Monthly Archives: August, 2013

The Passing of the Torches

by Robert Earl Houston

It is customary at the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. that when the Nominating Committee comes forth, they always present the prognosis of elections.  “Next year, 55% of our elected officers will change.” It helps the convention to prepare for the turnover. I’ve come to say that within the next year, it is possible that all four of our traditional national baptist conventions AND the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship will change leadership.

Dr. Julius Scruggs of Alabama was elected President in 2009 and several ministers have declared or exploring runs to challenge him in 2013, if he decides to seek re-election.  The election will be held at their annual session in New Orleans in 2014.

The NMBCA has actually been operating without a President since the death of Dr. C.C. Robertson of Dallas. In a controversial move, the Executive Board decided to postpone the election until the annual session next month in San Antonio. The current Vice President, Dr. Nehemiah Davis, is acting president and is being challenged for the post by Rev. Dale Jay Sanders, Sr. and Dr. Samuel H. Smith, Sr. of Louisiana and Texas, respectively.

Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, Sr. is the current, tenured President and will complete his two terms in 2014. As of this writing, the only declared candidate is Dr. James C. Perkins of Detroit. At least four men are running for the office of 2nd Vice President including a layman. Their election will be in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Dr. Stephen John Thurston of Chicago, IL has served since 2003 and will lead the convention into Memphis for the 2014 annual session. At present there is at least several declared candidates: Dr. Samuel Tolbert of Louisiana, which means that for the first time in NBCA history, a President will seek re-election against a Vice President; and Dr. George Brooks of Nashville, who has served as Congress President.

Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr., who is now the leader with more tenure than all four of the traditional convention presidents combined, has lead FGBCF since 1994, meaning that he has 19 years of leadership. He recently announced the name of his successor – Bishop Joseph Warren Walker of Nashville, who will begin his tenure in 2015.

It will be interesting watching developments of this passing of the torches.


What My Musicians Lack

by Robert Earl Houston

DETROIT, MI –  I am a blessed pastor. For a multiplicity of reasons. I have the privilege of leading one of the oldest congregations in the nation, the First Baptist Church of Frankfort, Kentucky. It’s an exciting time in the life of this congregation of believers.

As I sit here in Detroit and after some observation over the past two days, I want to celebrate what my musicians have lacked.

In pastoral ministry in the past years, I have had a tremendous cadre of musicians – starting with my sister, Phyllis Houston Smith, Danny Osborne, LaShell Aldredge, Professor Anthony James King, Audrey Bell, Edd Sullivan, Melanie Lanier, Rico Ware, Christopher Stallings, and my current minister of music, MInister Elijah Griffin.

They’ve all lacked one quality.


Unfortunately an arrogance – a diva-ness or king-ship – is cropping up in the ranks of those who give God praise via the instruments of worship. The Word of God declares that one thing that the Lord detests is a “proud look.”

When you are blessing with special gifts and talents, it behooves you to guard those gifts but it is also incumbent upon the musician to still be cooperative, loving, nurturing, and how about just being a friendly person? How about being cooperative? How about leading people into worship before the sermon instead of producing an “it’s all about me” moment?

Unfortunately some churches have become the hostages of gifted, talented musicians who believe that without them ministry cannot occur; they then play not with the Spirit of God, but with an arrogance and ownership that locks out the Holy Spirit. They don’t flow, they dam up.  They don’t worship, they work.  They don’t encourage, they terrorize.

Personally, I’d rather have a musician that doesn’t hit every note correctly than to have one that is so full of themselves that they literally become a distraction to the worship experience. 

I’m blessed with a tremendous Minister of Music, Minister Elijah Griffin, and he has a heart for ministry. He really does. He is probably one of the best musicians I’ve ever seen – he studies music, he learns the chords, he learns the music – and I’ve never had any problem with him. He moved away a few months ago and recently returned to our church – and me and my congregation welcomed him back. When he left, I told my church that I was not in a hurry to seek another Minister of Music, that this is in the Lord’s hands, not mine. And He blessed us with him.

This week, I was asked to help a dear friend with a devotional period. I walked on the stage, with a cane, and the “band” looked at me like I was crazy (I had never worked with these musicians before – guess they didn’t think I was “their caliber”). They barely spoke. They demonstrated, to me, that they weren’t there to lift up the name of Jesus, they were there as a clannish clique looking for a check. I played, walked off the stage and thought to myself, “Lord, I’m glad I was never like this.”

Mind you, I’m a musician myself. I’ve been playing since 1977, and I’ve had opportunity to minister in music at national conventions, GMWA, and other venues. I was taught at the very beginning and mentored by gifted musicians like Lorene V. Wilder, Gilber Gill, Ken Berry, Saul Kelley, Michael Stone, Rev. William Whittied, Jr.,  and others at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. Yes, each one was tremendously gifted in their own way. Some could read music, some couldn’t. But they taught me to not focus on your weaknesses, but focus on your strengths and above all – to consider being used by God in worship as a privilege and not a right.

I had the opportunity to sit on a panel at GMWA years ago which discussed the Pastor-Musician relationship and on that panel was myself, Dr. Melvin Von Wade, Sr., and Pastor Donnie McClurkin. I never forgot something Donnie said – “the Lord is the one who gets the glory in worship.”  ‘Nuff said.

The Virtue of Knowing When To Let Go

by Robert Earl Houston

DETROIT, MI – Today I am at the 52nd Annual Session of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., which has served as my denominational home since I began pastoring the Historic First Baptist Church of Frankfort, Kentucky. Our church is one of the congregations that united with those who were disaffected by the decisions made by the leadership of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. in 1960, and in 1961, by one vote, created this convention.

I’ve been received warmly in this convention. I’ve had the opportunity to play musical instruments (piano and organ), lead congregation/praise singing, lectured in South Carolina, preached for the Region just outside of Cincinnati, and serve as State President of the Kentucky State Convention.

Since 2010, I’ve been serving as the Webmaster/Internet Ministry director and it’s been a grand enterprise to transform the web site. I’ve discovered that no matter what changes you make, when it comes to dealing with people – some folk are never completely satisfied and they have visions for the web site that are not congruent with the purposes of a web site. I had the privilege of authoring the first web site of the national baptist conventions – for the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, under the presidency of Dr. Willie T. Snead, Sr. Deadlines have been intense, re-writes are factored in, and it’s always satisfying to hear delegates say “thank you” for the web site.

Today, it will all change.

I’ve prayerfully made the decision that it’s time for me to step aside (not step down) from the day to day operations of the web site and it’s time to utilize some of the great, young minds. I met today with an outstanding graphic artist/web designer and will be making my transition out at web designer and focusing more so on content, if it meets with the President’s approval.


First off, I’ve been doing this for national conventions since about 1993.  That’s 20 years of doing this type of ministry and it’s time for new ideas, new designs and a new approach.

Secondly, I think that conventions need to shuffle the personnel deck. When I started preaching 35 years ago, I remember seeing the secretaries being wheeled to the desk and taking minutes by trembling hands, because they had been serving in the same position for years and years. I don’t want to be the webmaster of a convention at the ripe old age of 75.

Lastly, this is a season that I want to focus on my local congregation and my health. We are preparing to march into our sanctuary for the first time in weeks after extensive renovation. I recently returned to the church after cancer surgery in May. Our church bus has even been in extended service and repair. And now a convergence of return – the building, the pastor, and the bus is about to take place.

Even though I’m “cancer free” I still have to carefully manage my health and my recovery. The flesh is starting to grow in the transplant area and yet, there are times when I have a stabbing, painful episode or even become so tired that I have to lay down. It’s not over yet.

I can’t begin to fully explain it but I feel the zeal for the work like I just walked in the door as pastor. God is sending new members, we are developing new ministries, we are developing (thanks to Rev. Anna Jones) a unique prayer ministry, and in this season, I hear the Holy Spirit saying even more, “feed the flock.”

Also, I want to spend time developing relationships with Kentucky pastors that have been kind to me as well. I’m also setting in motion a transition in our State Convention – it’s time to begin making that move too.

My greatest position and honor is not at a national convention, nor state convention, nor general association, nor district association. I received it again last Sunday when a young boy came up to me and said, “Pastor, when you leave, I want to be the next pastor.” This Sunday he came up, hugged me and said “I love you Pastor.”

My greatest position in the world is pastor. Thank you Lord.


Homegoing of a Saint: Rev. Tim Kirby, Detroit, Michigan

A father and pastor known for his community activism was shot and k!lled because he asked neighbors to keep the noise down, pastor killed over musicaccording to local affiliateWDIV in Detroit.

Tim Kirby, 46,  was a father of four and a local pastor known for his work in the community, but on Monday night he was shot and k!lled, all because he asked neighbors who were having a party to lower the noise.

“It was devastating. I cried for a minute, and then it was like I couldn’t cry no more,” said his daughter, Tatiana Kirby. “He was a good father. He was always a caring person. Every Sunday we were always in church. He always made sure we had clothes, good clothes on our backs, food on the table.”

“I was laying on the couch and I heard gunshots around 11:30,” said a neighbor.

Witnesses say some of the neighbors were having a party outside with loud music and screaming when Kirby came outside and asked them to keep it down. That’s when some men at the party became angry at Kirby and one man opened fire on him.

One neighbor told WDIV that it never crossed her mind that the person who had been shot was Tim Kirby.

The Detroit minister was reportedly well known for his community work and sermons. He was looking to build a bigger congregation.

“I hope my daddy gets justice because he didn’t deserve this,” said Tatiana.


The Cane

by Robert Earl Houston

For the last few weeks and most noticeably in Frankfort and now at the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky session in Louisville, I have been walking with the assistance of a cane. It actually belongs to one of my deacons who was kind enough to allow me use of it during my cancer surgery recovery. It’s a beauty. A brass plated hame, “Bubba Stik” with the words “Made in Texas by Texans” on a plate at the tip.

Believe me, I’m not using it as a fashion statement. It serves a purpose to help steady me because even though it’s been over 2 months since my surgery, my foot still has an open wound, although 80% of it is now closed (thank God). It also helps me to get up and helps me sit down. I’ve learned how to walk with the cane and it helps me distribute my body weight evenly when I try to get from point A to point B.

Having this “Bubba Stik” has taught me three spiritual lessons (did you expect any less? – smile) that I want to share with you:


This cane is symbolic to me as the testament of my testimony. It has been amazing this week that many of my fellow delegates were not even aware that I had been through a bout with cancer. I guess you assume that people talk, discuss and share – but there were many, many people who were surprised to see me not walking through the hallways fast and spry, and instead they see me walking cautiously with a cane.

But this cane represents that where I am today is not as bad as what I’ve been through. I’ve gone from those words of my physician “I’m sorry, but you have cancer” to prep, surgery, post-surgery, and now recovery. The cane was not present or needed for the first four items, but for the recovery, it’s helpful. And it’s actually the last milestone for my ordeal. When this cane is no longer needed, then it will signal that my recovery is completed, my healing is done, and I can look forward to moving about as usual.


I sat in awe of Dr. Thomas H. Peoples, Jr.’s sermon yesterday at the Association’s Men’s Convention and he was talking about the Completeness of Christ vs. the Incompleteness of humanity. One of the things that struck me, coming from a noted Christian theologian as Dr. Peoples, was this statement: “the more I know about Christ, the more I discover that I don’t anything.”

What Dr. Peoples was alluding to is that even as we discover more and more about God it puts a highlighter upon our lives and we find out that we still don’t know all about and nor will the Lord allow us to know as much as He does.

Here’s the application – the cane represents the information that I have picked up about several things during this process. I’ve learned more about cancer, melanoma, congregational care of their shepherd, gracious thanksgiving, humility, spousal care, doctors, operating rooms, and even more humility than I have in the first 53 years of my life. This cane is my diploma – not in an advanced degree, but in the practicum of life.

This ordeal has taught me empathy. This ordeal has taught me the power of prayer. This ordeal has taught me total dependence upon the Lord. This ordeal has taught me to release myself to the Lord and to prepare for that eventual day when this body and soul will have a permanent separation. Every time I look at the cane, it reminds me that “I’m stronger, I’m wiser, I’m better, so much better.”


My cane is “purdy.” I mean it stands out in a crowd. It’s been called “wow” and even by some friends as a “pimp stick” (only a friend would tell another friend that). And I will admit, when I see others with canes, I look at their cane to see what it looks like, etc. It has drawn my attention, because I too am on a cane.

I was really excited, in a strange way, that nobody else in Frankfort had the same “Bubba Stik” that I have.  I went to Cincinnati for the Gospel Music Workshop of America for a day and again, no one else had the cane that I have.

But then I came to Louisville and one of the men in the Laymen’s Department walked right up to me and yes, he had a “Bubba Stik” as well. Not only that he began to compare our two canes – mine was of a darker wood and his was lighter colored. He said “you have an older stick.” We laughed and walked away and then I thought about what this stick represents, what I’ve been through and the logical conclusion was there: “you’re not the only one who’s going through what you’re going through.”

Sometimes we have this feeling that “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen” when in actuality, there are people all around us who have gone through or going through what we’re experiencing right now. I had an infirmity, a melanoma and I’ve had this week people walk up to me, especially those who read my article in The American Baptist Newspaper or on this blog, and tell me that they too have had skin cancer. One brother walked up to me and told me that he’s had it twice on the top of his head. Even a sister walked up to me and said “I just found out about it and I’m going to have the same surgery.”

It was like the Lord confirming in my spirit, you’re not unique because of what you’re going through, you’re unique because of the way God handled it.

Because there have been those who told me stories of those loved ones who did not make it or faced very serious amputations or treatments. I’ve heard the ghost stories of those who had the same cancer in other areas of their bodies and required removals and amputations of organs.

My disease was not unique, but my deliverance was. Thank you Lord. So when I look at this cane, made in Texas by Texans, I understand that it’s not the only cane they manufactured, not the only cane with a brass hame (handle), and not the only cane with the black tip. The cane is not unique, and I’m not the only one going through something.



by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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