Monthly Archives: October, 2012

Why Bother?

Someone asked me today, “Houston, why do you spend the time on your web site? Why do you advertise churches, why do you spend your time sharing what you’ve learned. Isn’t it a waste of time?”


I’ve had a personal or church web site since I was pastoring in Fresno, California – back in the early days of the internet when Prodigy, owned by Sears, was the big kahuna of the day. In the Black Voices chat rooms, I was able to meet and communicate with various pastors across the nation. I wanted to honor the deceased with Homegoing of a Saint. I thought then that there needed to be a resource for African-American baptist preachers to find out about vacant churches, hence the Vacant Church List was started – way, way before the national conventions decided to do something similar.

Then after leaving a church in San Diego, I was able to expand my ministry via the Sermon Sharing Service, (following the advice of Dr. Jim Holley of Detroit, Michigan) and was born afterwards. A few weeks ago, a new incarnation of this site was born and now I have these sites including the work that I’ve done in the past for the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America (which had the FIRST SITE of all the national conventions) and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., of which I presently serve as their webmaster.

But why?

First, African-American pastors need a resource. That will never change and they need a trusted friend to preachers, who view this in light of ministry versus to make a dollar. I haven’t then and I don’t now, charge for a basic listing, because my reward is to see ministers connect with churches. I’m so honored to get that call or email that says, “Pastor Houston, I got this church from your listing and they just called me.”  It’s meaningful and yes, every now and then I’m blessed by a gift of appreciation – and for that I tell the Lord “thank you.”

Secondly, busy pastors need a resource. The Sermon Sharing Service, birthed after being challenged by Dr. Holley, was the first group out there to offer sermons to the general public. Why? Sometimes pastors and preachers hit dry spells. Sometimes, as one brother wrote, his wife was critically ill, they have children, and he works a full-time job and he doesn’t have the opportunity to sit down for hours at a time and research a sermon. The Lord has used it to expand my voice across the nation. One sermon in 50 plus locations a Sunday. To God be the glory.

Thirdly, I started Homegoing of a Saint because I was tired of going to Conventions to find out that friends had died months before. Also, when prominent Caucasian brothers died, they would up in the newspaper and internet, but very few African-American leaders were honored as such. I did this many years ago and it has helped us become more community than competitors. I never will forget how the family of the late Dr. E.V. Hill reached out to me when rumors of Dr. Hill’s demise were going all of the nation – they reached out and asked me to quell the rumors. I sent out an email and immediately the rumors stopped. That showed the power of connection. In the words of a pastor in Fort Worth, TX, “Houston, I pray every day that I don’t make that list…”

So, I hope that helps you understand the rationale.

Transitions Happen

by Robert Earl Houston

FRANKFORT, KY – Today one of our members made her transition from Earth to her Heavenly Home and one of my Deacons’ sister made that same move today. In the last few days Pastors such as Dr. H.L. Hudson, Rev. Lonnie Simon, Dr. William “Bill” Brent, Jr., Rev. Danny Kirk and others locally and across the nation have gone into the couch of nature’s night to awaken upon another shore.

If there is one constant in this life, it is that transitions occur. The ultimate transition is from life unto death (or death unto life, depending upon your perspective). The Bible declares we are just a vapor – here one day and then gone the next. However, no one receives a date of departure – not even gifted and skilled physicians can accurately predict when death shall come. So it is in life – not even gifted preachers and teachers can accurately predict when transitions will occur in life.

When I was a young associate minister, I wanted to pastor in my early 20s. I thought I was ready (silly, wasn’t I?). Only to find out that God’s timetable is very different from mine. I candidated in churches in Pasco, Washington, Seattle, Washington, Pasadena, California – and then God opened a door in my own back yard. That was a transition.

After laboring bi-vocationally, God moved again. I was under consideration by churches across the nation, and then God sent me to the rural part of California – Fresno! That was a transition.

After successfully pastoring there, God moved again. This time, it was to San Diego and all of the time that I was there, God would not allow me to feel comfortable nor “at home.” Neither did I know that God had to take me through a storm to be able to be used in a greater way. But it was a painful transition.

Finally after being in a place of support, comfort and encouragement – Westwood Baptist Church, University Center, God had another transition in store. I had never heard of my church nor of the city prior to coming here. I had only preached in the southwest corner of the state in Paducah and near the border of Clarksville, Tennessee. Matter of fact, I was called by two churches in the same week – one local and First Baptist in Frankfort. The local church was just minutes from my home, located just blocks away from Westwood and right across the street from Tennessee State University. Then I learned that transitions are never for your comfort, they are for the need that God has of you. After praying and fasting, God told me to go to Frankfort. The rest is history.

I say all of this to say to preachers and pastors that transitions come in all forms. Sometimes your assignment is complete. Sometimes your health cannot allow you to serve any longer. Sometimes God has another assignment. Sometimes God may call you home – even unexpectedly. I wish I had a profound answer as to why, but I don’t. What I try to do is serve and serve and serve until the Lord allows to experience transition.

I’m reminded of the transition that was made concerning Pastor Kirk. Here one day and then gone, tragically the next. My pastor, Minister Barton Elliott Harris always says, “the reason why we’re alive is because we have more work to do.”  Pastor Kirk’s labors were done. The assignment that God gave him was completed. Although the circumstances were dramatic, God’s hands have now received a faithful servant.

My father in the ministry, Dr. A.B. Devers, I, took me to dinner one night at Denny’s after church and I’ll never forget it. A dear friend of his had just passed away and he wrote numbers from 0 to 100, and wrote “Where is Death?” Sadly, just about three years ago, Dr. Devers surrendered to the transition and now occupies his heavenly home.

So preacher, what should I do?  Just serve the Lord, serve His people, do the best you can with what you have, serve faithfully, preach every time like it’s your last time, be instant in season and out of season, develop your mind, love on your family, bring your “A” game to the pulpit, don’t fall into lethargic pastoring and preaching, don’t let people talk you out of serving with excellence and love God. Your transition will come.

Whether it’s into your first pastorate – serve where you are with gladness until that transition. Give God your best.
Whether it’s into a new pastorate – serve where you are with gladness until that transition. Give God your best.
Whether it’s into retirement – serve where you are with gladness until that transition. Give God your best.

Or if it’s into that day when you trade off humanity for immortality; when you see He who was dead and is now alive forever more; when you trade in Stacey’s for slippers, Hickey Freeman suits for majestic robes, stetson hats for crowns – serve where you are with gladness until that transition. Give God your best.

Homegoing of a Saint: Rev. Lonnie Simon, Youngstown, Ohio

From WYTV Website:

A well-known and respected Youngstown spiritual leader has passed away.

Reverend Lonnie Simon retired from New Bethel Baptist Church in 1996, after serving the church for more than 30 years. The congregation honored Simon with music earlier this month.

His son, Kenneth, now leads the church.

Simon marched with Doctor Martin Luther King Junior during the Civil Rights movement.

“He is going to be greatly missed in this community. We don’t have or see those types of leaders coming up today. He was born and bred for leadership and his life exhibited that from the time that I’ve known him to the present,” said friend Dee Crawford.

Simon is survived by his wife, Florence.

Homegoing of a Saint – Dr. Henry L. Hudson, Oakland, California

In 1991 I moved from Portland, Oregon to accept the pastorate of Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Fresno, California. I was called there on a Friday evening and I drove overnight to be there on Sunday morning to accept the call of the church and to represent the church at the California Missionary Baptist State Convention.  Dr. S.M. Lockridge was the president and I was formally introduced to my new moderator, Dr. Henry Foster Dean, St. John Missionary Baptist Association, of Stockton, California and he introduced me to his cabinet, including Dr. Henry L. Hudson, pastor of the Williams Chapel Baptist Church of Oakland, California.

On Sunday morning, October 28, 2012, Dr. Hudson, who was the Pastor Emeritus of Williams Chapel after retiring last year, fell ill during the worship service, suffering a heart attack, and went home to be with the Lord. He had served as their pastor for 29 years and was active in the St. John District, California Convention, and the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America.

He and his brother, Dr. J.L. Hudson, pastored significant congregations in Oakland and he was known throughout the community.


10:00 – AM, Friday, November 9, 2012
Williams Chapel Baptist Church
Rev. Kenneth J.L. Anderson, Pastor & Officiant
Dr. J.L. Hudson (his brother) will be preaching the eulogy
1410 10th Avenue Oakland, CA, Alameda 94606
Click Here to view a map.


Public Visitation/Musical will be held November 8th, 2012

Viewing 5:00-7:00 PM
Musical 7:00-9:00 PM.

Burial Location: Mountain View Cemetery Oakland, CA


Homegoing of a Saint – Pastor Danny Kirk

This is from the Fort Worth Telegram – very sad news . . .

FOREST HILL – A longtime Baptist pastor was fatally beaten inside his Forest Hill church Monday morning, and the suspect later died in the back of a patrol car, according to police and MedStar.

Pastor Danny Kirk was apparently inside Greater Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church, 7312 Forest Hill Drive, about 11:15 a.m. when a vehicle crashed into the side of the building.

Police Chief Dan Dennis said they believe the attack on the pastor began in the parking lot of the church, and then moved inside the church, eventually ending in the music room. When officers arrived, they found the man beating Kirk with an electric guitar, Dennis said.

An officer fired his Taser to end the assault, Dennis said. The suspect was placed in the back of a patrol car. When officers later returned to the car, he wasn’t breathing, said MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky.

A janitor was attacked outside the church and was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. A church secretary was also inside the building but locked herself in a storage closet and was not injured, Dennis said.

Authorities have not released the identities of anyone involved. Church members identified Kirk as the pastor.

Paramedics were on the scene Monday afternoon treating multiple grief-stricken patients.

Dennis said that police weren’t yet sure of the motive but that robbery hasn’t been ruled out. He said he they don’t believe that the suspect was a church member but that he might have had family members who are members of the congregation.

Associate minister Claudie Loftin praised Kirk’s leadership at the church.

“He had a hug for everyone,” Loftin said. “If you came in this church, you got a hug, no matter how long the line was. He was a man of honesty and integrity, and he showed it every day.”

Kirk was ordained in 1984 and started the Forest Hill church in 1995, according to the church’s website.

The church has more than 850 members and offers a food pantry, a clothing ministry and a scholarship program for students. Members were planning an expansion, largely due to the leadership of Kirk.

“People wanted to come hear and see him,” youth minister Cleveland Starr said.

The pastor also was a chaplain in the Fort Worth school district.

He grew up in the Central Texas city of Marlin before moving to the Forest Hill area, Starr said.

“He was a faithful man, a religious man, who loved his family,” Starr said. “You could find him at the other church or somewhere nearby. He always had time for everyone.”


Sunday Re-Cap, October 28, 2012 (on Monday, October 29, 2012)

by Robert Earl Houston

The big news today (Sunday) is Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy is slowly creeping up the coastline of the eastern United States after terrorizing the Caribbean. Sandy has dominated the airwaves, thrown our political process on hold, and is on our minds. We’re praying for all those who Sandy will affect – including those of us in Kentucky, who are now (Monday) experiencing high winds and clouds. Should be a very interesting week ahead.

On Sunday, we joined with my home church, Westwood Baptist Church, University Center, Minister Barton Elliot Harris, Senior Pastor, as they celebrated their 90th Church Anniversary. Church was filled to capacity and we were blessed by the Praise and Worship led by Minister Derrick Lamont Smith. A portion of the Magnificent Mass Choir lifted their hearts in praise by singing, “Clap Your Hands” and “Awesome.”  I was introduced by my dear friend, Minister Brian K. Wilkins and preached “Which Way Will You Go?” from 2 Kings 7. The Lord was kind to the preaching moment. We feasted next door at Pearl-Cohn Comprehensive High School immediately after worship and it was a great meal. Thank you Westwood for your hospitality!

Sunday evening, Jessica and I were the guests of Pastor Marvin Neal, Assistant Pastor of Westwood and his lovely wife, Sherri. We were honored to be in their new home and Sherri’s mom, Regina Prude, “cheffed us to death” with an asian combo of chicken, shrimp and beef. We are very proud of what the Lord is doing with the Neals. Praise God for His blessings!

And now, Sports . . .

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for running the table on the Detroit Tigers. It was never a contest, the Tigers were outgunned from game 1 and the Giants looked hungry for the title. Sadly, the city doesn’t know how to celebrate a victory. Rioting is asinine and stupid over a baseball game. SMH . . .

The NFL . . .

Tampa Bay 36, Minnesota 17 – did anyone remind Tampa Bay that they were not supposed to win very much this year?
Chicago 23, Carolina 22 – Here’s my suggestion Cam Newton – try getting traded to Dallas.
Cleveland 7, San Diego 6 – 2 out of 3 for the Browns? A hurricane must be approaching.
Detroit 28, Seattle 24 – Both equally matched teams, but Seattle was outcoached.
Green Bay 24, Jacksonville 15 – GB is on the tracks now. Can they run the table?
Miami 30, NY Jets 9 – What must go wrong for the Jets to put Tebow in?  The Sanchez era is over.
Atlanta 30, Philadelphia 17 – This is Atlanta’s year. Atlanta vs. Green Bay or NY Giants in the Super Bowl?
Pittsburgh 27, Washington 12 – RG3 was impressive, but the Steel Curtain is  . . .  the steel curtain.
New England 45, St. Louis 7 – New England needed a blow-out victory after the last few weeks.
Indianapolis 19, Tennessee 13 – Not a bad game and Andrew Luck needed this one.
Oakland 26, Kansas City 18 – I find the Raiders getting better and good news – they’re in the AFC West.
NY Giants 29, Dallas 24 – Cowboys showed disappointment, then heart, then disappointment. I wonder if that was the hand that Dez Bryant lifted against his mom? Note to Tony Romo: Yards passed are meaningless if you don’t win.
Denver 34, New Orleans 14 – It must be the air up there – many of the home games for the Broncos are affected by their great play and their opponent’s tiredness.
San Francisco at Arizona (Monday Night) – San Francisco by 20.


by Robert Earl Houston

NASHVILLE, TN – Tomorrow morning I will, Lord willing, stand in the pulpit of my adopted home church, Westwood Baptist Church, University Center for the sixth time in the last nine years, to preach their Church Anniversary.

Westwood holds a very special place in my heart. After almost leaving the ministry following an experience in California, pastor Barton Harris and the people of Westwood were used by God to nurse me back to health in a loving, patient and encouraging way.

I was  their guest, thanks to one of their associate ministers, Minister Brian Wilkins, for their Men’s Revival for three days. Upon my arrival, I met Pastor Harris who was actually on his way out of the city to go on holiday with his wife, Carolyn.  I was in the hands of his pastoral team for those days and nights and concluded on Sunday preaching at the 11 a.m. service.

When I arrived back in San Diego, I wrote Pastor Harris a thank you letter and then a few weeks later, he invited me to preach their Church Anniversary in October 2005. I agreed and then he said, “have you ever thought about moving to Nashville?”  I was surprised and certainly that had never entered into my thoughts and he said that he wanted to offer me an Assistant Pastor staff position, with unique duties from other staff.  I told him (it was early September when we talked) we could discuss it when I came there in October, and he said he wanted me in place by the start of their fiscal year, October 1st  – so he flew me out to Nashville and we interviewed.  I was offered the position and two weeks later I moved to Music City.

What an experience it was. I served at his side faithfully – taught Bible Study, Sunday School, Teachers Meeting, Staff Meetings, Director/Musician for the Men of Praise, and other areas – and it was a fresh start, a new beginning, and a learning experience. Westwood wrapped their arms around me and embraced me as one of their own. To this day, my membership remains at Westwood.

I’m looking forward to standing in that sacred place in the morning.  Several members of FBC Frankfort are here now and I’m expecting many more tomorrow.  I’m praying for their traveling graces and arriving mercies.  There will be a lot of hugs, embraces, kind words, and quiet reflections over the people who have meant so much to me in the past and those of whom I serve at present. It’s the perfect storm of love and fellowship.


Swing and a Miss

by Robert Earl Houston

Yesterday Apple Corporation announced the impending release of the iPad Mini. Before I begin this, let me tell you I am an Apple fan, as my members well know. I have an iPad, an iMac, an iPhone, a Mac Mini, an iPod, Apple TV, and a MacBook Pro. I usually get a new Apple product within days, if not the first day, of their release.

But not this time.

I was really disappointed with the iPad Mini, which I will not purchase for myself.
I was really disappointed with the Ipad 4th Generation, which I will not purchase for myself.

Here’s why:

The iPad Mini is not a smaller version of the 3rd or 4th generation iPad. Rather, it’s a scaled down version of the iPad 2 which means there is no retina display – and if you’ve ever held an iPad 3/4 or iPhone 5, you know what I mean. The screen quality is better than most but still not up to par with the Ipad 3/4.  Also, the price point is high. You can get other handheld tablets for around $200 – that includes the Kindle Fire HD and other units. But starting, not ending, at $300 plus is ridiculous and too high.

The iPad 4th Generation . . .  is – dang, I just purchased the 3rd Generation six months ago. If Apple thinks I’m some kind of Apple junkie (please disregard paragraph one) and jump out there and purchase it blindly knowing that there will be an iPad 5th Generation next year – you’re crazy. The only real difference in the 4 from the 3 is the lighting power source and the A6 chip, which is supposed to be twice as fast – I’ll take their word for that, but my iPad is very fast as is.

I considered buying the new iPad notebook, 13″ with the Retina display, however, I’m like a lot of people who are not using laptops anymore. Since the iPad came out, I very rarely use my laptop and I’ve considered selling it and making due with what I have – my desktop and my iPad. Since I’m a pastor let me tell you I type my messages on my iMac and then save them to the cloud on Dropbox and then I access it and preach from my iPad. Notice there was no mention of the laptop.

I went to Texas and didn’t carry my laptop.
I went to Louisville for a couple of days and didn’t carry my laptop.
I went to Cleveland and didn’t carry my laptop.

It’s becoming obsolete. I think Apple should consider making a more memory friendly laptop (with 1 TB or 2 TB) with all the bells and whistles as a replacement for desktop computers and not a supplement. I’m researching their new iMac and that may be a purchase in the next few months, Lord and cash willing.

My purchasing advice:

a.  If I had to choose between the iPad and the iPad Mini – choose the iPad, especially if you’re older and have eye issues.
b.  If I had to choose between replacing a laptop (if it’s old and creaky) – yes, get the new MacBook Pro.
c.  If I had to choose between a late model MacBook Pro and the new one – take a pass, wait until next year or 2014.
d.  If I had to choose between a late model iMac and the new iMac – no decision yet – buyer’s option.
e.  If I had to choose between the iPad 3 and the iPad 4 – stick with the 3 and wait until 2013 for the newest edition.
f.  If I had to choose between the old Mac Mini and the new Mac Mini – yes, get the new Mac Mini.

The Swiss Army Knife Pastor

by Robert Earl Houston

One of my sons in the ministry, Minister Andrae Walker, is becoming a wordsmith. He’s blogging, he’s been concentrating on sharpening his writing and analytical skills. This morning he wrote a tome of appreciation for the Pastors in his life (including his dad) and he called me something I’ve never been called before (and I’ve been called a few things both positive and negative in almost 35 years of ministry).  He called me a “a swiss army knife pastor.

For context, this is what he said:

My last and definitely not least example is my father in the ministry Pastor Robert Earl Houston. He is my Pastor when I accepted my calling to preach God’s word and he is my example today. To have a swiss army knife Pastor is pretty cool. He can preach, sing, teach, dance lol, joke, play dominoes, play the keyboard, play the organ, counsel, Mac savvy, and a down to earth man. One of the main things i love about Pastor is he is an accessible Pastor. Most would say sure all Pastors are, but Pastor Houston really is approachable. I love seeing him laugh and joke because all of his sons and daughters in the ministry laugh and joke. I am truly thankful for a young spirited Pastor. Not everyone has one who can be as down to earth as Pastor Houston. First Baptist Church is blessed to have him as am I…..

After considering what he said, (I’m flattered and thankful for it), I got to thinking about the future of the church, especially the black church, I think this may be the trend of the future, which is actually the trend of the past.  When I came up in ministry, the pastor was “ambidextrous” – he was not only the preaching pastor, but he did pastoring plus – preaching, teaching, some cases he was the musician, the janitor, the bookkeeper, the bulletin clerk, the secretary, and in some cases, the treasurer. Some pastors that I have known were the CEO, COO, CDO (chief of doing other things), etc.

Most pastors (somewhere around 90%) don’t have multiple staffs. They don’t employ trained ministers of music, ministers of education, have a full-time staff. Even at the church that I pastor, at present I’m the only “full-time” employee but there is a staff of wonderful, dedicated people – unfortunately we don’t have (at present) the resources to employee each of them full-time (I wish we could). But we make do and my instincts tell me this is the future for the church and pulpit committees in particular. Calling a minister just because they can whoop and preach is not the future. Calling a minister who can fill many voids is the future.

Being tech savvy in a technological age is a no brainer.
Being music savvy when choirs are being replaced in churches by praise teams is a no brainer.
Being well informed in a world where the 24 hour news cycle has been replaced by “news now” is a no brainer.
Being sensitive to the gifts and talents that God has given you in a world where they are needed is a no brainer.
Being foremost dedicated to the craft of preaching – not just throwing a sermon out there just to “get through another week” is a no brainer.

For those who may read this and you haven’t begun your journey as a pastor, utilize this time and broaden your horizons. Obviously, major in preaching, but develop some “tent making skills” to fall upon in case you come to a church and you’ll have to do more than just preach. Understand economics, learn about budgeting, sit down with pastors and pick their brains, watch the trends of a church, develop an appreciation for music – in other words, bring more to the table than just “. . . early one Sunday morning.”

Many people don’t know that T.D. Jakes is also an accomplished organist.
Many people don’t know that Joel Osteen has a background in television production and marketing.
Many people don’t know that Paul Sylvester Morton has tremendous business acumen.
Many people don’t know that Gardner Calvin Taylor came from a farming background in Louisiana.
Many people don’t know that E. Edward Jones was a school teacher and has an educational background.
And the list goes on . . .

The future of the church is clear. Swiss Army Knife Pastors are on the horizon.


by Robert Earl Houston

Which Romney will you vote for?

Over the past seven years, Willard “Mitt” Romney has been running for President of the United States of America. During all of these years, we have met several incarnations of the same person, culminating in the final Presidential Debate in Boca Raton, Florida last night.

I was not impressed enough to change my vote from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney. Matter of fact, I thought I had 3-D glasses on last night because it looked like there must be more than one Mitt Romney.

During the GOP debates Mitt Romney wanted Hispanics to “self-deport.”
Last night’s Romney was silent on the issue.

During the GOP debates Mitt Romney decried the President’s actions in the Middle East.
Last night’s Romney agreed with them.

During the GOP debates Mitt Romney said it wasn’t right to set a timetable of withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Last night’s Romney agreed with them.

During the GOP debates Mitt Romney agreed with the Congress about sequestration.
Last night’s Romney disagreed with them.

During his term as Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney was pro-choice.
Last night’s Romney is anti-choice and according to his running mate, a woman should have no choice even if she were raped.

It looks like to me that Mitt Romney will say anything or do anything for a vote. That’s not the kind of leadership that people look forward. I learned through the black church if you say something to get a position, you’ll have to say something to keep a position. If you lie to get in, you’ll have to lie to stay in. If you involve yourself in chameleon behavior to get in, you’ll have to continue that behavior to stay in.

I am personally convinced that a President Romney administration would be a disaster. It reminds me of the opening sequences from the movie “Super 8” – the train comes by as normal and then all of a sudden derails with dangerous flames. A President Romney, who is still in a Ronald Reagan cold-war era mentality will guarantee that our nation will be in some form of a needless boots on the ground war by the end of four years, plunging our nation’s recession into a full-fledged depression.

His performance last night wasn’t geared for the base of the GOP party – it was to try to convince the undecided voter that “Mitt Light” tastes great and is less filling. Better said, his performance last night tasted awful and never hit the spot.

After seven years of campaigning, he should have known that this nation is not that stupid. We know that there is a difference in the incarnations of Romney. If it walks like a Romney or talks like a Romney, wait five minutes, it will walk and talk differently.


by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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