hate on me – God has not only blessed me, He has surrounded me with those who encouraged me when I was down, ministered to me when I was empty, and sheltered me from the storms of life.

As I call this a night on a Saturday evening, I just wanted to remind you Satan that I have a praying wife, a praying congregation, a praying family, praying denominational ties, and, oh by the way, most importantly, I have a Savior who sits on the right side of the Father, who makes intercession for me.

By the way, I also need to tell you that I intend to preach authentically, preach unashamedly, preach boldly, preach, preach and preach some more – until The Lord says “well done.”

Sure of Eternal Life,

+Pastor Robert Earl Houston
(Still Alive)

p.s. If you have any problems with this Satan, please contact God.

Breakfast and Coffee

by Robert Earl Houston

PORTLAND, OREGON – I have flown here from Kentucky to check on and see my mother, Naomi Houston. My has been battling Alzheimer’s disease for the past few years and as she continues to age gracefully (she’s 85), I have flown in to see about her, my aunt, and find some time to say hello to some people that I’ve grown up with.

As I write this, I am at one of my favorite restaurants that didn’t exist in this area (Portland Meadows – near the old horse racing track), Elmer’s.

I had my meal and drinking some decaf coffee. I can’t remember when I had the opportunity to sit in a restaurant and just relax. Before I came here we had three funerals on Saturday that affected various members of our church family. Played the organ and preached three and two times respectively on Sunday. Yesterday I had to get up at 5 a.m. (2 a.m. west coast time) to catch my plane and arrive here around 1 p.m. (4 p.m. east coast time).

But this coffee (decaf) has reminded me of serenity. Nothing on my plate, but just the noise of other patrons in the restaurant while I sit here, reading the news online – no calls, no texts, no emergencies, no fires to put out – but just able to relax my heart and my mind.

I think that there are multitudes in my profession (full-time ministry) that embrace their work like an alcoholic (guilty here) and work thru the night (I normally go to bed around 1 a.m.). There is almost a cyclical schedule that most of us do: Teach, then work on the next lesson; Preach, then work on the next sermon; add to the mix of correspondence, planning, vision casting, visitations, etc. Not to mention family functions and relationship building with your spouse.

But today, it’s just me and a cup of coffee.  I want to advise all pastors in ministry – get a cup of coffee every now and then.

The Ministry of Sports Prophecy

by Robert Earl Houston

I love the Lord with all my heart. And I am a sports enthusiast (not a fan, which is the abbreviated form of the word “fanatic”). Every Sunday I worship the Lord, pay my tithes and daily I pray and read the Word of God. Football, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, Soccer are sports that I follow, honestly, from afar. I’m not one of those people who can ring out the starting 5 or 11 or 9 for a team. But I do enjoy the drama of sports.

I thought that this year’s game would be epic. The all-defense Seattle Seahawks versus the all-offense Denver Broncos.  Unfortunately it was a blow-out and Seattle ran over the Broncos 43 to 8.

But was disturbing were the emails and Facebook posting where men of God prophesied about the game.  Not predicted. Prophesied. There is a difference from making an educated guess (prediction) against the backdrop of a God-uttered or God-breathed prophesy (concerning the future).

I am afraid that in our pursuit of “going to the next level” that we have misguided ministers who are seeming to marry personal prediction and God’s authoritative will. It’s a disastrous train-wreck.

God is not tipping the scales of a sporting event. I don’t believe that God is “for” or “against” a football team. He has His disciples on both sides of the ball. I’m sure that Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson both prayed before the game. I’m sure that the chaplains for the Broncos and the Seahawks prayed the success and safety of their teams. I just don’t think God put His finger on the scale and heavily tip it against the Broncos.

It is incredible to think that a few days before the game any minister would film or broadcast a “lock” on the game. To use the words, “you can take this to the bank” or “God told me to tell you” is insidious and it makes you not a “smarter” or “bigger” or “greater prophet” it transform you into a wolf in sheep’s clothing pouncing upon the minds and spirits of the Sheep of God’s Pasture.

We’re gone into a church age of recognizing gifts TO THE BODY of Christ. I have no problem with the gifts, but when they are used to say what God has not said or to prophesy what God has not uttered is an affront to the Word of God and is an embarrassment to the church community at large.

In the Old Testament and New Testament ages, when a prophet delivered a false prophecy he was stoned. However, I suspect that these false prophets will add an addendum to their prophecies to protect their ungodly behavior.

I’m becoming more convinced that people who use “The Lord told me to tell you” has to be on some kind of self-producing “word.” When I was single, there were those who heard voices too. I’ve seen pastoral candidates who said “The Lord told me” only to blame biased pulpit committees for their losing to another (in some cases) less qualified candidates.

Why do we have the Holy Spirit if we need a third-party intervention? A few years ago I watched a “prophet” minister in a stadium full of black people and said “The Spirit of the Lord has told me that there are those in this cloud that have diabetes.”  You don’t need a spiritual gift to figure out that if you’re in a room of 20,000 black people that somebody has diabetes. Duh . . .

I have yet to find a passage where God promised a victory to a sports team. Individuals – yes. Groups of people – yes. Jesus – absolutely yes. But to go out on a limb and say that God has ordained that the Broncos will win and it’s a lock – you become prophets who need to seriously consider retirement or the Body of Christ needs to issue you a layoff notice.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME

How Long Did It Take You To Get Here?

by Robert Earl Houston

This year I’m trying to see all of the Academy Award Nominated films. So far I’ve seen Lee Daniels’ The Butler; American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Gravity; 12 Years a Slave; and Nebraska. I’ve yet to see Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street.

In a very good movie, Nebraska, there is a scene that sticks with me. In the movie and elder father thinks that he has won a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes.  He is determined to leave from his home in Montana (if foot by necessary) and is aided by his sons and, reluctantly, his wife. His younger son, sensing that his father doesn’t have long to live, drives him from Montana to Nebraska, a trip that should have taken less than 8 hours. However, due to his father’s drinking and injury which required hospitalization, it took 2 or 3 days for an 8 hour trip, not to his destination, but to his small hometown where his siblings and family members live. During the sit down (to watch TV, a family tradition) his brother’s sons ask his son “How long did it take you to get here?” They knew it only took hours and he said “two days” and they started laughing.

That stuck with me because in a few days I’ll be celebrating being called to this church 5 years ago and I’m celebrating this years 36 years in ministry. I have been blessed tremendously – but it wasn’t overnight. It took time.

Unfortunately in this generation, everything is on fast, quick and in a hurry. The self-imposed timetables that we as pastors place upon our work can be deceiving and frustrating. We point at pastors who have mega-churches and mega-situations and we are determined to replicate what God is doing in somebody’s ministry – not understanding that in order to get where that pastor is at, you may have to visit some painful places, tragic circumstances and hellish scenarios.

A few weeks ago a young minister told me, “Pastor Houston, I want to be like you.”  I was flattered and then I told him, “Go through cancer, go through trouble, get lied on and talked about, suffer some painful situations, get sick without any insurance, and oh yeah, go through church trouble and you’ll be just like me.”  You should have seen the look on his face.

I believe that ministry is not some 100 yard dash. It’s a marathon. Some of us have been on the track for 35, 45, 55, 65 and even 75 years and if we all be honest, we haven’t seen it all and each experience is going to be different. I remember talking with a pastor who wrestled with his call and for the first 30 years of his ministry his congregation numbered less than 50 and all of a sudden, the Church grew into a thriving congregation of 2,000.  He said “I was eager, but I wasn’t ready. God had to show me that I’m on His timetable and not mine.”

The truth of the matter is that my first 30 years of ministry prepared me for my current ministry. I have a wonderful congregation and I’ve learned how to pastor with a steady hand, loving heart and open spirit. I’m now in the age of being called upon by other pastors for advice. I’ve been able to create a fellowship and dialogue with many of our local elected officials and this afternoon I’ll have the privilege of offering prayer to open this afternoon’s session of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Senate.

But it wasn’t overnight. I have pastored four congregations (and served on pastoral staff at one) since 1989 and full-time since 1991. It’s been a journey. I admit there were low points and high peaks. However, this journey is not given to the strong, nor the swift, but to the one who endures to the end.

For those pastors who are trying and trying and working and working and praying and praying. Keep at it!  Bring your best to the pulpit – even if you have more pews than people. Even during moments of anxiety and frustration, bring your best, share your heart, be there for the people. Don’t look for the “next move” – be faithful in wherever the Lord has planted you in this season – if there’s a move it’s better to let God do it than you create it.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME

This is not a Play Thing

by Robert Earl Houston

IMG_8271Happy New Year everyone. I am reminded of one of the teachings of the New Testament: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2).

I am troubled by that directive because it looks more and more like that it’s not being followed. Some of the things that are being accomplished in the Lord’s church is grand and historic and should be applauded. We have bigger sanctuaries, seven-days-a-week churches, more polished worship experiences. But where we may have dropped the ball in some instances is the transference of the doctrine of the church into the hands of faithful folk.

In other words, those who are in our frame of reference in many cases are looking at the spotlight but ignoring doctrine. I’m not talking about procedures and polity within any denomination – I mean the Word of God. The expressed Word. The Word that has matriculated through generations. I’m not talking about who sits in our pulpits nor am I talking about whether a church has a dance team or praise team – I mean the Biblical preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

I admit that sometimes it’s not going to be flashy. Most passages that relate to our human narrative can be self-examining and painful. However, if the doctrine is passed down from the prior generation to this generation, we have the obligation as pastors to pass it on – however, the onus is then upon those who receive it, to absorb it, handle it correctly, and then it to others also.

Preaching has to be solid. I’m sorry, it just has to be solid. Nothing is worse than sitting in an audience and hearing an unprepared preacher. Singing cannot substitute lack of preparation. A great, gregarious personality cannot substitute lack of research and proper proclamation. Even gifts in other areas cannot and should not be acceptable as an excuse for not preaching.

Preaching is not a vocation it’s a calling. A vocation is defined as something that you feel that you’re suited for. But a call to preach is the Lord’s decision that this is something you’re suited for. I remember way back in 1978, I sat with fellow students at Multnomah School of the Bible with pastoral majors.  We were tag lunch at Burgerville, USA and we talked about our call. To my surprise only 2 out of 8 even expressed that God called us to preach. Some said they wanted an “easier job” and a couple said “my dad’s a preacher.”  I sat there thinking, “this is not a play thing.”

Preaching means preaching when you or your message is not popular.
Preaching means that preparation is more important than your celebration.
Preaching means that you have to preach the whole book, not just a few passages.
Preaching means telling truth from the text instead of your opinions.
Preaching means helping people with the Word and not trying to psychoanalyze them from the pulpit.
Preaching means telling the old, old story in a contemporary fashion to generations in the crowd.

I’ve tried my best to pass it down to the next generation. Some have been faithful, some have not. But I can’t quit in passing down the teachings of the Word of God to the next generation. I had a member once quiz me about why I don’t teach on some contemporary subjects like other churches do and I said softly: “Because that’s not in the Book.”

This is not a play thing.

Goodbye 2013

IMG_8271by Robert Earl Houston

In about 7 hours the year 2013 will be history. For some people this has been a great year or a good year or a so-so year or a bad year or a horrible year. Wherever you place your marker, the year will finally be over.

I don’t have the vocabulary to describe 2013 it’s been a cornacopia of a year. There’s been all kinds of things that have made up the year.  Please allow me to narrow my list down to a few things:

First, this has been a year of sorrow. For me personally, I’ve lost some relatives, great friends, church members, and people I looked up to.  In that number: My father-in-law, Clarence Anderson, Pastor Clifford Williams, Bishop Wenzell Jackson, Dr. T.L. Lewis, Dr. Mack King Carter, Dr. Joseph Andrew Boles, Sr.,  Pastor Eddie James, Dr. Joseph McDowell, Rev. C.L. Buhl, Dr. John C. Raphael, Jr., Dr. Harold A. Carter, Sr., Prophet Robert Blakes, Sr., Bro. Broderick Huggins, Jr., Pastor Charles Hofort Bembry, Dr. Richard A. Rollins, and many, many others. Many of whom can be remembered by clicking here now.

Secondly, this has been a year of healing. In April 2013 I began testing and in May I was diagnosed with carcinoma (skin cancer) on the arch of my right foot. It was a journey for me and my wife, Jessica. We learned more about skin cancer than we could ever imagine and the possibilities (negative and positive). It was Dr. Bernard J. Sutton of Chicago who lifted my faith by saying, “Houston, don’t call it cancer. Call it an infirmity. Jesus heals infirmities.” I went into surgery on May 30, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky and I’m excited to declare as of December 30, 2013 I celebrated six months CANCER FREE.

Thirdly, this has been a year of watching God work. My beloved congregation, First Baptist Church of Frankfort, KY,  has been through a lot this year. Just like most congregations, we have seen people come and seen people go – but the Lord continues to bless us with those who are committed to the work. We saw people do things and participate in worship that we had never seen before. We heard people pray that never prayed. We heard people sing we’ve never heard sing. And I’ve been able to trace the hand of God in what He was doing. During the year we continued from 2012, the restoration of the First Baptist Church sanctuary. Believe me, it wasn’t for the faint of heart. We had to cancel services, move services, it took a toll on us, but it developed a sense of faith and trust in God that only He could provide. By the end of this year, 99% of the original project has been completed and we have more projects upcoming in 2014.

Fourth, this has been a year of prayer. One thing we did at FBC was to scrub the normal “pulpit prayer” by ministers and have laypersons lead the church in prayer. I can’t begin to tell you how we were lifted to hear the people of God pray. Prayer is not just a function of those who sit on the platform. Our prayer emphasis even created our 24 hour prayer wheel at the church, conceived by our Assistant to the Pastor, Rev. Anna Jones. We have plans to do more praying and praying and praying. Matter of fact, our survival is not numerical, it’s dependent upon prayer.

Fifth, this has been a year of evaluation. For me, it’s been answering the question that Dr. A. Louis Patterson asks publicly of himself. Are you a better believer this year than last? Are you drawing more closer to God this year than last? Are you more attuned to His word this year than you were last year? I’ve added some to that list – Is your preaching making a difference? Is your teaching changing lives? Is participation with some groups and conventions really affecting change or are you in a stagnant situation? That process continues in 2014.

So it’s been quite the year. In 2014, the year will see the World Cup, the Winter Olympics, the Mid-Term Elections, all four traditional Baptist conventions either change or retain leadership, Full Gospel’s transition continues, weather changes due to global warming, a stock market that has historic gains but their businesses refuse to hire or expand the work base, other cities that are the brink of bankruptcy, the start of the 2016 election process for the next POTUS, and no doubt continued political bickering and “dangers seen and unseen.”

One thing I know. We are now closer that ever to the Lord’s return. And I say, “Come, Lord Jesus” and if He tarries, I still have more work to do.

Have a blessed New Year. YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.

The Side of the The Ministry That You Just Don’t See

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).

The Side of the Ministry That You Just Don’t See

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.

THE WIRE

by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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