181 Plus


Winter at First Baptist Church, 2014.

by Robert Earl Houston

This past Sunday, September 21, 2014, the congregation that I am blessed to serve as their senior pastor, First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky, celebrated another Church Anniversary! 181 years. You read that right – One hundred eighty one years. 

Where I come from on the west coast, it is rare to find a church that is over 100 years of age. But here in Kentucky, it is almost commonplace to find congregations that celebrate over 100 years of existence and a rare handful celebrate over 200 years of existence. I’ve had the honor in recent years to preach yearly at the Historic Pleasant Green Baptist Church, the oldest Black Baptist Church west of the Allegheny River, which is some 233 years old.

First Baptist Church is the result of a split from an integrated worship. Originally whites and blacks worshiped together and one Sunday the leadership of the First Baptist Church at the Singing Bridge decided to expel all of the negroes from their congregation. It was 1833.

After doing some research, I found out that Kentucky’s use of slavery dates from the earliest permanent European settlements in the state. 25% of the residents of Kentucky were slaves up to the Civil War, and most of them resided in the Louisville area and the Bluegrass Region (from Louisville eastward) which was rich with tobacco, hemp and horse farms. In 1831, just two years before the founding of this church, the State Legislature passed new restrictions against owners freeing their slaves.

When 1833 rolled around the Civil War had been in effect for two years. And the response of First Baptist Church was to divest themselves of people of color and hence, First Baptist Church was formed by freedmen and slaves.  The newly formed Church faced adversities from not only residents but also from the elected officials of that day. At the conclusion of the Civll War, about 75% of the slaves in Kentucky were freed or escaped to Union lines during the war. Remember, First Baptist was organized in 1833 and slavery legally ended in Kentucky on December 18, 1865 when some 65,000 Kentuckians became legally emancipated.

The present structure’s construction was a hot-button issue. The City Council of Frankfort refused to grant a permit to tear down the existing house and build a sanctuary. Matter of fact, the City issued arrest warrants for the Contractor and the Board of Trustees for continuing to build without the authority of the city. The matter wound up in court and the state courts issued a landmark opinion that the opposition to First Baptist Church’s construction was not based upon law, but upon prejudice. The church was allowed to continue construction and in 1908 walked into it’s resplendent sanctuary.

As pointed out by Representative Derrick Graham, First Baptist Church has had a storied past and ties to the Frankfort community. During the Civil Rights era, First Baptist Church hosted and/or supported the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Jesse Jackson, and others in the struggle for equality. It has been led by a plethora of church men – 17 from the early days to the current administration.

My friend, Pastor Emmanuel Young, lent me a book – “1868-1968 Centennial Volume: General Association of Kentucky Baptists” and it identifies the impact that First Baptist Church has had denominationally. Several of my predecessors have gone on to serve as Moderators of the Association, Editors of the American Baptist Newspaper (of which I now serve as Chairman of the Board), State Mission Workers, and was one of the first congregations to join the Progressive National Baptist Convention, of which my immediate predecessor, Dr. K.L. Moore, Jr., served as Recording Secretary and Chair of New Pastors.

It’s been a storied rise. But not without its share of heartaches and heartbreaks. No institution stands without some pain on the menu. There have been growth, fall outs, joys, sorrows, growing pains and membership fluctuation. As I remind our church from time to time: Members come and go; Pastors come and go; But God’s Church still stands!

Today, we stand 181 years only a few blocks from where our forefathers and foremothers were told that they were no longer welcome. Today the pastor and I from FBC Singing Bridge are friends, our members work with each other in the workplace and from time to time we worship together in different venues. Today there are several predominately African-American churches in our area of all denominations. Our sister church, the Historic St. John A.M.E. Church stands just a block away and we have a tremendous fellowship throughout the years.  Green Hill Baptist Church, First Corinthian Baptist Church (which is the result of a split from First Baptist) and Macedonia Baptist Church in the Millville area, still stand today, serving alongside as we preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to this community. Not to mention newer congregations that have come on the scene. First Baptist Church still stands.

Today we are a church that embraces both the past and the present while looking forward to the future. My vision for the church is the construction of an Educational Building that will house administrative offices, provide classrooms for generations to come, and will be topped with a gymnasium that will meet the needs of this community. I am believing God that this will come to pass. We love our stately sanctuary and facility and have poured resources into restoring the sanctuary, remodeling restrooms and kitchen, beautifying the fellowship hall, and installing modern fixtures. God is good!

Today we are a church that embraces people. We believe in the redemption of people through the blood of Jesus Christ. We believe in the efficacy of God’s Word. We believe that Preaching and Teaching go hand-in-hand. We believe that worship should be worshipful. We believe that Christian Education is necessary. We believe that our job is not just to be keepers of the legacy but also to create some milestones along the way in this generation.

Happy 181+ years First Baptist Church. Can’t wait to see what the future holds.


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The Catholicism of the Black Baptist Church

10667765_10152494650089335_828875828_oby Robert Earl Houston

Is it just me? 

I’m a history buff. As a child I spent hours watching Masterpiece Theatre at home (my mom was a school teacher) and learned English history. Particularly the Tudor years in England when King Henry VIII, and his children, Edward,  daughter Mary (commonly called “Bloody Mary”) and Elizabeth, ruled the nation.

This biggest controversy of that time was the role of the Catholic Church in England. During that period the Church was growing extensively richer while the nation and its people grew poorer. Also, because of the church’s strict teachings, divorce (which Henry knew well) was not allowed and he and the nation broke away from the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England, of which the King (or Queen) ruled as the supreme leader, taking all authority from the Catholic Church. In addition, a rising up of men, including Martin Luther (a German), had renounced the Catholic Church and thus began the Protestant (protest) movement.

It was supposed to create a buffer between Catholicism and modern Christianity.

But something has gone wrong. And it’s in this era. There is a strange movement that is taking us backwards instead of forward. It almost appears that some in the Body of Christ long for “the good old days” and want us to go back to doing things in a Catholic manner.

For example, the sudden emphasis on hierarchal titles within the black baptist church. Growing up our ministers were called Pastors, Ministers and Liceniates. Now, there is a plethora of titles attached to those who serve as baptist and many of the names are coming from the world of Catholicism.

Even how we address our mail and sign our names has changed. I will not, and I don’t feel comfortable, in signing my name as “The Right Reverend Robert Earl Houston” or “His Grace, The Right and Righetous Robert Earl Houston.” To me, it’s foolishness. It creates an air of supremacy that is neither warranted or deserved.

Many years ago, my state president, Dr. O.B. Williams, taught me about signatures. He never signed any letter or document as “Dr. O.B. Williams” by hand. He always simply wrote: “O.B. Williams.” He told me the title is less important that your name. Your title doesn’t make your name and your name will be long remembered after your title is gone.

Now we have Bishops, Arch-Bishops, Sufferagin Bishops, and many of these ancillary titles are drawn from the Catholic Church. It won’t be long before ring kissing becomes vogue. It won’t be long before denominational leaders will be in Popemobiles accessorized with a Sound System. It won’t be long before we start looking to leaders instead of looking to God for answers. 

I like the reformation that Jesus started. He got it right and He sets the tone for the church today. I believe many of us are sick of the Presidential entourages and titles that make no sense at all in our modern context.  Cardinals are coming. As a Vicors and Metropolitans and Prelates – if we don’t shake ourselves out of this need for peer super authority and get back to our pulpits and communities and preach that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of this world.

Humbly submitted by His grace by the authority of the Bishop in Rome,
The Son of the Church based in Portland and Operating in a Realm in Kentucky, 



Homegoing of a Saint: Rev. Henry E. (H.E.) Baker, Winchester, KY

Pastor, civil rights leader, commissioner Henry E. Baker dies at 92

Family and friends said he will be remembered as a humble leader who loved God and loved people.

Baker began his service to the community in 1955 when he started pastoring at Broadway Baptist Church. He pastored the church for 38 years before retiring in 1993. During this time he raised eight children with his wife, the late Sarah Prentice Baker, and worked as an activist and public official to make historic changes in Clark County.

Baker played a role in the integration of Winchester High School in 1956, and was also a member of the Winchester Advisory Council, where he worked with local officials to solve issues within the schools and the police department.

Baker worked fervently to help members of the African American community find jobs and become first-time homeowners.

In 1979, Baker became the first African American to serve in public office in Clark County, when he was elected as city commissioner. He served as commissioner and vice mayor from 1980 to 1984.

Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner said he’s known Baker since 1981 when he was serving as commissioner and Burtner was hired as city manager. He said the fact that Baker served as vice mayor during one of his terms as commissioner was a testament to how the community felt about him.

“The position of vice mayor is reserved for the person who received the most votes in the election,” Burtner said. “He was a great leader and the community recognized that.”

In 1990 he was nominated for the Smith-Wilson Award for Civil and Human Rights, and in 2000 was inducted into the inaugural class of Kentucky Human Rights Commission Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

Baker, along with Roger Hurst, organized the Winchester-Clark County Christians United Against Drugs, and in 2007 he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Award.

Baker’s son, William Baker, said his father will be remembered for his many accomplishments, but mostly for his dedication to being a servant of God.

“The most important thing to him was bringing people to God,” William said. “Serving God, letting people know about God and saving souls through God, that was so important to him and that’s his biggest accomplishment.”

William said his father wanted to be remembered using Acts 4:13, which says “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

“He wanted his greatest contribution to be as a servant of God,” William said.

William said his father’s work set an example for the African American community.

“I think the impact that he made when he ran for commissioner and was elected was huge,” he said. “It made other African Americans feel that they could accomplish things also through hard work. He was just a leader, but also a humble leader.”

Baker’s leadership and legacy were honored this year when the school for fifth- and sixth-grade students was named in his honor.

The new Henry E. Baker Intermediate School was dedicated Aug. 3 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Baker was able to cut the ribbon himself and Baker Intermediate Principal Josh Mounts said it was an honor to have him participate in the ceremony.

“I’m very happy that he got to be honored prior to his passing,” Mounts said. “He was so excited and thrilled about that, but at the same time he was humbled by it. It’s just a unique situation that you get to dedicate a building to someone while they’re still alive.”

Mounts said he and Assistant Principal Susan Jacobs had the opportunity to meet Baker for the first time when they were invited into William’s home before the dedication of the school.

“I’m not a Winchester native, so going in I had no idea who he was or what his life story was about,” Mounts said. “When we left we were just so proud that the school was named after him. His life story was very powerful and he impacted the lives of a lot of folks in our community.”

Mounts said he feels confident Baker’s legacy will live on with the school.

“We want to talk as a school, but want to continue to honor Mr. Baker’s legacy,” he said. “Hopefully we can establish some sort of award to honor a student at the end of each year to honor his legacy. Hopefully we can come up with some criteria that defines his legacy and select a student or two that exemplify his legacy.”

William said his father was thrilled with the school being named in his honor.

“The school, it shows how much love and respect the community and the people of Winchester and Clark County have for him,” William said. “There’s no way that could have been done without the support that the community gave him. He loved this community. He worked hard for this community, not just for African Americans, but for everyone.”

Mounts said one of the things that stood out to him most about Baker was his love and dedication to his family.

In addition to his eight children, Baker had 27 grandchildren, 47 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

“You’d ask him about his accomplishments and he would always tie it back to his family,” he said. “That theme of family just resinated with everything he said.”

Mounts said Baker’s love for his neighbors will also be remembered.

“I remember he said that people are people,” he said. “No matter what their background or race or upbringing might be, people are people. I think you can definitely sense that with him and his family. There’s sense of a tight knit group that welcomed others in to the family. I think that his legacy will live on within our school and ours students and within the lives of the folks that he touched in his life.”

Burtner said he believes Baker will be remembered as a leader for the entire community.

“He will be remembered for being a leader not just for his church, not just for the African American community, but for all of Winchester,” he said. “He was concerned with fair treatment of all people and was concerned with the well-being of the whole community.”

Funeral arrangements are being handled through Scobee Funeral Home, but were incomplete at press time.

A Brief Word on the Results of the National Convention Elections


Congratulations to the new National Baptist Conventions Presidents



by Robert Earl Houston

After months of campaigning across the nation in various conventions, the Presidential offices of the four major conventions has been filled after spirited campaigning.

Elected to serve are:

Dr. James C. Perkins, pastor of the Greater Christ Baptist Church of Detroit, Michigan was elected as the President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. in their annual session in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Dr. Perkins previously served as the First Vice President and succeeds Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr.

Dr. Samuel Tolbert, pastor of the Greater St. Mary Baptist Church of Lake Charles, Louisiana was elected as the President of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International in their annual Family Fest session in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Tolbert previously served as General Secretary and succeeds Dr. Stephen John Thurston.

Dr. Nehemiah Davis, pastor of the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas was re-elected as the President of the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America in their annual session in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Jerry Young, pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi was elected President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. in their annual session in New Orleans, Louisiana.




Vacant Pulpit: Greater Second Baptist Church, Richmond, Indiana (DEADLINE: September 20, 2014)

Source: American Baptist Newspaper, Louisville, Kentucky

Greater Second Baptist Church
1371 North G Street
Richmond, Indiana 47374

Greater Second Baptist Church is seeking an ordained preacher/teacher to fill the position of pastor. All resumes should be sent to:

Pulpit Committee
c/o Marilyn Givens
1209 N.W. 19th Street
Richmond, Indiana 47374

It’s Not a Vacant Church, It’s a Vacant Pulpit

by Robert Earl Houston

Houston08282013I’ve been producing (at no cost) a list of “vacant churches” for the past 20 years plus. I was inspired to do so by the work of Dr. A.V. “King” Fisher of Fort Worth, Texas, who for years produced a magazine widely read by preachers called “The E.R.R.P. Report.” I found out about the magazine from my pastor, the late Dr. A. Bernard Devers, and it contained a list of “Vacant Churches.” Since the advent of the internet, way before others did so, I had a list of “vacant churches” for the African-American baptist church community. 

I did so to destroy the “old boy” system of placing pastors in pulpit when it was “who you knew” and “who you owed” when getting called to a church. Young pastors would be beholden to older ministers who held “that favor” over their heads for years and years and years. It was a terrible system and I had been exposed to it and didn’t like it and thought there had to be a better way.

I’ve been calling it “vacant churches” for twenty years. Today that stops. 

It’s not a church congregation or building that’s vacant – it is the pulpit. 99.9% of the congregations that I know that go through pastoral transition survive. Yes, sometimes in a tense atmosphere. Yes, sometimes during a season of division, political in-fighting and issues. Yes, sometimes when a clear candidate of the pastorate is before them. And yes, sometimes when there is no suitable pastoral candidate on the horizon.

But the work of the church continues.

Worship services still are held.
Preaching is still being preached.
Listening to preaching is still going on.
Singing is still being performed.
Ushers still usher.

Someone once said to me that a “real church is one that has a pastor.” I beg to differ. I do believe that a church should search prayerfully for a pastor. I also believe that a church without a pastor can still be effective in ministry beyond the borders of the building – working harmoniously together, while waiting for the Holy Spirit to fill the vacancy.

If your church is without a pastor – keep on doing ministry. Occupy yourself with ministry. Try to keep as much as possible. Pray more than you ever have. And the supplier will send someone to fill that vacant pulpit. 

Are We All Supposed to Be Blessed in 7 Days?



by Robert Earl Houston

I am a fan(atic) about preaching. I love preaching and love the art and craft of gospel preaching. My portfolio of favorite preachers crosses denominational lines, age barriers, and gender. I just love great Bible-based preaching.

Preaching is not my issue. What I’m concerned about is that we are making unrealistic prognostications over the pulpit that sound like the Will of God, however, it’s not really in His will.

To be in a room full of believers and then promise them that in 7 days they will all be blessed or in 6 months they’ll all have brand new houses seems to me to be in the realm of preaching malpractice.

To be in a Pastor’s Conference and then promise to every Pastor that when you get home your church is about to “blow up” and that you’re about to move into the national arena seems to me to write a promissory note that cannot be cashed.

To be in a conference and tell the room that when you get back home you’re ministry is going to increase and see things that you’ve never seen before and then you return and get put out, it seems like either the prophet was confused or the hearer confused – I choose the prophet.

In an effort to create empowerment in the body of Christ, some of us have forgotten that “the poor will be with you always.” (Matthew 26:11).  It’s God’s will, yes, that you would prosper as your soul prospers (3 John 1:2) but if you look at most translations of that original text, it’s conjunctive with health and not wealth.

I have been in services and prophesied over and there have been times when the prophesy just flat footed did not come true – by no stretch of the imagination. I’ve become convinced that to speak “thus saith the Lord” without any authorization or authenticity from the Lord is to basically lie on the Lord in order to score spiritual points with a crowd. It may make good television but it does not make good and faithful believers – and it opens a door to doubt causing serious spiritual damage to the one who receives it.

I’m currently preaching through a series on healing but I also am fully aware that as I preach it, all healing is not in my hands nor in my words. God has the final say so. And people still die.  People still get sick. However, I can honestly say that if the Lord wills so, He can heal – and he can heal you with or without the medicine or with eternity.

I vividly remember hearing the story of a minister who had a member come forth during worship, riddled with cancer, and then he prophesied over her and said “in 7 days, God is going to heal you completely.”  She died 5 days later. The minister’s daughter went to him and said, “Daddy, I thought you said that she was going to be healed.”

I think it would be appropriate to stick to the book (The Bible). Encourage yes. Placate no. Offer hope in Christ yes. Offer hope in our words no.  Be authentic yes. Be a showman no.


Vacant Church: First Baptist Church, Columbia, Kentucky (deadline: October 3, 2014)

From the American Baptist Newspaper

The First Baptist Church in Columbia, Kentucky is seeking a minister to pastor our congregation. He must preach and teach sound doctrine, without compromise. He must love the Lord and love all God’s people. The Pulpit Committee will not be responsible for any expenses incurred by a candidate, i.e., all travel and lodging expenses. Resumes and letters of inquiry should be sent by October 3, 2014 to:

First Baptist Church
Pulpit Committee
P.O. Box 956
Columbia, Kentucky 42728

Thank You Mildred Lee Bell


Pastor Robert Earl Houston, First Baptist Church, Frankfort, KY and Pastor Milton E. Chambers, Sr., New Hope Friendship Baptist Church, San Diego, CA

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – For the past 48 hours, I have been in San Diego for the home going services for my dear friend, Sis. Mildred Lee Bell, charter member of the New Hope Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, where I served as their pastor for nine years, from 1995-2004.

I’m here by invitation of her family. Mildred and I were close. Not only was I her pastor, but after going through a horrendous storm of divorce and the aftermath of it affecting the congregation, after my resignation, it severed professional ties, but Mildred would not let me go. We stayed in touch. We had monthly telephone calls where we laughed together, mourned together, and encouraged each other.

When I left here in 2004, I had vowed I would never return. I was hurt, bruised, beaten, and broken of spirit. I had been through hell like I had never experienced nor would I wish on anyone else. When I came to clear out my office, I will never forget the glare of the then chairman of deacons and a member who would go on to become a trustee, who came to the church to watch me pack up my belongings. As I single-handedly packed my belongings into my vehicle, I stood on the final step and shook my foot three times – remembering that scripture found in Matthew 10:12-14. I had shaken the dust from my feet.

It’s hard to fathom that 10 years have gone by since that day in 2004. So many things have happened – the great recession, the election of a black United States President, Wars overseas, domestic problems – and for me personally it has been a journey in the hands of the Lord. I’ve preached as a full-time evangelist, worked for a prominent immigration attorney, served as a Senior Project Manager for an international ministry, served as a full-time assistant pastor in Nashville, married an amazing and supportive woman that has no equal in her love, and now, serving what I believe is the church of my dreams, First Baptist Church, in Frankfort, Kentucky. I’ve been tremendously blessed by the Lord.

Why am I sharing this? Because it is true: Time heals all wounds. I stood in the pulpit for the first time in 10 years to preside at Mildred’s services and I was welcomed by her family with wide open arms, and most, if not all, of my former members, warmly greeted me, hugged my neck, wrapped their arms around me, and even those young people who were small children when I became their pastor (many who I baptized) ran up to me and said “we miss you” and “we still love you.”

It says something that sometimes the biggest obstacle to our healing may be ourselves. Sometimes our perception, right or wrong, of how others feel about you, may be building a wall needlessly. Every pastor has supportive people, those who are on the fence, those who are against – but it’s not our job to be popular – it’s our job to feed the flock, and a grateful flock will respond in kind. The many years that I stood behind that pulpit and labored in the word did not go in vain. Even though circumstances were stormy – the storm is not only over, it’s literally water under a bridge.

I suspect that it took the home going of Mildred to bring us all together. It had a feel of a reunion. How an 87 year old woman could accomplish this is only by the grace of God. The current pastor, Rev. Milton Chambers, preached a classic sermon and he went out of his way to welcome me back to New Hope Friendship. When I arrived, the signage was up and we worked together to make sure that Mildred had the kind of home going service that she deserved. I presided. He preached. And God received all of the glory.

So I’m about to pack my bags and I’m eagerly looking forward to coming home to a beautiful, loving wife and a prayerful and supportive congregation, to continue ministering in the pulpit that the Lord over 5 years ago. But I leave San Diego this time with a smile on my face, joy in my heart, and an appreciation of the healing and reunion that took place this weekend.



by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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