Dear Angry Associate Minister


by Robert Earl Houston

I spent the first and formative years of my ministry under the wise counsel of my father in the ministry, the late Dr. Arthur Bernard Devers, I at the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church of Portland, Oregon. I was called to the ministry in 1977 and preached my first sermon on April 30, 1978.  I was licensed to preach in September 1979 and ordained after serving as co-Interim Pastor in 1984 under the pastorate of Dr. Johnny Pack, IV. I served Pastor Pack and was a charter member of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church from 1987 to my first pastoral call in January 1989. I spent my first 10 years of ministry as an Associate Minister.

During those years, I’ve seen gifted associates who went on to have great pastoral ministries. In my own circle, many of the guys of my generation – Pastor George Merriweather, Pastor Raymon H. Edwards, Sr., Pastor Walter M. Brown, Jr., Pastor Roy E. Clay, Sr., Pastor W. Gale Hardy, Jr., Pastor Victor Norris, Pastor Vernon Norris, Pastor C.T. Wells, Pastor Anthony B. Harris, Sr., and others are now pastoring congregations in the Northwest and beyond.

However, I have also seen promising associates, who too were gifted, anointed, and seemed to have the world at their doorstep, who are no longer heard, no longer wanted, and no longer considered for pastoral assignments or even staff positions. They are disgruntled disciples, frustrated prophets, nomadic messengers, and although a call has been placed upon their lives, they have fallen and it’s not that they can’t get up, many of them don’t want to.

I want to offer some suggestions for that angry associate minister before you completely self-destruct:


There are some 400,000 plus Christian churches in America. However, there are over one million ministers. Which means just by observation alone, that everyone who is called to preach (or decides to preach) is NOT going to pastor. Even those who spend thousands of dollars in seminary training and pastoral majors are not going to wind up pastoring.

I was a Pastoral Theology major at Multnomah School of the Bible (now Multnomah Seminary) in Portland and my pastoral theology prof was the president of the school, the late Dr. Joseph C. Aldrich. And of that class of some 30 of us, I don’t think five of us are pastoring today.

If you make pastoral ministry your ultimate goal and don’t get called to or organize a church, it’s going to eat at your soul. You’ll start getting frustrated when friends get called to churches. You’ll start bubbling with anger when persons with less education or perceived less anointing get churches.  The call of ministry is not always a call to the center chair. That’s an elevation that only God affords. If you make serving your central focus instead of pastoring, you’ll save yourself some time and frustration.


Admittedly, when I was younger, I was gone a lot. But it wasn’t because I was writing churches and pastors and asking for preaching opportunities. They came after me, by the grace of God. It didn’t happen instantly – about the third year of my ministry, I starting getting invites and opportunities – in Portland, in Seattle, in Tacoma, in Pasco, and then across the country. However, I knew the key – because I was faithful, visible, and supportive at home.

I not only was an associate minister, I was a tither (and still am to this day). Not just a tither, but a giver. Not just a giver, but a supporter. Not just a supporter, but I stuck close to my pastor, supported him as well as I could, and I learned pastoral lessons, just by watching him do his job. There were times when I accompanied him to the hospitals, the nursing homes, the homes of members who just lost loved ones – and then I would go to the office and watch him open the mail.

Also, I learned that a call to ministry means that I need to do some apprentice work.  I taught two classes a week. A sunday school class and a young adult mission class, both the largest in the city with over 125 on roll in both classes. Teaching Sunday School gave me great training for systematic theology.  Teaching that mission class and helping mold a generation of young people taught my pastoral skills that are in use today.

Staying home and boycotting your church with a petulant pout will not hurt your pastor nor your church. You become the loser and like the old saying goes: “out of sight, out of mind.”


I admit I made the mistake. I preached my first sermon in April 1978, and I had business cards made within 60 days. I thought I had “arrived” until I looked down and saw I had one foot still in the starting block.

I am careful to teach my associates (and I’ve done it at four different churches) that the first sermon is a “gimme.”  It’s like the birth of a new baby who then proceeds to cry, open it’s eye and then urinates on you. You don’t complain nor lament because it’s a newborn baby. It’s cute. It’s funny. And babies can make certain sounds and you don’t hold them up to scrutiny because it’s a baby.

An associate who preaches one sermon and then thinks they should, as a pastoral friend of mine says, be called “Doc” or “Bishop” or “Apostle” or tells older ministers, “don’t call me Brother, I’m Reverend or Doctor or Elder” or is seen cutting the lawn with a ministers collar on or wears the colors of a bishop or pastor – is heading for a season of frustration and rejection.

I’ll bet the other apostles called John, “John.”  I’ll bet after the fiery furnace, Shadrach called Abednego, “Abednego.”  The titles, the business cards, the Facebook page, doesn’t make you a preacher. Time, prayer, and an authentic calling makes you a preacher. You cannot duplicate or create that which the Lord alone can create. Ministry is not created at the jeweler, it’s created in the mine shaft where pressure produces uncut diamonds.


This is advice for this generation. My generation didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Like it or not, this is a digital generation.  25 years ago if you wanted to hear Jasper Williams, Jr. or Donald Parson or C.A.W. Clark or Melvin Von Wade or Gardner Taylor or E.V. Hill, you had to go the conventions, go to the late night service, or travel to their churches to hear them.  Now, they are all a mouse-click away or a swipe of a finger on an iPad. You can sit in Seattle and hear a service live in New York. You can be in England on holiday and hear a preacher in Kentucky.

Social media is wonderful – but learn this – social media kills. What you say, how you say it, and when you say it is not only monitored by your friends, but also church members, pastors, preachers – and pulpit committees and potential members.

I ran across an associate minister (of a church in the south) who decided that he was furious that the Pastor bumped him from preaching due to the appearance of a visiting pastor, to decide to take issue with the decision on Facebook. He reached out to fellow members to “keep me in your prayers as I confront the pastor.”  Needless to say, he was dead before he got started.

In Spike Lee’s Malcolm X movie, Elijah Muhammad is shown admonishing Malcolm about the media. He says “be careful.”  A tweet can change an opinion on a preacher instantly. For example, it’s asinine to tweet in the pulpit: “Damn . . . when will I ever get up to preach? #toodamnlong” when you’re in someone else’s pulpit waiting to preach. It’s suicide to write “I’m so glad I’m not the pastor of this church #cantwaittogetbackhome” when some of the people in the audience may have their twitter account open and read your analysis.

I would suggest to anyone who writes about another congregation or pastor to write positive, uplifting words.  The late Dr. E.K. Bailey told a story about the late Dr. Manuel Scott, who was known for positive words about preachers. You couldn’t get Dr. Scott to say anything negative. One day at the L.K. Williams Institute, a preacher really got off-track in his message and literally preached incorrectly. Bailey and some other preachers ran to Dr. Scott to see what he had to say. Dr. Scott said “he chose a nice text.”

Social media has made faux reporters out of associate preachers. DO NOT TAKE TO SOCIAL MEDIA to complain about your pastor, belittle your church, nor complain about a pastoral decision. If you’re ever in that center chair, you may discover that a decision made was absolutely the right one.


Enjoy being an associate minister. Relish the time. Savor it. Rejoice in it. Because when you become a pastor, and you have the responsibility of a church, and budgets are not just theory but reality, and you discover that popularity is fleeting, and that some people will hate you just because you are the pastor. Enjoy the time now.

Be thankful for your pastor. No pastor is perfect, God knows I’m four vowels short of perfect. However, when he or she has gone away to sleep in the couch of nature’s night, summonsed to leave death into life eternal – you will find out that your pastor, if you have submitted yourself as a son or daughter to him or her – that death will affect you like the death of a parent.  Celebrate your pastor while they have breath in their body. Learn as much as you can. Be content preacher on where the Lord has you in this season. Remember, you’re not validated by your title, you’re validated by your submission to the Lord and your pastor.


26 responses

  1. Dr. Manuel Scott often reminded young preachers to “Wait Your Turn”. You have echoed those words for THIS generation. Great counsel.

  2. lifeharvestchurch | Reply

    Steve Perry

  3. Great words

  4. Good word today my brother. I have been through this and going through this in one form or another. I agree that some ministers can get up in arms over not preaching or pastoring. Most of it is a pride issue but some of them have legitimate reason to be an little frustrated. There are some pastors that refuse to let some of their newer minsters preach because they are gifted. I have seen it more than once.

    Secondly, there are many brothers that I knew that have left ministry becasue of their frustration with the pastoral search. I have pastored a church so I have seen both sides. The pastor selection process is a long and grueling process that can take up to two years. I have am going through that process right now and some instance it has been over a year when I get the final notice of they have selected another pastor. I have seen about 6 of my peers get pastoral appointments in the past year while I move through the process again. I admit it is troubling but I am super proud of those guys nonetheless. I as you have said have spent the money and time to go to seminary which appears to be worthless-and I did say appears not is.

    So you are right in some aspects and glad that some pastors understand this process. I have applied to over a 100 churches in three years and this month is the first time that I am really starting to get opportunities to preach and enter in the selection process. I went 2 years without even preaching in a church but it taught me a valuable lesson- I am not God.

    Good post and good insight. look forward to more pastors chiming in on this as it is a serious question to wrestle with.

  5. Marshaundus Robinson | Reply

    WOW Pastor this was soooo helpful and needed!

  6. Hello Dr. Houston, it is good to see you back up and going again. I have been praying for your complete healing and restoration. I want to thank you for your blog it is a great resource of information that the new generation of Preachers need. To comment on your Observation i totally agree with you on the subject of associate ministers. i will leave with this .My Father in the Ministry Dr. Willie Jones Pastor Emeritus of the New Mount Calvary Baptist Church of Houston Tx Taught us Preachers in Ministers Class and this has stuck with me through out the years as an associate Minister he said “BEFORE YOU CAN LEAD YOU GOT TO LEARN HOW TO SERVE” Be Blessed, Rev. D.Wayne Foote

  7. In the words of my Father in the Ministry Dr. Willie Jones Pastor Emeritus of the New Mount Calvary Baptist Church Of Houston Texas, “BEFORE YOU CAN LEAD YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO SERVE” , Be Blessed.

  8. Esqulaira LeSure | Reply

    Doc thank you,not only did you that associate you helped us pastors as well.

  9. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful advice! I remember telling my pastor, how different things where when I was sitting in the passenger’s seat as an associate as compared to sitting in the driver’s seat as the pastor. I am still grateful to this day that I was able to serve him as a faithful associate and make his job easier. I long for the day when God sends me quality help. I have literally gone from wanting to help to do a lot, to a place of wanting some help to do a lot well.

  10. Dr Wayne P. Snodgrass | Reply

    My Brother, well said!! I fought a pastor once in my life. I also realize that fight planted a seed. I am not surprised when I get associate resistance, because I realize what I did. I have good Associates and take time to train them to be good professionals. Thanks again for the article.

  11. Eric P. Jackson | Reply


  12. Dr. Houston:
    Thanks for your pastoral sagacity.
    I wish more associate ministers would read this and take heed. Also, associate ministers do not need to go “begging” for a preaching assignment. That is the quickest way not to get one.
    If associate ministers serve their pastors and local churches well, it will open doors for them. However, what turns me off with some associate ministers is they really believe the hype of a “couple” of congregants who tell them they should be the pastor and they can “outpreach” the pastor.
    Their head gets swollen. And they wind up getting burn because they believed the craziness of a few folks.
    Because of my schedule, my associates get plenty of opportunities to preach if they are consistently tithing, in a teaching ministry, persistently in attendance, and serving in a ministry. They know not to sit around waiting to preach because they will not.
    Patience, loyalty, faithfulness, willingness to learn, and a strong work ethic are great virtues to have for associate minister.

  13. Elder D. L. Bruce | Reply

    This was a blessing to read! As my Pastor teaches, “Preaching is only a part of your Ministry not the only thing that you are called to do; May the Work I’ve Done Speak For Me!”

  14. Thank you for your words of wisdom and instruction. I was not always a good Associate Minister. I believed the hype, got caught up in the blame game and even when my intentions were noble, my actions were not. I thank God for grace, growth and wise pastors like you who remind me to stay in my lane. Thank you.

  15. Good teaching message. I enjoyed reading this. When we take our focus off the pulpit, God will use us from the floor.

  16. Check out the book, Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors, by Rev. Christine A. Smith, Judson Press, 2013.

  17. 1. I agree. God has to GIVE YOU a pastors HEART. So pastoring is not for everybody. Besides, there are many other positions and callings in ministry that may be better suited to your gifts, such as evangelism and missionary work, for those who like diversity and travel, such as myself. MANY of us who receive the call have NO IDEA how to “get in where we fit in” and get frustrated waiting for clarification. Seminaries don’t necessarily offer placement assistance and after I graduated I thought my pastor would help, but at this point have no idea where to apply or for what position. As much as satan HATES new pastors, ALL senior pastors should be prayfully seeking a successor and/or associate to guide and protect their souls from attack! Theodicy is A FACT and a necessity of Christian experience, and when pastors drop the ball it causes a crisis of faith for those of us ready and willing to step up.
    2. I agree with you. On the other hand there are situations where ministers are faithful in attendance, tithing and availability, and yet the senior pastor is unaware of an associate ministers potential or is aware of it and yet UNWILLING to mentor and take ministers under his wing for fear they might outshine him or take his job for any number of other reasons, including other members in the church who hold jezebelic control over the church WITH AND WITHOUT the pastors knowledge!! Speaking from first hand knowledge, of course.
    3. Absolutely. But many of us simply want a chance to share the word. So we couldn’t care less about fancy titles, we just want to share the word and our testimony, so we do it in our natural walk, or street evangelism, or wherever the opportunity presents itself until God sees fit to elevate us to a position where we have earned “the right to be heard” as TD Jakes puts it.
    4. Keeping it 100 again. It’s never a good idea to badmouth another minister because it makes others wonder what you will say about them next. Social media is dangerous in the sense that we are much more willing to say something in writing, or over the phone, that we are less willing to say FACE TO FACE, or man to man……Still, it’s incumbent on all of us to approach a brother or sister directly in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1) when they say or do something out of pocket or asinine. With so plentiful a harvest and so few workers you would think pastors would look for delegates willing to share the workload, but believe it or not, this is not the case or I would be working on a sermon right now……………………….

  18. What a word!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Wise AND Annointed Counsel! I appreciate every word that was written. To God Be the Glory for using you to pour into us associate ministers. The times we are living in are serious times. As His chosen vessels, we do not have time to be caught up with foolishness! Amen Elder Ford—What a Word!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Rev. Samuel Wilson | Reply

    This should be read from roof tops. There was a time when I felt like what you are saying, I was looking for a place to preach. Then God moved me cross country to help me learn to serve. God wants get us prepared for what he has in store for future. And like many others , for years when I thought my gifts were not being used in churches . I was encouraged by others Pastor’s be patience,watch,Pray. Today I’m starting to see the fruit of those formative years. My thanks to Pastor Dann Travis Crossroads of Life Church, Binghamton, NY for taking the time to love me throughout this journey.

  21. Thank you Pastor Houston for this post. I have been in ministry for 31 years. I have never pastored. Though I have a desire to pastor, it is not an end all, cure all. One of my biggest frustrations that I see in ministry is the disorganization of pulpit committees. I also have seen a lot younger preachers in their 20s and 30s do a lot of “kissing up” to their pastors as a way to get certain privileges. If you be faithful to God, He will be faithful to you. I agree that there are a lot of angry associate ministers out there. Be aware not all is self-inflicted. Good communication starts with the pastor. Trust the pastor but trust God more. On average, I preach any where from once a month to a month at another church. I am happy with that.

  22. Rev Walter M Brown Jr | Reply

    Great words Pastor Houston, many blessings to you ! Rev Walter Brown Jr

    1. Hey my great brother In the Lord powerful message on Anniversary 70th! for a Train after the Jet took off.. for another landing back at Mount Olivet BC aircraft carrier! LOL

      bless you brother!!

      Walter Ella Matt Asia Adam and Caleb too ( bless the Houston TRAIN) wow!

  23. Walter and Ella Brown Brown | Reply

    Hope you are doing fine my great brother in the Lord! I’ve been busy just working for FED EX, heard you lost your mom so I pray you are doing well with Mrs Houston and I hope to see you when you return to Portland, and of course keep the Train moving!


    From your big brother!

    Rev. Walter & Ella brown ( Family)

  24. I needed this for such a time as this. Thank you and bless you.

  25. Great Great Great word & i mean its right on time im an associate minister sitting under a paster that feels he shouldnt let me preach its 3 of us sitting under him but i do understand that its a must that i must serve not complain but wait on God 4 my appointment i sat under the late Dr FF Andrews that is where my training come from the number 1 lesson was taught u haft 2 know how 2 follow leadership if ur a good follower God will make u a great leader thank u so much 4 this wonder eye opener its a big help

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by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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

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