Join us for the first NeXT Level Ministers Conference, November 10-12, 2016. To register online: http://www.planetreg.com/E1228163114157912
For almost 40 years of ministry, I have been genuinely concerned about those who surrender to the call of ministry. I’ve been fortunate throughout the years to pastor and mentor many who serve today as Pastors, Associates, Staff Ministers, etc., who all began in the learning/apprentice role.
In the words of one of the old hymns of the church, “To serve this present age / My calling to fulfill / O, May it all my powers engage / To do my Master’s will.” The call of the Lord is a call to prepare to equip yourself. This intensive workshop will help you to become the Minister that God can be proud of and pleased with.
It is our privilege to welcome your participation in the first NeXT Level Ministers Institute. Our goal is to Train Tomorrow’s Leaders Today! It is targeted specifically toward those who are not Senior Pastors – but serve in support roles and/or have aspirations for pastoral and support ministries. However, we welcome and encourage the attendance and support of senior pastors.
You will be exposed to some of the great minds of our Commonwealth – Dr. Kilen K. Gray, Rev. David Wallace, Rev. Timothy E. Findley, Jr., Dr. Hershael W. York, Rev. Daniel Corrie Shull, Rev. Stewart Titus Peoples, Rev. Terry & Elder Bridgette Jones – all in an effort to make sure that YOU are PREPARED for the challenges of THIS and FUTURE GENERATIONS. I look forward to seeing you in Frankfort! Make Your Reservations today!
+Pastor Robert Earl Houston
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Pastor Robert Earl Houston’s first solo book, “See You In The Morning” is NOW AVAILABLE. The book is just $10.00 with an additional $2.99 for shipping.
Some comments from readers . . .
“I couldn’t put this book down . . . I stayed up all night and I was so blessed by this . . .”
“I recently lost my father and this book helped me put things into perspective.”
“Good job! I hope you will publish another edition!”
“Pastor Houston, I’ve been a fan of yours since your San Diego days and to read this book, I could imagine seeing you preach this! I think this book should be at some seminaries to help students learn how to minister to the bereaved with hope.”
All books are available for purchase through the Paypal Payment Gateway, which means that you can purchase your book using your favorite debit/charge card and it is a secure payment gateway – MasterCard, Visa, Maestro, American Express, Discover and Electronic Check.
by Robert Earl Houston
I want to lift up the names of preachers who have made an impact in my life. This is part one of a series. These are not in any particular order . . .
DR. E.V. HILL, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Dr. Hill was one of my favorite pictures. He was one of the first black preachers on national television and his sermons were profound yet simple; elegant but practical. He preached for our state convention, the General Baptist Convention of the Northwest, for several years:
DR. DONALD LEE PARSON, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – The first time I heard Dr. Parson, he was the guest evangelist for my home church in Portland, Oregon and from that first night, I was hooked. What a tremendous preacher and even now, some 35 years later, Dr. Parson remains not only a mentor, but a friend.
DR. ROBERT H. WILSON, SR., DALLAS, TEXAS – If you grew up in the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., you had to know and meet Dr. Bob – Dr. Robt. H. Wilson, Sr., who brought the Foreign Mission Board into the millions of dollars of donations and was one of the premier preachers. Impeccably dressed, he was the style standard for many young pastors and preachers.
DR. E. EDWARD JONES, II, SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA – I was a child when I first heard “The Tall Angel” Dr. Jones. I still remember his sermon “A Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and to hear him and know him was a privilege. He remembers everyone by name (still don’t know how he does it) and don’t let him snap those suspenders while preaching…
BISHOP T.D. JAKES, DALLAS, TEXAS – Bishop Jakes has changed black preaching forever. What E.K. Bailey did for expository preaching, Bishop Jakes has done for a new style of preaching that mixes expository, extemporaneous and exegetical into a perfect blend of style and soul.
DR. A. LOUIS PATTERSON, HOUSTON, TEXAS – I am a sold-out A. Louis Patterson fan. Whenever he’s in the area, I make it my business to hear the Prince of Preachers. I remember the first time I heard him, I was mesmerized by his theology and vocabulary skills. I met him personally when I served as his Facilitator during the Bishop College L.K. Williams Ministers Institute in his class on preaching. I’ve never been the same.
DR. R.A. WILLIAMS, JR., LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – What I am as an expository preacher is the “fault” of this preacher. Dr. Williams, who I knew as a teenager, took preaching to a new level, mixed it with whooping (and he was the first to be non-apologetic for the craft) and blew my mind. For many years in Portland, at the St. Mark Baptist Church, he was the preacher we wanted to hear in Revival.
DR. E.K. BAILEY, DALLAS, TEXAS – Dr. Bailey and I met in Portland, Oregon when he did revivals at the Morning Star Baptist Church and I went to the early years of his conference in Dallas (I plan to return soon). He embraced me as a young pastor and every time we ran into each other, he always wanted to know how was I doing. I was with him at the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America shortly before his passing and a picture of him and I is one of my most precious photographs. He is responsible for black expository preaching being the standard.
DR. MELVIN VON WADE, SR., LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Another one of the preachers that Dr. E.C. Wilder brought to Portland, Oregon. Manuscript Preachers love Melvin Wade because he has taught us that you can be expository, lyrical and poetic at the same time and still preach from a manuscript.
DR. GARDNER CALVIN TAYLOR, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK – In my mind, no list is complete without the Dean of Preachers. I’ve met Dr. Taylor on several occasions and he is one of the greatest black preachers to have ever walked in the land. From his humble Louisiana roots – he never personified New York preaching, he created it; he set the standard for preaching and humility as a way to climb high. I’m glad that he saw his dream in Nashville – all four of the major National Baptist conventions come together not once, but once again in Atlanta.
FRANKFORT, KY – The finishing touches are being added to a new book authored by Pastor Robert Earl Houston which will be released in April 2013. The book, “See You In The Morning: Messages of Comfort and Hope for the Bereaved,” is a great collection of messages authored by Pastor Houston.
In this book, published under the imprint of hD Christian Publishers, this 100 page read will strengthen your confidence in the Lord’s word and promises, make you laugh, make you cry, and make you not only heal from the passages of time, but encourage you to look to a future with the Lord in eternity.
Please go to http://www.roberthouston.org for updates on the book and we are proud to announce that the book will be carried via Amazon.com and will be on Kindle and iBooks through Apple. A special will be ran on http://www.roberthouston.org for autographed copies.
The foreward writer is Pastor Darron LaMonte Edwards, Sr., pastor of the United Believers Community Church of Kansas City, Missouri.
Pastor Houston is the 17th senior pastor of the First Baptist Church, Frankfort, KY and serves in various denominational venues as President, Kentucky State Convention of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; Chairman of the Publishing Board, General Association of Baptists in Kentucky; Board Member and Webmaster, Progressive National Baptist Convention; and has served congregations in Portland, Oregon, Fresno, California, San Diego, California and Nashville, Tennessee. He is a member of the Gospel Music Workshop of America and the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. He is the husband of Jessica G. Houston and they reside in Frankfort, the state capitol.
Rev. Herbert Stroman, Houston, Texas, pastor of Christian Hope Baptist Church for fifty-six (56) years, crossed the threshold of labor to reward, on Monday, March 18, 2013. Memorial services were held Friday, March 22, 7-9 p.m. with visitation beginning at 6 p.m. Funeral, Saturday, March 23, 11 a.m. All services at Christian Hope Baptist Church, 3418 Anita St. Houston. Burial, Houston Memorial Gardens.
From the church’s web site:
Pastor Stroman is orginally from Brazoria, Texas. He is a true man of God, with many attributes. Pastor Stroman is an exceptional preacher, teacher, counselor, husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend, who is always willing to help and ready to serve..
He served in the United States Armed Forces, after fifteen months in the service he was promoted to staff sergeant. This experience began his incomparable career in leadership. Rev. Stroman attended Union Theological Seminary, in Houston, Texas as also attended theological school at Bishop College in Dallas, Texas.
Pastor Stroman is a man called by God to preach the Gospel of Christ. In 1957, Rev. Stroman was called to Christian Hope Baptist Church, in the Third Ward section of Houston, Texas. He accepted the task on the 7th of January, at that time was a second Sunday.
In January 2011, Rev. Herbert Stroman has served as the pastor of Christian Hope Baptist Church for 54 years. God’s grace has allowed Pastor Stroman to license thirty-eight (38) ministers (“Sons in the Ministry”). Pastor Stroman has said so many times that he prayed to the Lord for a church in Third Ward, and the rest is history.
Pastor Stroman once served as Vice President in the Ministers Conference of the Independent Missionary Baptist General Association. He has also served on the Board of Finance for the National Baptist Convention of America.
by Robert Earl Houston
Enough is enough! I’m writing today to express my convictions and enthusiastic support of my decision, made some 37 years ago plus to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior through a Baptist Church.
Nowadays, we’ve been the brunt of jokes, accusations, lies, hating, and really it’s ironic because in spite of some perceived and yes, some cases, real faults, the Baptist Church, especially the black Baptist Church, has continued to serve God while serving humanity. In every major city, there is a Baptist Church. In every small town, there is a Baptist Church. My goal in writing this blog post is to pen an opus to the Baptist Church.
The Baptist Church evolved historically from the loins of the Reformation, Martin Luther’s confession, King Henry VIII’s split from the Catholic Church, and in this nation, the U.S.A., has thrived through the years, even in the midst of history making controversy, separation and divide. We may not be all in the same denominational home, but there is very little that separates us doctrinally. To be honest, the Black Baptist Church denominationally has NEVER split over theology. We’ve split over power, publishing boards and position – but never over theology.
We all believe in the Bible as the inspired word of God. We all believe in the Articles of Faith. We all believe in the priesthood of the believer. We all believe in being led by the Holy Spirit. We all believe in the autonomy of the local church. And on and on and on. The Black Baptist Church were the “holy rollers” of yesteryear; The sponsors of higher education institutions; The front line spokemen of the Civil Rights era and even today important voices in the movement; The largest landowner of church buildings within our race; Entrepreneurs in our communities; Day care owners and operators; and the greatest benevolent endowment for African-Americans before, during and after the Welfare system.
Our preachers are prophetic and practical; Trained and Spiritual; Evangelistic and Personable. We are the first called to the scene of tragedy, we were the first called to the scene of community unrest and we’re looked to as role models within our communities. We are there at births, there at weddings, there at funerals, and community events.
Within our pews are professionals, day-skilled laborers, blue collar workers, white collar workers, the gainfully employed and they sit along side of those on Welfare, those who are seeking employment, those who have lost their jobs, lost their families, seeking direction, dealing with psychological and substance abuse issues – and yet these two extremes are always welcome at the Lord’s house and are inter-dependent one upon another.
The Word of God is not our sidelight, it is our main focus. We don’t chase theological rabbits and we’re not seeking the next mystical unicorn. Although our order of worship varies from pulpit to pulpit, one message resonates every Sunday morning, “He died . . . and then early Sunday morning, He got up with all power in His Hand.” It is effective whether it is preached, shouted, whooped, lectured or taught.
We refuse to say we don’t have as much Holy Ghost as others, in their arrogance, seem to suggest. We are spiritual men and women, boys and girls, who have accepted the fullness of the godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and we recognize the only manual for our faith and practice is the Word of God.
We called each other Pastor, Brother, Sister not in disrespect, but in a familial sense because we call our churches our “church home.” We musically don’t sit on the back row – Baptists have produced Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, Kirk Franklin, and for years supported artists and quartets who were welcomed into our churches when the Convention Centers, Arenas and Performing Arts centers were off limit to negroes.
Our worship varies – some of us sing reverently and some sing “full blast.” We’ve been known to sing, jump, run, flip benches, cry, weep, shout, and then have our moments of silent reflections.
I am proud of my baptist heritage. I’m glad to be in the line that produced the National Baptist Convention, Inc., the National Baptist Convention of America, International; the Progressive National Baptist Convention; the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America; the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International; We have branches of Baptist Churches which include Free Will, Regular Baptist Churches, and the like. We were the root of several pentecostal movements, of which we don’t condone attack because we are brothers and sisters in the Lord.
It was in the Baptist Church that I spoke publicly for the first time, sang for the first time, ushered for the first time, preached for the first time, played an instrument publicly for the first time. There are sons and daughters of the church who have gone on to other denominational homes, but they will tell you quickly, they had their start in the Baptist Church.Entertainers, athletes, judges, politicians and others will tell you of their genesis in the Baptist Church.
Finally, we have a rich worship heritage that runs from quiet to loud and we have produced some of the most prolific and practical preaching in the world. Our preachers have set the standard for preaching. I can point at an E.V. Hill, E.K. Bailey, Joseph Harrison Jackson, Gardner Taylor, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, Donald Lee Parson, Jasper Williams, the Wade Family, R.A. Williams, Jr., The Thurston Family, The Sampson brothers, Mack King Carter, C.L. Franklin, the Evans brothers, Robert H. Wilson, Paul Sylvester Morton, O.B. Williams, Adam Clayton Powell, J. Andrew Boles, Kenneth Ulmer, Freddie Dunn, Earl Pleasant, Timothy Winters, S.M. Lockridge, William Augustus Jones, Bernard Black, Robert Smith, Carl Anderson, Warren Stewart, C.E. Williams, and other names of the past and present and then point to the promise of the future in preachers like H.B. Charles, Jr., E. Dewey Smith, James Walter Hills, II, Kevin Wayne Cosby, F. Bruce Williams, Freddie Haynes, and others who will be heard on platforms, pulpits and convention centers – both male and female, and television sets in the future. I don’t know where I’ll fit in history, but I don’t preach for fame, I preach to fulfill my calling.
Our worship rings in the major cities and can stop passer-bys on the sidewalk. Our preachers’ voices ring through the desolate areas of the deep, rural south. Our pulpits are made of glass, steel, and sometimes, homemade wood. Our baptismal fonts are grand modern designs or the nearest creek or riverbed.
I just want to give a shout out to the baptist church. The church I currently pastor is 180 years old which means that before the end of slavery, a baptist church in this community heralded freedom. This church fought, all the way to the State Supreme Court, unjust redlining when African-Americans were not “acceptable” in the downtown area. Our pews are reminders of the spilled blood of our mothers and fathers who believed that “a change is gonna come.”
We’ve built churches, fellowship halls, classrooms, daycare facilities, ball parks, discipleship training facilities on our own and corporately we have been schools, publishing houses, and much, much more. We don’t make a lot of noise about it, because we don’t judge our relationship with God in comparison with our buildings, net work and bottom lines. We base our relationship with God in light of our fellowship, followship and acceptance of Him.
This is not a rant against any other denomination. It’s an appreciation of the rich history and heritage we as baptists share. I’m proud to be a baptist born, a baptist bred and when I die, I’ll be a baptist dead.
I welcome your comments . . .
The homegoing services have been announced for the Reverend Dr. Spurgeon Eugene Crayton, the retired pastor of Mt. Ollie Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York.
The Family as released the following information:
Thank you everyone for reaching out during this time.
Here are the arrangements for our father’s services:
Rev. Dr. Spurgeon Eugene Crayton
Sunday, March 24, 2013
3 PM – 9 PM
Holy Trinity Baptist Church
300 Albany Ave.
Amityville, NY 11701
Monday, March 25, 2013
Holy Trinity Baptist Church
300 Albany Ave.
Amityville, NY 11701
National Calverton Cemetary (final confirmation TBD)
Sampson Funeral Services
601 Pitkin Ave Brooklyn, NY 11208
Information courtesy of Bishop Andy C. Lewter:
|Watch the Homegoing Service of
Dr. Spurgeon Crayton “LIVE”
From the Mt. Ollie Baptist Church web site:
In April of 1987, Rev. Spurgeon E. Crayton assumed the pastorate of Mt. Ollie Baptist Church. He developed and exhibited a dynamic, creative and innovative ministry that had an impact all over the borough of Brooklyn. Rev. Crayton served as pastor for 21 years and retired as Pastor on Sunday, October 26, 2008.
This is a tribute offered by Rep. Edolphus Towns on the floor of the New York House of Representatives:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor Reverend Spurgeon Eugene Crayton, Pastor, Mount Ollie Baptist Church. Rev. Crayton has dedicated his life to the church and the community of Brooklyn, New York.
The 65-year-old Brownsville pastor is one of the busiest in the city. He conducts as many as fifteen revivals a year, preaching in a style that he describes as a combination of old fashioned flare mixed with contemporary versions of biblical stories. As a specialist in teaching Baptist doctrine, Rev. Crayton has held a variety of posts in the Eastern Baptist Association, representing Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties, and is presently an Area Vice President of the Empire State Baptist Convention, which represents some 500 churches from Niagara Falls to East Hampton.
In addition to his pastoral duties, Rev. Crayton has managed to author several books, including a collection of short stories about his Korean War experiences called “Screams and Protest”, which is used by the public school system. He has also written “God’s Star in the East”, a guide to Baptist congregations, and is working on a third book entitled, “The Black Baptist Church of Today”. Aways a man of action, Rev. Crayton has even found time to write plays, including “Another One Gone” and “The Erudite”.
Through his commitment to work on behalf of the community, this dynamic minister has also served as a charter board member of the Half Way House Rehabilitation Center for Drug Abuse; as a Protestant Chaplain for the Madonna Heights School for Girls, a Catholic School; and is an instructor of English at Central Commercial High School in New York City.
Rev. Crayton’s own words exemplify his extraordinary sensitivity to the needs of God’s people: “We have a lot of dedicated ministers who want not only to be good preachers, but will help fight for social causes for their parishioners. There is a greater interest now on the part of the ministry to understand the religious, political, social, and economic problems of our communities.” He has truly left an indelible mark for all to follow.
Mr. Speaker, please join me in honoring Rev. Spurgeon Eugene Crayton for his valuable contributions to the community of Brooklyn.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rev. Charles H. Bembry was the first associate minister that served in my pastoral ministry. When I was a young, 28 year old pastor in Portland, Oregon, he was the Interim Pastor of Greater St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church upon my arrival. He was a charter member of that congregation which was founded by my father in the ministry, Dr. A. Bernard Devers, I. Below is an edited version of the obituary:
Rev. Bembry was the only child born to the union of Dan Bembry and Georgia Parramore Williams. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Gainesville, Texas. He attended community college for two years and enlisted in the United States Air Force and received an honorable discharge on January 11, 1954.
He relocated to Seattle, Washington and attended Seattle Opportunities Industrialization Center for drafting. He was later employed as a Drafter by Boeing, where he was often recognized for being an advocate for the employees. He was very articulate and not afraid to stand up for what he thought was “right” in the workplace.
He relocated to Portland, Oregon and began working for the Lord. He loved the Lord and was instrumental in the organization of the Greater St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church, which was organized in he and his wife’s home by Dr. A. Bernard Devers, I. He was a charter member and ordained as a Deacon by Pastor Devers. He later confessed his call to the ministry and served as Interim Pastor of the congregation, which honored him with an Appreciation Program for his service, Dr. Robert Earl Houston, pastor. Later, he united and was ordained at the True Vine Misisonary Baptist Church, Dr. Raymon H. Edwards, Sr., pastor.
He was a man with many gifts and talents. He blessed many with his angelic voice and was a member of numerous gospel choirs, groups, ensembles and was a soloist serving at various weddings, funerals, dedications and the list goes on.
Rev. Bembry pastored two congregations – the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church of Pasco, Washington and the Mt. Zion Community Baptist Church of Pendleton, Oregon. He served both congregations dutifully until his retirement. He and his family relocated to Portland, and he united with the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, Dr. A. Wayne Johnson, Pastor.
He had a passion for fishing – whether it was by himself or with family and/or friends. Whenever he could, you could find him on the river banks and lakes. “Chuck,” as he was called, would take annual fishing trips to the Snake River in Richland, Oregon, every summer for over the past 25 years. He was known as “The Captain” because of his knowledge and fishing techniques and led expeditions. He was loved and respected by many.
He was a fisherman and a fisherman of souls. The memories Charles left in our hearts will never be forgotten and will continue to be shared to others as an everlasting gift from him. Charles was loved and respected by many.
Left to cherish his memories are: His loving wife, Gloria Ann Bembry; sons, Shaun Harold Frazier, John Valentino Harold; daughter, Charelle Bembry-Twitty , sons Vincent and Reco Bembry. daughter Regina Bembry (children with Maxine), daughters Sharon Bembry-Darden, Marsha Bembry, son Charles Jr. (children with Della, deceased) daughter Carolina Turner; sons Jerry Overstreet, Lanny Hendrick, Clifton Turner, daughter Wanda Slade deceased, God daughters Diana Lampkin and Tomorrow Pernal, 17 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews, church members and friends.
by Robert Earl Houston
Recently I entered into a discussion on Facebook in regards to ordination. It was a friendly discussion and it has been on my mind for several days. Ordination is one of those “high holy days” in the life of a minister who has surrendered his or her self to the call of the Lord. In most baptist churches, it is one of the few services that can draw together a minister’s past, present and future, and is normally a standing room only affair, depending upon the church and pastor’s level of involvement in the planning.
I was in the early stages of the ordination process in 1984 under my father in the ministry, the late Dr. A. Bernard Devers, I, at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. When his pastorate ended in May of that year, me and my brother in the minister, Rev. Walter Monroe Brown, Jr. shared as Co-Interim Pastors of New Hope until they selected a pastor. I preached on first and third Sundays. Walter preached on second and fourth. We alternated on fifth Sundays and yielded the pulpit (gladly) when candidates were brought in to preach.
In November the church called Dr. Johnny Pack, IV of Texarkana, Arkansas as the pastor and also, upon his recommendation, voted to ordain us as Ministers of the Gospel. Under Dr. Devers, he had given us a catechism of some 900 questions, however, Dr. Pack had a different philosophy about ordination which I share today. You don’t go through the process to obtain knowledge, you go through the process because of what you already know.
I have a few things I want to say to ministers who are beginning their ministry or have their eyes on ordination or may find themselves frustrated because they haven’t been ordained yet:
#1 – Trust Your Pastor. If your pastor doesn’t feel you’re ready for ordination yet, he’s (or she’s) probably on sound ground for doing so. The pastor is like the baseball manager. Every other sport calls their leader a coach, in baseball they are managers. They are called so because of the multiplicity of involvements that they have with the team both on and off the field. The Pastor is the manager of the church and pulpit. He may observe some things in you, in your character, in your potential that you may not see. Give him the necessary space and trust to make the decision about your ordination and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through him when it’s your time.
#2 – Put Ordination in its Perspective. Ordination is not the crowning point of a minister’s life. It’s not the apex. It really is the validation of what has been, what is now, and what will be. Really, you would think that the Ordination should be called the “Licensing” (Baptist nomaclature) because it has the power of saying that this church and pastor believes and authenticates to the world your calling to the gospel ministry. I never worked in the ministry to get ordained. Ordination should not carry that kind of weight in your ministry. Ordination should be the commencement and not the graduation. It should encourage you to continue and not make you retire from your labors.
#3 – Use It Wisely. Here’s what ordination (as to what I’ve been taught) allows you to do. First, it allows you to “handle” the sacred sacraments of the church – communion and baptism. Secondly, it allows you (depending on the state) to officiate at weddings and funerals (in many places, only a letter of authorization from a church is necessary). Back in the day at a funeral, the minister would sign for the interment of the body in some places in the country. Thirdly, it allows you to use (legitimately) the title “Reverend.” It’s a level of legitimacy that shouldn’t be abused.
Don’t abuse the ordination by handling yourself with a degree of disgrace instead of dignity. Don’t abuse the ordination by offering ordination to others as if it’s a prize at a church raffle. Don’t abuse the ordination by becoming caught up into your title instead of your ministry. Don’t abuse the ordination by using it to create dissension in the ranks of other associate ministers. Don’t abuse the ordination by questionable conduct and undue grandeur. Don’t abuse the ordination by preaching liquid sermons that develop starving listeners.
I’ve now been an ordained minister for some 29 years and will be celebrating my 30th year of ordination, Lord willing, next year. A young preacher walked up to the venerable Dr. Gardner Calvin Taylor and said, “Reverend Taylor, what should I as a young preacher be preparing to do with my life?” Dr. Taylor, with the years of ministry written across the lines within his countenance smiled and said . . .
“Live to become an old preacher.”
by Robert Earl Houston
In beginning the process of completing my Internal Revenue Service tax return, I came upon the line that asked for my occupation. Today I’ve been thinking about that over and over and over again – is ministry my calling or is it my vocation?
In 1978 while a student at Multnomah School of the Bible (now Multnomah University), a group of pastoral theology majors (me included) would have out at the local Burgerville, USA restaurant (don’t laugh – they have one of the best hamburgers in the country). Many of the names are a blur but the conversation one day wasn’t. It was in regards to the call of ministry. It was prompted by a tremendous lecture from our professor, the late Dr. Kopp.
A couple of us went on to describe our “call” – how the Lord had spoken either verbally and indirectly into our lives and we had responded to the call by surrendering our lives and life ambitions into the hands of the Lord. I was proud to say that the Lord had “called” me at the tender age of 17 and I felt led to prepare for a lifelong ministry.
Then the conversation took a turn for the worst.
One student said, “I tried being a plumber and the work was too hard, so I decided to go into the ministry . . .”
Then another said, “I was going to pursue a doctoral degree in medicine, but I figured I could make just as much by doing a degree in theology . . .”
And then another yet, “My father and grandfathers are pastor. That’s the ‘family business.'”
Wow . . .
Methinks that with some ministers today, those kind of illustrations are not just theory. Sadly, some ministers go because of talent instead of gifts; oratory instead of pneuma; a business plan instead of vision. Ministry is not a job, it’s a calling. It’s not a vocation, it’s a calling. It’s not something that you study to become, it’s something that you study because you are. Ministry is a calling!
The New Testament bears witness of Jesus calling His disciples (John 6:70 and other references) and that call is continued by Him through the Holy Spirit (Acts 9). There are volunteer workers to support the ministry, there are volunteers that financially support the ministry, but there are no recorded volunteer preachers. You’re either called or your not.
For those of us who are called, ministry is not performance. We don’t seek public affirmation of what the Lord has led us to do or preach. We don’t gauge this week’s sermon by last week’s sermon. We view a “flunk” in preaching as a bump in the road and not the reason for resignation. We view our ministries in terms of seasons instead of years.
I don’t know whatever happened to those guys. But I do know what happened to the one who is writing this blog – he is a minister.
I haven’t written a re-cap in the past two months. This has been a period of transition for me and the people of First Baptist Church.
Transitions are normal in the church. When I was a young pastor in the late 1980s, I used to dread change. I, naively believed, thought that the church was a close-knit, non-changeable unit. However, I have grown to realize that since the church is an organism and not an organization, change is inevitable. Pastors change, Ministers change, Staff changes, and yes, even membership changes – by death, by relocation, by “back sliding” and a plethora of other reasons.
We are in great transition right now due to the relocation of our faithful minister of music, Minister Elijah Griffin and his family. God forever bless him for his faithfulness, loyalty and humility. He not only led our music ministry but he also led our men’s ministry in excellence. He’s hard to replace but God will raise up leadership. We’ve got our men’s ministry in capable hands of Deacon John McIntosh and we’re praying for a Minister of Music (MoM).
Worship leans a lot upon the music presentation, I admit. A good MoM is an asset to the pastor and people of a local church. Right now, I’m having to perform double duty – Senior Pastor and playing organ and keyboard for our music ministry. Temporarily, I’ve suspended our music ministry to just two choirs – The Magnificent Mass Choir and the Men of Praise, until the position is filled. I am eagerly waiting to fulfill this position. Preaching twice a day and playing is a burden.
But let me tell you what the Lord did today . . .
In spite of transition . . .
In spite of the snow . . .
In spite of building under remodeling . . .
In spite of laboring over the affects of a cold . . .
The HOLY SPIRIT came in and made His presence known. Yea, He truly is the comforter!
At 8 a.m., as we watched unexpected snow fall, we had a good 11:00 a.m. service (which will be our televised service next week). Prior to the sermon, Minister Angela Washington ministered to us with “He Was There In the Midst of It All” with the assistance of a music track. She had no idea how that lined up with the morning message. The sermon today was “He’s In the Fire” which is found in Daniel 3. I’m doing a series of sermons about the efficacy of the companionship of the Lord in the various times of our lives. The sermon was from a thought within a sermon I heard from my home church’s pastor, Rev. J. Walter Hills, II, who preached and looked at Jesus being in the fire. That set off the discussion in the sermon. God was kind to the preacher and to the sermon.
At 11 a.m. we had a blessed time in worship. Minister Washington, who has a great connection in leading praise and worship, lead us in “Have Your Way Lord” and “He’s Able.” We then had our fellowship period and welcoming of our guests in worship. We had about 10 visitors in worship today (God be praised) including a couple of families, one of whom were in the area for business reasons. After prayer and during the offering, the Mass Choir sang three songs: “Jesus Will Make Everything All Right,” “If You Ever Needed the Lord” and “Order my Steps.”
I then preached and the Holy Spirit did something awesome. I’m used to (and prefer having) an organ to “help me close” the message melodically. However, today there was no such accompaniment and the Lord blessed. Sometimes I think we rely (as preachers) too much on an organ to determine what makes or breaks a sermon. If the Holy Spirit is not present, you can have the best organist in the country – you can die the death of 1,000 preachers still.
The after-glow of the sermon flowed into the Invitation and then into Communion. One of my members, Deaconess Martha McIntosh started singing “I’m So Glad I’m Here” and the song then moved throughout the congregation – with just a beat of a drum (thank you Christopher Stallings) – and the praises went up, tears were flowing, and no one even realized that there was no organ nor piano. It was “church” in the old-time way.
I welcome your comments below.