A Time to Grieve

by Robert Earl Houston

The news has been filled this week of the unfortunate story of a young African-American pastor in Macon, Georgia, who committed suicide on this past Sunday in front of his home, in between worship services. It has been not only heartbreaking but it’s become an instrument of speculation, catharsis and intraspection.

I am amazed how some in the Christian media have taken a 15 second sound bite from a three year old sermon that he preached and tried to contemporize it to his act.  The misleading headlines suggest also that it was his final sermon when, if you watch the entire sermon, he was attempting to convey the message that even ministers and pastors question God, and have their moments of loneliness and fear.

The purpose of this blog is not to go through the whys and wherefores. Frankly, that’s not only none of anyone’s business and it’s not necessary to publicly second-guess the young man or discuss knowledge, limited knowledge, any knowledge or no knowledge in deference to his wife and children, and church family, whose hearts are hurting. I’d rather want to share my own viewpoint that this is a time to grieve, even if you didn’t know him for yourself.

We should grieve because a successful ministry is now re-categorized to the annals of history. Whenever anyone does what he did in his years at his congregation and was in the midst of planning future ministries – it’s appropriate to grieve what could have been and yet pray that the congregation continues forward in the spirit of the vision that was given to them by their pastor.

We should grieve because it could have been any of us. Death has no litmus test nor does it have parameters. This year, I’ve buried several pastoral colleagues who were 50 years and younger – which will leave a void in those who could have been voices of encouragement for the next generation of preachers to follow. I look at myself at 53 and begin introspection and say to God, “it could have been me” – no matter the circumstances. I am alive today not because of earned goodness or excelling personality. I’m alive because of the grace of God.

We should grieve because another one of us have gone home. I mean another pastor. I reckon that about 100% of our churches will experience a change in leadership in the lifespan of their churches and unfortunately no sudden change of leadership is an easy transition. I spent time last night just praying for the leadership of that church as they not only bury their leader but being the grieving process and ultimately the arrival of their new leader. The bottom line is that a faithful preacher and teacher is no longer among our ranks.

Charles Wesley wrote a hymn, “And Are We Yet Alive?,” that talks about weeks like this. I was introduced to the hymn by Dr. E. Edward Jones, president emeritus of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International through one of his Presidential writings.  I’d like to share it here as well:

1.	And are we yet alive, 
	and see each other's face? 
	Glory and thanks to Jesus give 
	for his almighty grace! 

2.	Preserved by power divine 
	to full salvation here, 
	again in Jesus' praise we join, 
	and in his sight appear. 

3.	What troubles have we seen, 
	what mighty conflicts past, 
	fightings without, and fears within,
	since we assembled last! 

4.	Yet out of all the Lord 
	hath brought us by his love; 
	and still he doth his help afford, 
	and hides our life above. 

5.	Then let us make our boast 
	of his redeeming power, 
	which saves us to the uttermost, 
	till we can sin no more. 

6.	Let us take up the cross 
	till we the crown obtain, 
	and gladly reckon all things loss 
	so we may Jesus gain.


3 responses

  1. Amen! Sometimes we can be so insensitive to the fact that people need time to release the pain through grieving. It is a whole year later and I’m still sensitive to the loss of my pastor Dr. David L. Boyle.

  2. Pastor Houston – a BIG AMEN!
    The loss of a leader (in our case this past Oct. 10th – 3 key leaders at one time!) is VERY challenging, to say the least. Even when they pass on without any speculation, there is going to be the question as to “WHY?” – but as you said, NONE OF OUR BUSINESS!

    My concern is only one, and that is we pastors need to have other pastors and friends with whom we can confide in, WITHOUT JUDGEMENT! Someone who will encourage and even give you a swift kick, when you need it! All this only after hearing news of some particulars that have hopefully been investigated.

    I am saddened for his immediate family, church family, and anyone who is connected, as this is a hard situation. I am convinced more that ever that Jesus STILL Saves. Acts 13:36, the beginning part says: “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep” Let us take comfort knowing that Pastor Teddy served his generation! Those who have come to Christ from his work, will still serve the Lord!

    I didn’t personally know him at all, except for knowing that he started as a very young preacher.. (saw him on Sally Jessy Raphael Show when I was younger, when she did a segment on KID PREACHERS) but I grieve in this situation, and makes me take inventory and introspection of all that I do. I’m in his age bracket, and it’s just making me THINK!
    My prayer is “The Lord bless and touch all that are involved!” Amen.

  3. Bishop Todd Neal Ary | Reply

    Pastor Houston you have said on more then one occasion. That a pastor needs to have a pastor of his own. I think that this story is a sad example of why. I have actually saw the video of where they are quoting Pastor Parker. The sad part is this, the insensitive of the media community and its followers. I’m hoping as I continue to grow in this ministry that I have a “pastor” or father in the ministry such as yourself. may God continue to bless you and your minstry

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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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