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The Baton Has Been Passed

by Robert Earl Houston

DALLAS, TEXAS – I am here attending the E.K. Bailey International Expository Preaching Conference (EKB). I haven’t been since the home going of Dr. Bailey several years ago.

My conference career began by going to the Lacy Kirk Williams Ministers Institute sponsored then by Bishop College here in Dallas. It was at that conference that I had the opportunity to meet ministers from across the country in close vantage point and learn a few things along the way. Sadly, Bishop College closed, but several ministers have kept the Institute going, and one year I was invited to be on faculty. Very honored by that.

Then I found out about EKB. He had a Church Growth Conference that I had heard about and then he created the Expository Preaching Conference to share with the nation what the National Congresses could not or would not. While the Congresses were holding pastoral conferences which featured great preachers – but you left there wanting to be a great preacher, but nobody wanted to share what they knew on a broader scale.

Then along came Dr. Bailey. He called in some of his noteworthy friends, mentors, and yes, those he mentored. All of a sudden, you had a venue that taught you how to be a black expository preacher. He and his team taught you how to look at a text, dissect the text, make it palatable and how to serve it with a dash of soul. His conferences literally transformed the nation. You came to hear Dr. Bailey, Dr. Melvin Wade, Dr. Jasper Williams, Dr. Warren Wiersbe, Dr. Timothy Winters, Dr. William Shaw, and other great masters of the pulpit.

The along came three preachers – Drs. R.A. Williams, Jr., George Waddles and the late Larry L. Harris, Sr., who produced another conference that dealt even deeper and became a crash-course on expository preaching using culture, syntax, original languages – it was a dizzying week. I went to that conference (it was closer to me when I lived in San Diego). In that conference it was early morning to late afternoon classes, evening worship and then a series of preaching using the original languages became another facet of black expository preaching.

Fast forward to 2014. Dr. Bailey is gone. God bless the procession of his memory. When you walked into the Fairmont Hotel, they have his sermons streaming on a screen. Before his death, his hand appointed a young man that most of us had never heard of – Bryan Carter, to lead the Conference. Eventually, Dr. Carter would work hand-in-hand to consolidate EKB and her S.T.A.N.D. Women’s Conference, which now meet congruently.

I see very clearly why Dr. Bailey selected Bryan Carter. He’s likable, he’s comfortable in his own skin – he inherited one of the greatest pulpits in Dallas and he seems so down to earth, so friendly. I saw him work the hallway and it reminded me of E.K. – he would walk a few steps, shake hands; walk a few more, shake more hands; We’ve been Facebook and Twitter friends – but this week I had the opportunity to meet him. Matter of fact, we took pictures together (and I was honored that he agreed) with my phone and then he asked one of his assistants to get his phone, “I want to take a picture with Dr. Houston.” Man, I was trying not to blush.

Truth of the matter is that the baton has been passed. Those of us in our mid 50s and higher – we’re now the senior sages of preaching. There is a young group coming after us – led by people like Bryan Carter, E. Dewey Smith, Jr., H.B. Charles, Jr., who are not only keeping alive expository preaching but taking it to levels that are what were not available before in E.K.’s day, but certainly have his fingerprints all over it.

Dr. Carter’s team is impressive: Steven Lawson, Chuck Fuller, Lance Watson, James Allman, Clayborn Lea, Robert Smith, Jr., E. Dewey Smith, Jr., Melvin Wade, Keith Reed, Scott Lindsey, William Curtis, and others. To my remembrance, only Drs. Wade and Smith were there the last time I came to EKB.

The baton has been passed at EKB. The conference (and Concord Church) is in sound hands. By the way – he was the keynote speaker this morning. I sat with one of my contemporaries, Dr. Maurice Bates of California, and we marveled at the depth, stewardship, and preaching of Dr. Carter. Matter of fact, he preached so strongly today that Dr. Bates said “give him the mike” after he sat down very quietly while the congregation was praising God.

I walked up to him and said “there has to be some billy goats in Dallas walking around confused, because you just preached their horns off.”

The new generation is here.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOMED.

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THE WIRE

by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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

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