Category Archives: Wisdom

A Nugget . . .

IMG_8271by Robert Earl Houston

One thing that has to be remembered by all of us who serve the Lord as pastors is that there are some things that we will never be in control of. Do your best every Sunday. Preach like it’s the last time. Teach like someone’s life is in the balance. Preach in season and out of season. Preach when you’re popular and preach when you’re not. Preach when the house is full and preach like the house is full when it’s not. Celebrate the good days and reflect upon the bad days. Be there when they cry and be there when they can’t open their mouths nor their eyes. Rejoice at their weddings, celebrate their accomplishments and be that presence when their world is falling apart. Don’t take your anger to the pulpit and don’t let your anger permeate your preaching. Smile even when you don’t feel like it and laugh when no one is around. Just a few words of advice after 25 years plus of pastoring . . .

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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

by Robert Earl Houston

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 9.34.22 PMI have a few things on my heart before I go to bed tonight. I’ll share them quickly:

First, I want to give a huge shout-out to Bishop Neil C. Ellis and the Global United Fellowship. First, thank you for live streaming not just the evening sessions, but all of the sessions. Tonight was absolutely incredible as they raised budget, will leave North Carolina not only in the black, but with valuable partnerships, and purchase of three television stations – all of that in one session. Then the young man from Atlanta who was kidnapped and kept singing Bishop Hezekiah Walker’s song, “Every Praise is to Our God” was presented by Bishop Walker and a spontaneous gift of love, started by Yolanda Adams and Bishop Kenneth Ulmer (who personally gave $5,000) was . . . I guess heart-wrenching is not the right word . . . all I know is that me and the wife were marveled at what we saw and crying our eyes out. NEVER in years of Conventions and Conferences have I ever witnessed what I saw tonight.

Secondly, this was Associational week for most of Northern Kentucky. One moderator, Dr. William Nelson, presided over his first session as leader of Central Baptist District Association and another moderator, Dr. Bishop Carter, III, completed his tenure as moderator of the Consolidated Baptist District Association. Our church is in the Central District and we are former members of Consolidated District. I had the privilege of preaching the 1:00 p.m. sermon on the final day of Central District.

Third, I saw something that literally disappointment and ticked me off to the height of ticketivity. A new television series is on the way, made by the makers of the comic/television series, “Boondocks.” The new show is entitled “Black Jesus” with the premise that “Jesus” lives in Compton. I tried to watch the preview trailer and it literally turned my stomach. It won’t be playing in the Houston household and I hope that the Christian community will rise up and shut this mess down.

Certainly, I’m praying for those who lost their lives on the Malyasian jetliner and praying for peace for the Middle East and our nation – especially our inner cities.

That’s enough for now. Good night y’all.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED

What a Difference a Year Makes

by Robert Earl Houston

DALLAS, TEXAS – I went to Dallas last year on personal family business and came home empty-handed, broken-hearted, and at the end of my rope.  It took months to even discuss it. That was even before I had been diagnosed with cancer and at the same time dealing with the responsibilities of pastoring a thriving church in Frankfort, Kentucky. I was shaken and stirred. I had prayed for success and the end result was humiliation, disrespect and a feeling of anger and resentment I had never experienced before. It made me to make post-life decisions to express my reaction. It made me understand the adage, “Life is too short . . .  “

Fast forward to 2014. I’m in Dallas again, attending the E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference and really, honestly, and truthfully, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I’m blessed, foremost, with a clear relationship with Jesus Christ. After watching Him repair my heart over and over and over again after the Dallas Debacle and seeing two of my best friends receive their commencement in Heaven, and going through the ups and downs of ministry – I trust Him more and more. Last night, Dr. E. Dewey Smith talked about the downs of ministry. A year ago, I would have been in tears, this year – no tears, but an appreciation of the repair apparatus of God. My heart has been healed.

Secondly, I have an amazing life in Frankfort. Note of disclosure: Kentucky’s state capitol was the one I could never get correct in school (always thought it was Louisville). My wife and I have been tremendously blessed since our marriage in 2005. We haven’t had five minutes of arguments in nine years that I have listened to (JOKE CREDIT: The late Rev. Dr. E.V. Hill) and we have an extraordinary church family. We live RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO THE CHURCH, but they respect our privacy and we have walked together with our congregation in our highs and our lows. Our lows have been rough but it is in our lows that we discover that our God whom we serve is truly able.

Thirdly, my health is improving. I’m a tad skinnier than I was last year. Getting into some clothing that was headed to the Goodwill because of “lack of additional space.” Since my bout with cancer, I’ve developed an ulcer (open wound) on my foot, which my medical team now says should be completely healed this summer. I started my walking regimen this week in Dallas, wearing diabetic shoes with orthopedic inserts. I’m on a dietary routine . . . well, when I get back home, I’ll get back to it. Dallas food ain’t no joke and some of my favorite restaurants in the US are here – Pappasito’s, Pappadeaux’s, Catfish King, and even Church’s Chicken (hard to find in Kentucky). I’m walking this year without a cane, without a cast, and moving better than in a long, long time.

Fourthly, I’m content. Look, I’m 54 years old – I don’t look like it (thank you to those who invented razors and Michael Jordan who made bald a fashion statement). I’ve had my challenges but God’s been good. I look back over my life and those stormy moments are nothing but history now and now worth repeating. I’m thankful for my beginning years in Portland. I’m grateful for my enjoyable years in Fresno. I’m grateful for the maturing and challenging years in San Diego. I’m grateful for the restorative years in Nashville. And now, I’m thankful for the blessed years. In the words of a pastor I spoke with this week, he said “Houston, it sounds like you are going to heaven from Frankfort.” We shall see. But these are the best times of my life.

At 54, I’m a card carrying member of the “Senior Sages” fraternity of preachers. This year it’s been 37 years since I’ve been called to preach. This year it’s been 36 years since I preached by first sermon at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. This year it’s been 25 years since I began a series of Pastoral assignments. I’ve been a member in all these years of all four national baptist conventions and the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. I’ve held convention office from Vice Moderator of a District to Congress Dean to State President to District General Secretary in two districts, President’s Special Assistant of a National Convention, Board Chair of one of the nation’s oldest black newspapers. It’s been quite the ride.

This week, I overheard a couple of ministers as I walked by. The younger one said to the older one “who is that?” He said, “man, THAT’s Robert Houston. You need to read his blog. He’s one of the best.” My friend Dr. E. Dewey Smith, made it a point to tell me, “Houston, you’ve been a blessing to the body of Christ and pastors everywhere.”

I’m in a good place in life. And not ashamed to say, as Dr. Smith, said, that I’m even holistically well – physically, spiritually, and mentally. I know when it’s time to find someone to talk to. Lord knows I’ve had enough to warrant that counsel this past year. I encourage Pastors – make sure it is well with your soul, your strength, and YOUR MIND.

I’m grateful that I did not become a statistic.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOMED.

What Happens If You Lose?

by Robert Earl Houston

Photo on 6-19-13 at 10.01 AMAs previously noted, the election season of most of the traditional National Baptist Conventions is about to converge upon us beginning with the Presidential election of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International next week in Memphis, Tennessee.

The NBCAI will be first; Then in August, the Progressive National Baptist Convention will meet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to elect a new president for a two year term; Then in September in New Orleans, Louisiana, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. will elect a new president. Then in 2015, (if memory serves me right), the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America will vote.

The campaigns are in full-gear. I have a few observations after listening to some discussions and it boils down to one simple question:

What happens if you lose?

I would love to hear, for once in my lifetime, the losing candidate of a national baptist election to say these words: “I want to congratulate the winner and assure him and the convention of my loyal support.”

Unfortunately, in recent convention history a phenomenon has developed negatively. Let’s walk through it.  I’ll use my name as an example, but remember, I have NEVER ran for National Office (and have no desire to):

Dr. Robert Earl Houston decides to run for national president. I then assemble a campaign team, including a campaign director, meet with various state leaders, raise (or borrow) money, then devote myself to running, showing up in various venues, and then conduct a campaign that may not be holy and always ethical. I may have to utilize some “bulldogs” in the trenches to try to deter, destroy and defeat the integrity of either the sitting president or those who are candidates as well – and yet be at arms’ length enough away that if my campaign gets called on it, I can say “I didn’t say that.”

Of course, I have to have a slogan. Let’s see . . . How about “Robert Earl for Prez” – that’s catching. I need a marketing strategy, website . . . oh yeah, gotta raise more money, because the cost of running for a national office can reach six figures. I have to make sure my wardrobe looks “presidential.” Gotta have a media team – to reach out to the younger pastors and to look hip (even though a national convention has not had a president under 40 since PNBC did so in the EARLY 1980’s) to this newer generation, I need a media coordinator, a “twitter-er,” a web designer, videographer, photographer, and maybe I need to release a “fresh rhema word” everyday to draw in younger preachers, because you know younger preachers value flash over ethics.

Then the day of the election comes and the delegates cast their votes. I make sure that the photographer takes the photo of me emerging from the voting station. I’m going to walk the hallways all day and prepare for the announcement along with my team. Of course, they are going to surround me at the microphone, current leadership be damned. 

The announcement comes. My palms are sweaty, I step out just for a second so I can look great at the announcement. I sit there and then the announcement is made . . . I just lost.

Damn. After all that work, energy – matter of fact, I raised more money in running than the national convention raised in foreign mission giving and home mission combined. My slate of officers, where I promised some of the pastors intricate roles in the Houston administration, is now history. And I am pissed off that the collective convention could not see the vision that I saw for leadership. They’d rather choose the one who won by a legitimate vote instead of the one who had the great campaign, multi-media, twitter, instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube (after all of those commercials I authorized).

So, I get up, and signal for everyone following me to walk out of the hallway and we are not coming back. Let’s see how they do without me and all of the churches and pastors who have committed to me. Let’s see how much money they raise now. Let’s see how many mission projects get funded now. Resurrection of Bishop College? Won’t happen now. Because when we leave, nobody will come to the convention. The convention will be a hollow shell. And the new President and his campaign staff and convention leadership can all go to hell, as far as I’m concerned. I might even meet with my supporters later this week and maybe we’ll form a new convention or call it a conference or fellowship. THE END.

Even though the story is fictional, the reality is that this scenario lurks in the background and histories of all four conventions. Yes, it can happen in National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. Yes, it can happen in the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. Yes, it can happen in the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. and yes, it can happen in the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America. The truth of the matter is this – it has happened before and God help us if it happens again.

What any losing candidate should do is:

a.  Swallow your pride and congratulate the winner, (shake hands, hug) immediately, on stage. Right now!

b.  Ask to address the audience after the winner speaks and say to the body:

“Brother President elect. I ran for the office because I wanted to see substantive change in our Convention. However, I yield to the will of God, who has spoken through these voting delegates. I am disappointed, but above everything, I am a called man of God who understands that a three-fold cord is not quickly broken. Therefore, I want this convention and this President to know that we are not nor never been enemies. We are brothers who met somewhere at the cross. And I want all my supporters and delegates to stand and as the late Dr. A. Louis Patterson would say “Appreciatively applaud OUR president – I said OUR president. And we aren’t going anywhere. We shall support you and your vision for this convention, to be the best of our abilities.”

c.  And the winner needs to consider utilizing people who supported the losing candidate in positions as well. Winning a convention and going to war with a segment of the convention doesn’t make sense. There are gifted people who supported other candidates – it doesn’t mean that just because they didn’t vote for you that they are less gifted or won’t support you as well.

Otherwise, we will not have to worry about the government or Southern Baptist or Full Gospel or American Baptist or GUF destroying us – we’ll do a fine job all by yourselves.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME

The Church of Perfect People

by Robert Earl Houston

Donald Sterling, ESQ and Dr. Joe B. Hardwick

By now most of us have seen the photograph of disgraced Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald J. Sterling from Sunday, June 1, 2014 visiting, at the pastor’s request, the historic Praises of Zion Missionary Baptist Church in south Los Angeles, California, where Dr. Joe B. Hardwick, is their venerable pastor.

Almost immediately there was a backlash. Why was he there? Was he there for damage control? Shame on Dr. Hardwick and Praises of Zion. And one person even went as far to suggest that Sterling should have been banned from the worship service completely. Other pastors across the country came out against his presence. But I am not one of those persons.

I wrote this on Facebook:

“I’m a little saddened at the reaction, especially from believers, to Pastor Joe B. Hardwick’s invitation to Donald Sterling coming to Praises of Zion MBC in Los Angeles. Sterling didn’t make a speech and from what I understood, he sat there, reverently throughout the worship experience. Yes, he made a mistake – but he’s still a soul in need of a savior. I know Dr. Hardwick and I believe it has nothing to do with a motive of money, and every baptist church is autonomous and if he wanted to invite him, that’s his priority and right. No wonder the fallen can’t be restored – because we are barring them from coming into the House of Hope. Just my two cents.”

I’m afraid of what many churches have become and what many skeptics, especially Christian bloggers, who sometimes reside in ivory towers, away from the visibility of their own sins. Church is not the retirement home for the super holy. Church is not the place where we congratulate each other on our holiness and our immaculate wardrobes. Church is not the place where those who struggle in life flee from because their shame forces those who fall or fail to retreat.

No, the church (and the Body of Christ) should be mature even and ministerial enough to open it’s doors and not put up barricades to those who are going through life. Can you imagine any Christian leader saying to his crowd, “we hate the President and he’s not welcome here” (like some have) or “that brother is not worthy because he has made a mistake in his life” (like some have) or in this case, “because he used the n-word, he’s not welcome here” (but then in private offices, throw around the word like it’s a football behind closed doors).

For the record, I believe Donald Sterling should been banned from the NBA, lose his franchise and be satisfied as a spectator and celebrate a sizable profit he has made from an initial purchase of $12 million dollars to the sale at over $2 billion dollars. His remarks, conduct, vile statements, etc. demand that he should be withdrawn from the NBA.

But never from the house of the Lord. It is there that he will find others who have had their issues in this life.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED

My Resolve

Thisevening

54

IMG_8271by Robert Earl Houston

In just a few hours, Lord willing, I will be celebrating my 54th birthday. It seems like the time has just raced by so swiftly. I don’t feel 54, whatever it’s supposed to feel like, but I’m celebrating 54. Ironically, it will be one year from the day that I received the diagnosis that I had cancer (melanoma) or as my brother, Dr. Bernard J. Sutton rephrased it “an infirmity.”

Much has happened over the course of my life. Unfortunately very few people can look back over their life and say “I’ve never had a problem or trouble or heartaches or pain” – I number in the former and not the latter. Life has not been a “crystal stair,” it’s been like a mountain railroad. There are ten things that I’ve learned on this journey that I want to share with you:

1.  God will provide. I have gone through the “had it all” and “lost it all” stage. In the midst of that turbulent season of storms, when I talked to the Lord after crying, sitting in an empty apartment with no furniture what to speak of and only the clothes on my back, God said (and I heard Him audibly say) “trust me.” I did not realize that what I thought was a mine field, God was using it as basic training for me to prepare for the next season in my life. In this season, it has been the most loving, rewarding and fulfilling season in my life, thanks to The Provider.

2.  Loved Ones start transitioning. I cannot remember a period in my life where death has been invading the ranks of those I have loved, admired, celebrated and fellowshipped with. In this recent season, I’ve seen my father in the ministry, my father-in-law, two dear brothers of ministry, mentors, friends, church members and those who poured into my life leave from these shores to a home “over there.” In my middle 50s, I suspect I will see many of those who mean much to me leave from here. But thankfully most of those in that list are saved through the blood of Jesus Christ. In the words of a friend, “people are dying now who have never died before.”

3.  Relationships mean much. As a pastor in my middle 50s, I’m not seeking fame or fortune. I think I’ve already been through that stage and found out that once you get on the star there is a plethora of preachers who want to take your place. In my distant future, I’m preparing to move out of the way for some emerging younger pastors and preachers to make their presence known. This year, I’m retiring (due to tenure) as President of the Kentucky State Convention of the PNBC. I’ve already laid down the mantle as Secretary of the Frankfort/Franklin County Ministerial Association. There will come a time when I will retire as Chairman of the Publishing Board of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky. I’ve retired as Webmaster of the Progressive National Baptist Convention (and I probably had just cause to do it much, much sooner). I intend to wear convention affiliation like a loose garment and spend more time with those who mean much to me through the avenue of relationships.

4.  Live life. I think one of the major points I learned from Dr. A. Louis Patterson before the Lord took him home was his joy in living. It was rare to see Dr. Pat with a sour demeanor or disposition (to my knowledge, I have never personally seen it). I was to live joyously. Yes, laugh. Yes, joke. Yes, travel with my bride. See things and places I’ve never seen before, take up a hobby (I still want to learn how to play an acoustic guitar). I’ve never had a formal piano lesson, and that’s on the bucket list as well. But most importantly, I want to go to bed with a smile on my face and wake up in the sam manner.

5.  Pass on a legacy. I want to take what God has given to me and put it in the hands of faithful believers who will pass it on accordingly. I think I have two more books in my spirit.  Before I die I want to share, build up and encourage someone else. I’m proud of my wife, my sisters, my mom, my aunt, my relatives, and those preachers who have adopted me as a pastoral father figure or mentor. I want to have a Paul, Timothy and Titus in my life – someone I can learn from, someone I can consider as a colleague, and someone I can mentor. I’ve been threatening to, many years from now, after I retire (many, many years from now), to join his church as a heckler (smile). But really, in older age, all I want to do is help someone else up the hill.

Looking forward to tomorrow, if the Lord wills, to see 54.

Dear Pastor . . . . . Disconnect

by Robert Earl Houston

I am a Star Trek fan. Been one since the days of the original Star Trek – Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Lt. Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Lt. Commander Scott, Ensign Chekov, and Lt. Sulu.  That show gave us a glimpse into the future. It was a hopeful and optimistic view of the future.

I noticed something in watching some recent episodes. The crew kept on their paraphernalia when they were on duty. Most of them had hand communicators but a couple of them, Lt. Uhura and Mr. Spock in particular wore wireless communicators that were placed on the ear and in the ear canal. 

Sounds a lot like today’s wireless bluetooth headphones. In many states, it is now illegal to operate a cell phone while driving an automobile. So many of our cars are now equipped with wireless bluetooth speakers and microphones built within the car. It’s an amazing technological marvel.

But I am wondering something – brother and sister in ministry – are we so connected that we can’t do without a cell phone connection for even a few minutes? I’ve been to churches, associations, conventions, conferences, and for some odd reason some of us sit in worship, sit in the pulpit, in some cases participate in the pulpit worship service, and now in some cases, preach while connected to a cell phone, with a “communicator” hanging out of the ear.

Are we really that busy? If we tell our people to do, as the song says, “Just forget about yourself and concentrate on Him, and worship Him . . .” Is it not reasonable to sing that song while you’re still connected by earpiece or worst yet, continually texting others not about the worship, but other things not related to worship.

The Presidents of the United States of America, to my memory, have never used, in public during events and speeches, ear pieces. And I know that we have a calling from on high – but I don’t believe any of us are connected to the Heavenlies via phone.

To me, it is disturbing to see the “worship leader” or “the minister in charge” with a bluetooth device clinched against their ear. It is disturbing to watch a minister’s voice get louder because he or she’s volume is diminished because of the bluetooth device covering one ear completely.  It almost looks like a later iteration of Star Trek – the Borg.  It says to me that either I don’t have your full attention or that God doesn’t have your full attention.

I think the time has come that we need to just step back, take a deep breath, and disconnect. Even if it’s just for an hour – from all that would remove our attention from the Lord. Can you imagine seeing your minister or yourself communicate the truths of the Word of God and then all of a sudden a telephone call comes in and he or she stops the sermon to talk with Cousin June-Bug? It sounds laughable but I’ve seen ministers with ear pieces inserted get a phone call and fumble with their cell phones to turn it off.

A few moments of silence and concentration may produce a view of something that we may be missing – the Glory of God.

A last comment: the night that First Baptist Church of Frankfort, KY called me, I was in a funeral service with my pastor in Nashville, Tennessee. The phone was on vibrate and my pastor looked at me and said “Don’t do it. It will wait until after service.” He was absolutely right. Although the phone message was important, my ministry to a family that was bereaved outweighed my personal desire to be “connected” via the phone.

In the words of the late Dr. T.L. Lewis – “A word to the wise is sufficient . . .”

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.

Unexcited in an Exciting Time

10273116_10152039688617045_1785484556658416024_oby Robert Earl Houston

Why aren’t I excited?

In the history of African-American baptists this is the closest thing to a Super Bowl – the changing of the guard in all four major conventions within a short period of time.

This year, there are contested elections in the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. and the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. will be electing a new chieftain, apparently without any opposition. And the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America will soon begin their process of elections within the next few months.

I should be giddy; I should be interested and involved; I should be watching with great interest.

So, why aren’t I excited?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the paradigm of our National Conventions are in great need of prayerful examination. Little has changed since the historic NBC/NBCA split of 1915. Basically the same structures are in place: There are women missionary unions (which are dying all over the country in favor of “women ministries” or localized names for ministries for the women); Most churches have some type of men’s work, but on a national level, it’s dying. Oddly, the largest auxiliaries in most of our churches, music ministry, are largely ignored in most of the conventions.

In most of the conventions, the Presidency is held by, what I believe, are godly men who love the Lord. However, they are shepherding conventions that are not stuck because of the infusion of new leadership, they are stuck because the constituency is just not there.

Let’s look at it. In order to be a participating member, the average convention will ask for at least $1,000 of annual representation. However, to get to the convention, with airfare ridiculously high and hotels that are making major profits for a room that, if you go to the convention to be active as a delegate you won’t spend more than 8 hours in the room. If the room is $200 per night, that means you are paying $25 per hour to stay in that said room (8 hours) – or consider it like this – you are paying the hotelier $8.50 per hour NOT to stay in your room.

Airfares are ridiculously high. All of the national conventions are losing members in the Western United States because of the $500-$800 round trip airfare to fly from Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Oakland, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, Orange County, etc. to go to the Midwest and Southern United States where most of our national meetings are held.

Many pastors struggle with asking a congregation to send them to the convention under these uncertain financial times.  In this age of technology, is there really a need for a “Board Meeting?”  In these times, is it really necessary to conduct business like we’re stuck in 1915. Why do we need a board of over 50 people to decide the work of a convention? Why is it that when you come to a convention you’ll hear either preachers who are not affiliated with your convention (which means there is a loss of support) or it’s the same one or two preachers who preach every year?

I told a joke once about a Board Meeting where a national president was presiding to make out a program. He said, “XYZ, do you want to preach?” the minister responded: “Yes sir, brother president.” “ABC, do you want to preach?” the minister responded: “Yes sir, brother president.” “DEF, do you want to preach?” the minister responded: “Yes sir, brother president.” “All right, we have made out our program, the Lord is pleased.”

I’m not sure.

What has happened to our conventions? I think we need to look at a few things:

a.  Conferences are killing the conventions. Whether it’s a preaching conference or a family conference (i.e., MegaFest) – they are now being populated by the same folk that used to go to National Baptist Conventions. I went to the Pastors’ Conference sponsored by Bishop T.D. Jakes, and I ran into so many PNBC, NMBCA, NBCA, and NBCUSA pastors, that I’ve served with for years. The same is to be said of the preaching conferences that EQUIP pastors to do their most vital task – preach the word.

b.  Conventions are no longer THE PLACE to hear great, challenging preaching. Before the advent of YouTube, you HAD TO go to the Conventions to hear the best in black preaching. Very few ministers were on or could afford national TV exposure in that day – so if you wanted to hear Caeser A.W. Clark, E.K. Bailey, E. Edward Jones, Stephen Thurston, Melvin Wade, P.S. Wilkerson, John H. Jackson, Gardner Taylor, and others – you had to go to the Conventions. But now, I can hear Freddie Haynes in the privacy of my church office. I can hear Paul Sylvester Morton while I’m flying on an airplane. I can hear Charles Booth via CD or DVD. Our greatest preachers are not being heard when you come to the Convention. Why is that???

c.  Conventions are burning out those who support it. I’ve been in conventions since my pastor, the late Dr. A. Bernard Devers, MADE ME go to the Convention and I went to NBCA meetings in Denver and San Francisco. I’ve had the privilege of working on the staff of several national presidents and conventions. Even on a conference or two. But you begin to notice something: the workers aren’t coming back.  When I grew up in NBCA, the Secretaries served for 20, 30, 40 years. The staff rarely, if ever, changed. Younger pastors manned the Secretary tables or were brought along and mentored in areas of the convention that interested them. But now, there is such a change because new presidents supply new staffers – and the old staffers stay home.

d.  This is going to be painful – but we don’t need all of these Conventions and Congresses. We really don’t. We have, as of this writing, four major Black African-American Baptist Conventions, not counting those who are in Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, the Global United Fellowship, Free Will Baptists, etc. We are stretched way too thin. By the time you have a District Association and Congress/Institute, a State Convention and Congress/Institute, a Regional Convention and Congress/Institute, a National Convention and Congress/Institute – you have financially tapped out your resources by giving to EIGHT DIFFERENT GROUPS. Most churches are cutting back or eliminating their participation not because they don’t recognize the historical significance of the convention, but literally the toll financially is too high.

e.  The Presidential elections are depressing instead of exciting. I was from an era when Presidents rarely changed. It provided stability. However, there is, in my opinion, a spirit of rebellion that has permeated our elections. If Candidate A wins, Candidate B and all of his people stop supporting. It’s like winning a boxing match, but you lose some of your teeth and your eye. You can still function, but not look you could have. The personal attacks on leaders is so out of bounds. Run for the office, not trying to kill the person in office with slander and innuendo. This era of suggestion, innuendo . . . The Tea Party could be given a run for it’s money by how we conduct elections. Someone once said it takes about $100,000.00 to run for President of a convention. I don’t mind an election, as long as we remember that we’re brothers and sisters from the same cloth.

So what can be done to engender my enthusiasm or the enthusiasm of those like me? I’m not sure. But in economic times like these, some consolidation should be on the table. The world will not end if a Board Meeting were cancelled. The world would not end if two conventions could reunite (my personal plea for this would be the National Baptist Convention of America and National Missionary Baptist Convention). The world will not end if we pooled our resources for a named objective (i.e., Resurrection of Bishop College). The world will not end if we could look at the dias and see Vice Presidents or Presidents under 60 years old or General Secretaries in their 30s and 40s. The world will not end if we took advantage of the rapidly changing technologies and instead of going to the convention, let the convention come to you.

The world will not end if all of the conventions gave directly to Lott Carey and let that group manage our monies for missions. The world will not end if a Board of Directors were only 7 people strong instead of 100 people weak. The world will not end if the Pastor’s Conference went from preaching at me to teaching me techniques of how to preach when I get home. The world not end if we stop the parade of vendors who tell trinkets and bring in vendors who sell resources.

The world will not end if the Conventions went regionals and held group meetings every 2 or 4 years nationally. The world will not end if the Convention elected a Chief Operating Officer or some one well versed in Administration to run the conventions between meetings. The world will not end if a Convention made a bold move and held its annual session or board meeting on a cruise ship . The world would not end if it was completely electronic and we dispensed with the lanyards in favor of wrist bands. The world will not end if the President doesn’t speak every year. The world will not end if the Convention reached out to the West Coast and the Northeast Coast, instead of ignoring them. The world will not end if the Convention hired several psychologists and counselors and created a “safe space” for pastors and/or their wives to go for some type of private counseling.

Oh well, I could dream . . .

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED

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.

THE WIRE

by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

About life, preaching, church, books, and other stuff.

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