Divided Pulpits

Photo on 6-23-13 at 11.31 AM #2by Robert Earl Houston

I am concerned about division. I’m concerned as a believer, as a preacher, as a pastor, as a church member. I don’t like to see nor experience division in the body of Christ. I’m not a proponent of splits especially in our denominational structures that have taken us from one convention in 1914 to well over 20 conventions, reformations, and fellowships in our African-American baptist context. We are so divided it’s hard for any one group to make an impact upon society because of our fragmentation.

I’m reminded of when the National Baptist Convention of America split in 1989. I was a young pastor, just started my pastoral ministry in Portland, Oregon and then watched my home convention split and the reverberations spread across the country. Those who had served together for years and many of them icons were now drawing borders and fellowships that had existed for years were now laid bare on the ground. 

There was an incident that occurred when a pastor from NBCA wrote a pastor from NMBCA and stated that since the National was splitting, a decades long fellowship between the two local churches was no longer in his best interest. I said it then, it was a sad day when we can’t worship together on a local level.

However, there is a move afoot and I think it’s worthy of mention that it seems that we are becoming increasingly divided due to stances of theological proportion. Back in the day, E.V. Hill could preach in Los Angeles in his pulpit on Sunday morning, appear on the Charismatic TBN broadcast with Paul and Jan Crouch Sunday evening, fly to Denver to preach to a Focus on the Family event and then wind up at a City-Wide revival at the end of the week. In other words, he had no problem flowing from reformation to reformation. He preached for liberals, conservatives, pre-trib, post-trib, pentecostals, baptists, methodists, episcopalians without any hesitation, in order to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The problem, as I see it, is that many pastors are willing to die on ant hills instead of mountains. We have too much in common in the word of God to sacrifice it on a small list of differences that will either cause us to express disdain or withdraw fellowship because, frankly, what we think is a sacred cow is nothing more than putting personal ideology over biblical practice.

Hot button issues aside, we are becoming the Baptist Hatfields and McCoys. I can’t come preach for you because your people shout. You can’t come preach for me because I have women in the pulpit. I can’t come preach for you because you don’t have a higher degree. You can’t come preach for me because you aren’t conservative enough in your theology. I can’t come preach for you because your church is not large enough. You can’t preach for me because all you’ll do is squall at the end of your sermon. And while we play these ecclesiastical games, our churches are thinning out and pulpits are dying.

Even if a stance evolves or shifts there is no reason to cut off fellowship completely. I had a friend that was “ride or die” and when I changed a stance, all of a sudden I became an anathema to him. I tried several times to call – not to chop it up theologically, but just to call and say hello. No response. Called several times. No response. So I had to write off a friend that I had worked closely with for many years because of the foolishness of an ant hill mentality.

I long for the day when denominations will cease. But I long more intensely for the day when division among baptists will cease.


16 responses

  1. Well said. And we wonder why God has a tear in His eye.

  2. Brother Pastor, you are always on the mark ! This is not about bashing Pastors, but Ive seen way too many instances where splits, division and strife was planned and carried out like clock work by the Pastor and his team. We brag about our wrong doings and then we chalk it up as “I’m only human¨ Leadership use to be in place until GOD moved them, today it is based on : dollars and cents, being angry, seeing a more lucrative offer.

    So much I can say, but time and space only permits so much. We have moved so far away from the truth that a sense of responsibility and accountability is a thing of the past. It is hard to tell the difference between the Church and the world – personally, I think we have lost control of that great GOD given institute that use to be known by most as a powerful life changing assembly of believers that would never compromise the standard of SPIRITUAL Integrity !

    Finally, we are so concerned by the whoop, shout, song and dancing that the WORD is not priority. I ran into a group on young people a few Sundays’back , they were leaving their home Church and stated they were going to look a some real Church. Pastor was lead to stand flat-foot and deliver the WORD. They were disaapointed that it was going to be more of a teaching lesson versus the excitement that we create to say ¨we had church¨. Either you entertain the people or they walk seeking more ecitement.

    Andre L. Porter

  3. God bless you pastor that was very well said. l agree with you 100 per cent. l preached a sermon years ago that was titled, Can’t we all just get along? Truly God is the God of peace and confusion.Very well said doc.

  4. I m sorry l meant God is a God of peace and not confusion.

  5. Thanks Brother Pastor. May our Great God continue to give you the boldness to take a stand for truth and unity in the Body of Christ. If we sincerely seek to Agree with God and obey His Word, we should have no problem agreeing with each other and be the One Church Christ prayed for in John 17.

  6. Again, well said. Wish I could post on my facebook page but when I try to do so it takes me to another site, to register, etc. I simply want those who read my post to read the wisdom that is written by those who reply as well as the writer of this blog.

    1. There should be a Facebook link at the bottom of the page or you can copy the page location and post the link.

  7. Pastor Houston,

    Your view is well felt. Yes, the divided pulpits is a reality and I am a witness. Allow me to include two more elements in which themselves alone can divide the pulpit and they are called envy and jealousy.

    Reverend, the late H.F. Dean told me these words…”the walk of a pastor/preacher is a lonely walk.” I do not have very many friends (pastors and ministers) Reverend, save only the Lord Christ Jesus.

    I’m hoping and praying for better.

    Pastor K.C. Morgan

    1. Pastor Morgan, I remember when Pastors would come to the homes of the elders for dinner. I remember when my brother would come home to preach. My mother and his godmother would have a dinner for the preachers in her home. They would so enjoy the fellowship; proud to learn of what my brother was doing, becoming as the result of their mentoring, relaxed and able to laugh, share and all that was said remained there. I remember having the same take place in my home for years. Something happened long before convention splits. As I am sure you know, Satan begins little by little until he accomplishes his goals. I remember learning so much at the feet of pastors that included my Dad, brother and so many others. I remember being a National Baptist, USA, Inc. through and through but visiting so many churches in other conventions, denominations, etc. with my parents, pastor, friends. I do remember the late president of our State Convention teaching me that it is ‘lonely at the top’ and that is a fact. I also remember sitting at a jazz supper club thinking, “Why is it that I can sit here enjoying food, music and atmosphere (I neither smoke nor drink) and our Pastors cannot do the same? Why is it that they cannot have a private setting where they can relax and fellowship with each other? The split started long before conventions. Now we who remember Dr. E.V. Hill and so many others must remember enough to leave that kind of legacy by making right what is now so wrong. Dr. Nettie Walker Wood

      1. Andre L. Porter

        LORD Pastor K. C. Morgan sure has some valid points related to his posting reply. I was raised that whatever was said at Mamas’ house stayed at Mamas’ house. It was considered a major offense to speak things that were spoken within a certain set. Today, everything is twisted, repeated and use against the preacher to condemn them.

        I am so concerned by the condition of our Church Body today, we do more shouting, dust kicking, so called tongue talking and dancing BUT without any power to make a difference. So many people have lost faith to the integrity of the Pastor and this is one of the main reasons for the splits and divisions within the BODY ! Finally, i’VE SEEN FIRST HAND SOME PASTORS CAUSE SPLITS AND DIVISIONS – PLANNED TO THE VERY TIME AND HOW IT WAS TO HAPPEN. THE PASTORS OF YESTER-YEAR NEVER WOULD HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT SUCH A MEAN SPIRITED ACT.

  8. Amen, Pastor Houston I pray that God continue to bless you to keep standing, preaching, and saying what others are thinking- please don’ t chance: that’s what Makes the difference, Thank God for the gift HE has given you, and thank you for using it, and sharing it with others the right way.

    Ant Hill has made a fool out of many pastors, split churches, divided conventions, destroyed families and friendships It takes work to be the leader, these self- placers has cripple the ministry God blessed them with, it has choke the life out of the fellowship among the the saints, and the unity of families and friends.. A hill made by man is not very high..self elevated.. And until God elevates you Ant Hill is all they’ll get, because the mountain top takes God to carry you and place you there. It’s can’ t be brought..

    1. Andre L. Porter | Reply

      Rev. L Mac ! What you done up and said ? I like the way you worded you reply / comment

  9. Pastor Houston, theological proportion- how about greedy men that has been called to be pastors that want to be more outside of the church God placed them at, more time is been spent on been paid to preach outside their own place. Its so sad this have nothing to do with theological- this is man wanting power, position, and fame outside of where God had placed them. Therefore, here we are in a mess, sitting under powerless preaching, if the head Isn’t right how can the body be. Three different conventions and the same mess.. Meeting, greeting and eating- and the world look on to see us as a joke. God is one: why are we the people so many within ourselves? The devil is making a fool out of us.

    Peace and a long life.

    1. Debra , you just hit the nail on the head ! Way toooo common and when the congregation mentions that the Pastor is away more or just as much – you are considered out of order and against the Pastor. Sometimes we don’t even know who the Pastor is because they are out so much. Finally, when they are in town then they say they are so tired from being on the road preaching that they need a vacation – it is never ending and creates hard feelings and major splits !!!

    2. Dear Sister Debra, I am not a preacher/pastor but I know many pastors who are called upon to preach all over the land and country. I applaud them. I don’t know what some churches would do if they did not have the opportunity to hear, fellowship and be taught by others in the body of Christ. Jesus was not stationary. He too went to and fro preaching and teaching. Also, some pastors will not put an extra financial burden on their churches when they find themselves pastoring a church that is heavily in debt, building more space, the economy or when some pastors have to take on the expense of caring for family members (elderly parents, etc.) These pastors simply do as others do. As I read my response, it sounds as if I am being negative towards you. Please do not take that as my intent. I am just responding from the experiences I’ve had. This morning as often, I thanked God for the wonderful Pastors He so graciously gave me, beginning with my own father, brother, cousin, my present pastor and so many others. I included two that stand out in my mind as men that needed much prayer (and I will leave that description at that). They made me more grateful for those who were shining examples of what God intended for His people. I learned from them as well. Powerless preaching? No way. I drive each Sunday quite a distance to sit under powerful preaching. I get the CDs of my pastor’s preaching, my congress president, my convention president and so many other preachers that are so very powerful in the preaching/teaching word. I promise you, if you could hear some of the messages I hear…see some of the people that have been changed by the power of the word… As I write this I began to think of my late husband. We married late in life. When he went with me to visit the churches, met the pastors I’d known for years through my denominational work and as a church pianist, he would often cry; a big, tall, strong man would shed tears, wondering where these people had been all his life. Sometime we have to broaden our circle to know what God has out there for us. Blessings to you.

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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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