Monthly Archives: January, 2014

How Long Did It Take You To Get Here?

by Robert Earl Houston

This year I’m trying to see all of the Academy Award Nominated films. So far I’ve seen Lee Daniels’ The Butler; American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Gravity; 12 Years a Slave; and Nebraska. I’ve yet to see Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street.

In a very good movie, Nebraska, there is a scene that sticks with me. In the movie and elder father thinks that he has won a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes.  He is determined to leave from his home in Montana (if foot by necessary) and is aided by his sons and, reluctantly, his wife. His younger son, sensing that his father doesn’t have long to live, drives him from Montana to Nebraska, a trip that should have taken less than 8 hours. However, due to his father’s drinking and injury which required hospitalization, it took 2 or 3 days for an 8 hour trip, not to his destination, but to his small hometown where his siblings and family members live. During the sit down (to watch TV, a family tradition) his brother’s sons ask his son “How long did it take you to get here?” They knew it only took hours and he said “two days” and they started laughing.

That stuck with me because in a few days I’ll be celebrating being called to this church 5 years ago and I’m celebrating this years 36 years in ministry. I have been blessed tremendously – but it wasn’t overnight. It took time.

Unfortunately in this generation, everything is on fast, quick and in a hurry. The self-imposed timetables that we as pastors place upon our work can be deceiving and frustrating. We point at pastors who have mega-churches and mega-situations and we are determined to replicate what God is doing in somebody’s ministry – not understanding that in order to get where that pastor is at, you may have to visit some painful places, tragic circumstances and hellish scenarios.

A few weeks ago a young minister told me, “Pastor Houston, I want to be like you.”  I was flattered and then I told him, “Go through cancer, go through trouble, get lied on and talked about, suffer some painful situations, get sick without any insurance, and oh yeah, go through church trouble and you’ll be just like me.”  You should have seen the look on his face.

I believe that ministry is not some 100 yard dash. It’s a marathon. Some of us have been on the track for 35, 45, 55, 65 and even 75 years and if we all be honest, we haven’t seen it all and each experience is going to be different. I remember talking with a pastor who wrestled with his call and for the first 30 years of his ministry his congregation numbered less than 50 and all of a sudden, the Church grew into a thriving congregation of 2,000.  He said “I was eager, but I wasn’t ready. God had to show me that I’m on His timetable and not mine.”

The truth of the matter is that my first 30 years of ministry prepared me for my current ministry. I have a wonderful congregation and I’ve learned how to pastor with a steady hand, loving heart and open spirit. I’m now in the age of being called upon by other pastors for advice. I’ve been able to create a fellowship and dialogue with many of our local elected officials and this afternoon I’ll have the privilege of offering prayer to open this afternoon’s session of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Senate.

But it wasn’t overnight. I have pastored four congregations (and served on pastoral staff at one) since 1989 and full-time since 1991. It’s been a journey. I admit there were low points and high peaks. However, this journey is not given to the strong, nor the swift, but to the one who endures to the end.

For those pastors who are trying and trying and working and working and praying and praying. Keep at it!  Bring your best to the pulpit – even if you have more pews than people. Even during moments of anxiety and frustration, bring your best, share your heart, be there for the people. Don’t look for the “next move” – be faithful in wherever the Lord has planted you in this season – if there’s a move it’s better to let God do it than you create it.


Homegoing of a Saint: Rev. Otis B. Byrd, Sr., Atlanta, GA

OtisByrdWe are saddened to report on the death of the Reverend Otis B. Byrd, Jr., pastor of the God’s Anointed Missionary Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA, who tragically went home to be with the Lord on Sunday, January 5, 2014 as a result of violence.

The following is a report from a local news source:

An Atlanta pastor was found stabbed to death over the weekend.

The Rev. Otis Byrd Sr.’s body was found around noon Sunday, according to police, after he failed to show up for church. Police were called to Byrd’s home in the 600 block of Finley Avenue in Atlanta, after church members went to check on him, according to Officer John Chafee with the Atlanta Police Department.

Byrd was a pastor at God’s Anointed Missionary Baptist Church. The church is located on Memorial Drive in northwest Atlanta, according to the AJC.

Friends and family were saddened by the heinous crime. “He could really preach and he did so without a piece of paper in his hand,” said Earl Hutchinson of his friend of over 20 years. “He was just an undiscovered talent. Never a foul word. Not ever. Not one time. He was just a good person. He was trying to build something.”

Police are still investigating Byrd’s death and no arrests have been made, according to the Atlanta police.

PLEASE keep the Byrd Family and the God’s Anointed Church Family in your prayers.


Homegoing of a Saint: Dr. Shellie Sampson, Jr., Bronx, New York

The Baptist Ministers Conference of Greater New York And Vicinity

Greetings Dear Brethren, Sisters, Fellow Ministers, Neighbors and Friends.

The Services for President Rev. Dr. Shellie Sampson, Jr is as follows:


Date: January 23, 2014
Time: 3pm to 6pm

Date: January 23, 2014
Time: 6:30pm to 8pm

Home going Service:

Date: Friday- January 24, 2014

Time: 9am to 12 Noon

Location: All Services to be held at Pastor Sampson’s Church

The Thessalonia Baptist Church
951 Rev. James A. Polite Avenue
Bronx, NY 10459

All cards, flowers and condolences are to be sent to the attention of Sister DeLorenzo Sampson

Church Phone: 718-542-0828

Church Fax:718-542-0460


Respectfully Submitted on behalf of The Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Greater New York & Vicinity

Gwendolyn Watts
Corresponding Secretary

From his church’s website:

Rev. Dr. Shellie Sampson Jr.

The Reverend Dr. Shellie Sampson, Jr. is a native of Newark, New Jersey.  He has resided in New York state since 1982. Dr. Sampson has been the Pastor of the Thessalonia Baptist Church since 1982 and in ministry for over 30 years. In addition to being an anointed and revelatory teacher and preacher, he is also a gifted pianist and Christian Education author.


·      Construction of Thessalonia Cultural Community Center (seven million dollar facility)

·      Co- Founded the Thessalonia Elementary Academy with his wife Deloranzo Sampson

·      Established the Thessalonia Institute of Education

·      Orchestrated internal & external renovations of the Church building

·      Weekly Radio Broadcast

·      Enhanced church outreach programs including: Senior Programs, Feeding of the Homeless, Adult Education 

    Programs, Annual Children’s Street Fair and much more

·      Recipient of numerous awards in recognition of his leadership and participation in community development


·      President of the Thessalonia Institute of Religion

·      CEO of the Thessalonia Cultural Community Center

·      Theme Book Commission and National Congress of Christian Education

·      Detergent Control Chemist, Thesbald Industries

·      Food Chemist and Microbiologist, Best Foods International

·      Technical Supervisor in Packaging Engineering — Quality Control, Anheuser Bush

·      President of the Baptist Minister’s Conference of Greater New York vicinity

·      Pastor of the New Calvary Baptist Church of Montclair, New Jersey

·      Headmaster of the Convent Avenue Academy

·      President of Northern Baptist School of Religion, New Jersey

·      President of the Shiloh Baptist Association Congress of New Jersey

·      President of the Baptist Bible College of Newark (formerly Northern University)

·      Guest Instructor: Eastern Baptist Association College Seminary Extension (formally Northern Baptist University);

New York Commissioner of Civil Rights in the town of Montclair, New Jersey

·      Executive Director of the Baptist Educational Center of New York

·      Guest Lecturer: Drew University School of Theology

·      A founding member of the South Bronx Churches Organization – Nehemiah Houses in the Bronx, New York

·      NYC Religious Education Academic Foreign Studies Tours: WCC Geneva, Switzerland;

Gregorian University, Rome; Hebrew University, Israel


Central High School N.J. — Highest Honors in Science, History, Music, and Distance Running

Bachelor of Arts in National Science- Rutgers University, New Jersey

Graduate Certificate in Science – Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Masters of Divinity – Drew University, New Jersey

Doctor of Ministry in Church Education – Drew University, New Jersey

PhD Urban Education & Psychology, Temple University

Advanced Human Development Studies – Princeton Theological Seminary

Doctoral Studies – New York University, New York

Honorary Doctorate of Law for Community Development –Virginia University, Lynchburg, Virginia


Superior Leadership in Challenging Situations

Effective Techniques in Abuse Ministry

Handbook for Youth Education

Articles published locally, regionally, and nationally

Dr. Sampson is married to Deloranzo Sampson, Headmistress of the Thessalonia Academy and Veteran of the United States Air Force.

Winter in Frankfort (January 21, 2014)

Happy (and busy) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Weekend

by Robert Earl Houston

Dr. C.B. Akins

Dr. C.B. Akins

If he were still alive, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have celebrated his 85th birthday. He and my mother are around the same age and who can imagine what life would have been had his life not been cut off by the bullet from an assassin.

This weekend I participated in two MLK celebrations.

The first one was in Frankfort which is sponsored by the Frankfort/Franklin County Ministerial Alliance. I have been a part of that body of leaders since my arrival here in 2009. I’ve been the Chair of this event for the past 3 occasions and hosted one at First Baptist Church. This year we were at the St. Paul United Methodist Church pastored by Rev. Donna Aros. In our Alliance, we welcome all Christian denominations and we’ve been led by Dr. Jackson Brewer, retired pastor of First United Methodist Church and frankly – the man for the job. FFCMA started ROSM (Resource Office of Social Ministries) that ministers to literally thousands through the years with assistance on life’s necessities. We also supply prayer support as chaplains for the House and Senate of the Commonwealth.

Rev. Aros, Dr. Brewer, Rev. Glenn Spaulding of St. John AME Church serve as the program committee and this year (with great input from Rev. Aros) we expanded the setting. We invited our hispanic brothers and sisters to join in the celebration and one of the new pastors, Rev. Maikel Rojas Perez of Tabernaculo de Aviviamiento offered prayer in spanish after Rev. Jermaine Wilson, pastor of St. John AME Church, prayed in english.

Also this year we invited and received partnership with government officials. Mayor William May, Sheriff Pat Melton, State Representative Derrick Graham, Kentucky State University President Mary Sias, and Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes. Not only did they come to speak – they stayed through the entire service. Music was sweetly provided by the St. Paul UMC and St. John AME Choirs.

Dr. C.B. Akins was the guest speaker. Dr. Akins is the newly elected Moderator of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky – the largest baptist body in Kentucky. Dr. Akins has been a great friend since my arrival here and I was delighted to invite him to be our guest speaker. Dr. Akins was off the hook! His sermon was from Exodus 3:1-14 and he used the words of Maya Angelou as his subject, “Arriving on a Nightmare, Praying for a Dream.”  It certainly challenged the audience and he was superb! We also awarded small grants to The Franklin County Women’s Shelter and The BackPackSnack Program.

IMG_8531Today, I was the guest preacher for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service sponsored by the Greater Shelby County Ministerial Coalition (GSCMC) led by my friend, Dr. Kilen K. Gray. Services were held in the newly built sanctuary of the St. John United Methodist Church were Rev. Robert Marshall is the pastor.  It was my first time preaching for this group but I’ve preached in several venues in Shelbyville and actually it’s one of my favorite places to preach at in Kentucky.  I’ve done revivals there and annual days there and this service was awesome.

I don’t take invitations to preach lightly. I realize that there are thousands upon thousands who could have stood at that spot. I even realize there are thousands of thousands of preachers who are better prepared, have a longer resume than mine – however the Lord continues to favor me with invites like this. I’m grateful.

First, it literally, due to the new worship space was double in size. And every pew was filled. Secondly, the worship atmosphere was tremendous. The choir (a mass choir from throughout the city), the soloists, the presentations all lent themselves to a fabulous worship experience.

When I got up to preach, the Lord was kind. My text was based on Genesis 37:21 and my subject was “You Can’t Kill My Dream.”  The Lord was so kind to the worship and I was received very warmly. I’m grateful for the brothers and sisters of the GSCMC.

Homegoing of a Saint – Rev. James Seawood, Staten Island, NY

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.  — The Rev. James Seawood, pastor of Brighton Heights Reformed Church, died Sunday morning at Robert Woods Johnson Medical Center in New Jersey, according to Rev. Terry Troia, executive director of Project Hospitality.

Rev. Seawood was a former faculty member and dean at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, He was only the second black person to ascend to the General Synod Presidency of the Reformed Church in America and served on the General Synod Council of the RCA upon his retirement from office.

He was the immediate past president of the Staten Island Council of Churches and a board member of Project Hospitality. He was a U.S. Army Chaplain and served in the active reserves. He did tours of duty in the Gulf War and in a Afghanistan or Iraq post 9/11.

He was a civil rights leader, as was his mother; she died in December.

Rev. Seawood was one of the first black students to integrate Little Rock High School in the 1960s. His mother was the sole black teacher for the Little School House for colored children in Little Rock.

He was the former pastor of the Eighth Avenue Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Further information — including funeral arrangements — will be posted as it becomes available. A complete obituary will follow.

INFORMATION From : and Rev. Marvin Wiley, Maywood, Illinois.


Homegoing of a Saint – Rev. Wilbert Hale Goatley, Sr., Eminence, KY

Homegoing services were held today, Saturday, January 11, 2014 for the Reverend Wilbert H. Goatley, Sr., 83, who went home to be with the Lord on Thursday, January 2, 2014.

Rev. Goatley served as Pastor of First Baptist Church in Eminence, Kentucky and was serving as the Pastor Emeritus, after his retirement.

He is survived by his wife, Verlene Farmer Goatley; children: Rev. Wilbert Goatley, Jr. (Dionne) and Rev. David Emmanuel Goatley (Pamela); seven grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and a host of extended family and friends.

Services were held at Eminence Independent School and burial at Cave Hill Cemetary.

In lieu of flowers, the family request contributions be made in Rev. Goatley’s memory to the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, 220 I Street N.E., Suite 220, Washington, DC 20002-4389.

Services were held Saturday, January 11, 2014 at Eminence High School, Dr. Bill R. Hollins, officiated and Rev. Charles H. Duncan, Jr. delivered the eulogy.

Dr. Goatley was born March 10, 1930 to John and Effie Goatley. He was called to serve the First Baptist Church of Eminence where he served until his retirement on October 31, 2003. He served as Pastor Emeritus until his departure from this life.

He began his journey of faith at the Zion Baptist Church of Louisville and acknowledge his call to ministry, being licensed and ordained under the pastorate of Dr. D.E. King. He graduated from Central High School and was among the pioneer African-American students sent from racially segregated LMC to the University of Louisville. Upon graduation he was among the first African-American students to graduate from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

During his life he was an instructor at Simmons Bible College; Director of the Baptist Fellowship Center in Louisville; Superintendent of Missions and Moderator of Central District Baptist Association; Auditor and Vice Moderator of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky; and various other capacities.

Arrangements entrusted to A.D. Porter & Sons, 1300 W. Chestnut Street, Louisville, Kentucky.

This is not a Play Thing

by Robert Earl Houston

IMG_8271Happy New Year everyone. I am reminded of one of the teachings of the New Testament: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2).

I am troubled by that directive because it looks more and more like that it’s not being followed. Some of the things that are being accomplished in the Lord’s church is grand and historic and should be applauded. We have bigger sanctuaries, seven-days-a-week churches, more polished worship experiences. But where we may have dropped the ball in some instances is the transference of the doctrine of the church into the hands of faithful folk.

In other words, those who are in our frame of reference in many cases are looking at the spotlight but ignoring doctrine. I’m not talking about procedures and polity within any denomination – I mean the Word of God. The expressed Word. The Word that has matriculated through generations. I’m not talking about who sits in our pulpits nor am I talking about whether a church has a dance team or praise team – I mean the Biblical preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

I admit that sometimes it’s not going to be flashy. Most passages that relate to our human narrative can be self-examining and painful. However, if the doctrine is passed down from the prior generation to this generation, we have the obligation as pastors to pass it on – however, the onus is then upon those who receive it, to absorb it, handle it correctly, and then it to others also.

Preaching has to be solid. I’m sorry, it just has to be solid. Nothing is worse than sitting in an audience and hearing an unprepared preacher. Singing cannot substitute lack of preparation. A great, gregarious personality cannot substitute lack of research and proper proclamation. Even gifts in other areas cannot and should not be acceptable as an excuse for not preaching.

Preaching is not a vocation it’s a calling. A vocation is defined as something that you feel that you’re suited for. But a call to preach is the Lord’s decision that this is something you’re suited for. I remember way back in 1978, I sat with fellow students at Multnomah School of the Bible with pastoral majors.  We were tag lunch at Burgerville, USA and we talked about our call. To my surprise only 2 out of 8 even expressed that God called us to preach. Some said they wanted an “easier job” and a couple said “my dad’s a preacher.”  I sat there thinking, “this is not a play thing.”

Preaching means preaching when you or your message is not popular.
Preaching means that preparation is more important than your celebration.
Preaching means that you have to preach the whole book, not just a few passages.
Preaching means telling truth from the text instead of your opinions.
Preaching means helping people with the Word and not trying to psychoanalyze them from the pulpit.
Preaching means telling the old, old story in a contemporary fashion to generations in the crowd.

I’ve tried my best to pass it down to the next generation. Some have been faithful, some have not. But I can’t quit in passing down the teachings of the Word of God to the next generation. I had a member once quiz me about why I don’t teach on some contemporary subjects like other churches do and I said softly: “Because that’s not in the Book.”

This is not a play thing.


by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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