by Robert Earl Houston
I want to share a few thoughts on the passing of the Rev. Dr. Clay Evans, pastor emeritus/founder of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church of Chicago, IL, at the age of 94.
1) Dr. Evans inspired generations of churches, pastors, and musicians from his one pulpit via the mediums that are common place now – albums, recordings, TV, Radio . . . He proved that these mediums were nothing to fear but to be embraced. As a result, Fellowship’s pulpit was much larger and influential and he proved that gospel music – with authentic, meaningful lyrics – will never go out of style.
2) Dr. Evans was a mover and shaker in Chicago and beyond. His influence as a supporter of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. was admirable. He was often in settings where he represented the largest church, with the largest choir, often times with the largest budget – but his humility was something to behold. He didn’t walk with entourages – but he walked with the dignity of a great man of God. Doors opened to him as a result.
3) Dr. Evans was part of a family musical legacy – his brother, Pharis, preached revivals in my home town of Portland, Oregon; his sister, Lou Della, was one of the best choral arrangers and directors in her generation; his nephew, Wayne, is a fixture at GMWA and been a friend of mine well over 30 years. All of them espoused gospel music and each of them wrote it, sang it, played it, and never showed an ounce of jealousy or professional rivalry. He was cool enough that if you saw him in the hallway and said hello, he was polite enough to stop and engage you in a brief conversation.
4) Dr. Evans was a visionary. He brought in Rev. Charles Jenkins to succeed him and brought a new dimension to his beloved Fellowship. Rev. Jenkins, without a doubt, loved his pastor and that kind of father and son relationship is a model for pastors and those who follow after or currently follow their pastors today. Dr. Evans was WAY AHEAD of his time in crossing denominational and religious boundaries that others would not cross.
5) Finally, Dr. Evans was the quiet general. I think he understood that being a loud general was meaningless if you had nothing to back it up with. Dr. Evans was a multiple threat way before his time – a singer, a pray-er, a preacher, a writer, an arranger, a teacher, a lecturer, and on and on.
Mercy Seat and I are praying for Pastor Jenkins, Pastor-Elect Sharpe, the Evans Family, and his beloved Fellowship family. May his memory live on in our hearts.
Dear Robert Earl Houston (30 years ago),
Welcome to Pastoring! I’m writing you a letter (and my friends from Facebook and my blog are eavesdropping) in 2019 to share some things with you. These are some things, especially at ministry and relationships that I wish someone had told me. I’m writing this after a personally tough year in saying goodbye to members, friends, colleagues and loved ones:
a. Understand that this calling does not generate a lot of friends. It’s not a popularity poll. It’s not going to make you a popular person. If you have 10 friends in ministry through the years, you will be blessed beyond measure. Some friends are permanent. Some friends are seasonal. Some friends are only here for “a short spell” as the seasoned saints used to say.
b. Understand that you’re going to need some friends who are mentors, some friends who are colleagues, and some friends who are just starting out in ministry that you can be a mentor to. It will enrich your life and remember – those before you have already arrived where you’re trying to go.
c. Understand that sometimes friendships end prematurely. Not always because of an argument or falling out. Sometimes it occurs because of death – and that sting of death can even run deeper than the death of a blood relative. Robert, as you get older, your mentors will begin transitioning. That’s just a fact of life. While you’re in your late 20s, the pastors that you look up to will be (like you) older by the time you arrive to your late 50s. Some will be called home by the Lord and will leave you in tears.
d. Understand that there will be some tough days. And there will be some great, glorious days. On those tough days, God will send someone to let you know how you have ministered to them. Cherish those moments.
And lastly, e., Be of good courage. Never assume that God has forgotten your plight. He is able to make moves in your life that others will never understand nor comprehend. God will never leave you and He’ll never forsake you. Trust Him in the process and watch Him provide.
Use your gifts that God has given you. Teaching the Word is just as important as Preaching the Word. Love People. And Love God!
+Pastor Robert Earl Houston
Mercy Seat Missionary Baptist Church, St. Louis, MO
By Robert Earl Houston
Hello everyone. It’s been a while. I’ve just been super-busy in life lately and I don’t want to fall down the “gotta put something out” rabbit hole every week. I pray you’re doing well.
Many years ago I served in a community on the west coast and there was a pastor of a rather good sized church who had a strange paradigm – he was ridiculously complimentary of any church and pastor that was “at his level” or larger . . . But when it came to “smaller” pastors and churches, he was dismissive even to a point of being nasty about it.
I think one of the problems in the pastoral ranks is that we’ve starting ranking pastors. I appreciate the T.D. Jakeses, the Joel Osteens, the Paul Mortons, the Joseph Walkers, the Kenneth Ulmers . . . But there are pastors right in my community, my state who have preached just as fervently, love their churches just as passionately and they may not have grand stages, they are making a difference in their communities.
In my home community of Portland, OR, there was a pastor named Jerry G. Myers. Pastor Myers came up through the ranks at my mom’s home church, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, and he pastored a congregation, 50 miles away in Longview, Washington. Pastor Myers was faithful. Man, I don’t know if I could have done it, but he made the distance to that church, even sometimes when it was just him and a handful of people who trod out in the snow. He was well respected and lived to be over 100. He was celebrated by his peers. No, he didn’t see 500 a Sunday. No, he didn’t have a choir and excellent organist. No, he didn’t appear on CBN or TBN or The Word Network. But Jerry Myers was faithful.
You can learn (and appreciate) the work and ministry of any pastor – no matter the site of his church. I’ve lived long enough to hear people equate crowd with blessings . . . But it was a crowd that rebelled against Moses in the desert. It was a crowd that put David on the run when Absalom was after him. And we all know, it was a crowd that cried out “crucify HIm” against Jesus, our Christ.
So this is my appeal – celebrate EVERYONE. Even if you have to do so on credit until you get an understanding of their circumstance. Birthday? Celebrate them. Anniversary? Celebrate them. Accomplishment, large or small? Celebrate them. To not celebrate a colleague is to create an impression that “you’re too big” or “two shallow.”
Maybe the reason why people don’t rejoice with you is because you don’t rejoice with them.
Consider this. Paul never pastored but he heaped praise upon those who did. Selah.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – For the past 48 hours, I have been in San Diego for the home going services for my dear friend, Sis. Mildred Lee Bell, charter member of the New Hope Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, where I served as their pastor for nine years, from 1995-2004.
I’m here by invitation of her family. Mildred and I were close. Not only was I her pastor, but after going through a horrendous storm of divorce and the aftermath of it affecting the congregation, after my resignation, it severed professional ties, but Mildred would not let me go. We stayed in touch. We had monthly telephone calls where we laughed together, mourned together, and encouraged each other.
When I left here in 2004, I had vowed I would never return. I was hurt, bruised, beaten, and broken of spirit. I had been through hell like I had never experienced nor would I wish on anyone else. When I came to clear out my office, I will never forget the glare of the then chairman of deacons and a member who would go on to become a trustee, who came to the church to watch me pack up my belongings. As I single-handedly packed my belongings into my vehicle, I stood on the final step and shook my foot three times – remembering that scripture found in Matthew 10:12-14. I had shaken the dust from my feet.
It’s hard to fathom that 10 years have gone by since that day in 2004. So many things have happened – the great recession, the election of a black United States President, Wars overseas, domestic problems – and for me personally it has been a journey in the hands of the Lord. I’ve preached as a full-time evangelist, worked for a prominent immigration attorney, served as a Senior Project Manager for an international ministry, served as a full-time assistant pastor in Nashville, married an amazing and supportive woman that has no equal in her love, and now, serving what I believe is the church of my dreams, First Baptist Church, in Frankfort, Kentucky. I’ve been tremendously blessed by the Lord.
Why am I sharing this? Because it is true: Time heals all wounds. I stood in the pulpit for the first time in 10 years to preside at Mildred’s services and I was welcomed by her family with wide open arms, and most, if not all, of my former members, warmly greeted me, hugged my neck, wrapped their arms around me, and even those young people who were small children when I became their pastor (many who I baptized) ran up to me and said “we miss you” and “we still love you.”
It says something that sometimes the biggest obstacle to our healing may be ourselves. Sometimes our perception, right or wrong, of how others feel about you, may be building a wall needlessly. Every pastor has supportive people, those who are on the fence, those who are against – but it’s not our job to be popular – it’s our job to feed the flock, and a grateful flock will respond in kind. The many years that I stood behind that pulpit and labored in the word did not go in vain. Even though circumstances were stormy – the storm is not only over, it’s literally water under a bridge.
I suspect that it took the home going of Mildred to bring us all together. It had a feel of a reunion. How an 87 year old woman could accomplish this is only by the grace of God. The current pastor, Rev. Milton Chambers, preached a classic sermon and he went out of his way to welcome me back to New Hope Friendship. When I arrived, the signage was up and we worked together to make sure that Mildred had the kind of home going service that she deserved. I presided. He preached. And God received all of the glory.
So I’m about to pack my bags and I’m eagerly looking forward to coming home to a beautiful, loving wife and a prayerful and supportive congregation, to continue ministering in the pulpit that the Lord over 5 years ago. But I leave San Diego this time with a smile on my face, joy in my heart, and an appreciation of the healing and reunion that took place this weekend.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
by Robert Earl Houston
I have never understood why some churches are adversarial with their pastors. To me, it’s akin to boarding an aircraft looking at the pilot and saying “I hope you crash” while you make you way to 28D and not understanding that if the pilot crashes, you crash.
Something happened at worship today that I want to pass along in the hope that it may encourage some pastor some where.
As I extended the Invitation to Discipleship, we had several members come for prayer. One member shared that her grandmother and herself were both having health challenges. Another member shared that he and his grown daughters were having health challenges. But there was a third individual (actually the second one who spoke) and I am paraphrasing was he came forward for:
The Lord had led him forward to ask the congregation to pray for Pastor Houston. He said that our pastor is busy, he preaches out his heart each week, he visits the sick, counsels with families about funerals, has multiple meetings and today, the Lord told him that the congregation needs to pray for him, and each other.
It was spontaneous, caught me off guard, and following prayers for the other concerns, then much church prayed for me. One of the Golden Girls of our church led the prayer by my request (and how she prayed). I sat there for a few moments in awe of what God had done that morning.
I think it goes without saying that many of us who serve congregations experience the congregation serving the server. My goal is to serve the Lord continually and my church thought enough of the ministry that I provide to them, and as he said, not only here, the community, the state and the nation. It was touching because I’ve had some experiences that were not always that pleasant in the past areas that I’ve served (and all of us in ministry have that), but I would hope that the people of God that I serve would appreciate the service of their pastor – outside of a calendared anniversary.
Sunday proved it.
This reminds me of an old adage: If you want a better pastor – pray for the one you have. If you want a more loving pastor – pray for the one you have. If you want a better preaching pastor – pray for the one you have. If you want a more blessed pastor – pray for the one you have.
Prayer sure beats argumentative, hostile and woundings from an out-of-control business meeting. Thank God, we don’t have those – because we are believers first and foremost.
YOUR COMMENTS WELCOMED
Preachers . . . lend me your ears.
Let’s start a social media campaign to honor the life and legacy of the late Dr. Albert Louis Patterson, Jr., who went home to be with the Lord.
I’m hoping we can get at least 2,000 preachers and laypersons to honor Dr. Patterson, one of the greatest pulpiteer of this generation, by simply placing his photograph as your profile picture on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets, until his homegoing service on Thursday, April 17, 2014.
Below is a picture you can use or use any other photos of Dr. Patterson. We want the nation and world to know that a great (preaching) man of Israel (the Word of God) hath fallen.
+Pastor Robert Earl Houston
To view the Victory Celebration program for Dr. Winters, click on the link below:
TIMOTHY WINTERS PROGRAM
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.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME
by Robert Earl Houston
There is a little-known procedure that is fulfilled during the filming of television programs and movies – it’s called “product placement.” When an actor is drinking a cola and it happens to be a Coke – it’s not there by accident. The makers of Coke have paid for the right to put that Coke in that movie or television program.
When the closing part of a movie calls for the hero and heroine to fly off into the sunset and they board that American Airlines jet – again, it’s no accident that American’s jets are featured. American Airlines has paid for the privilege of getting their brand there at that time.
Earlier this week, one of the friends of our church was on her way to work and as she and a co-worker headed into work, a terrible wreck was on the side of the road. If memory serves me right, the car had hit a tree and the safety inflatible bags deployed, and apparently the driver was injured. She pulled her car to the side of the road and she and the co-worker began to assess the situation and help the driver. But check this out – they were both nurses and they were on the scene long before Paramedics could arrive.
That’s product placement.
God has a way of putting people in the right place at the right time. Whether it’s that pastor who preaches week in and week out; or that Sunday School teacher who drops a word of confirmation during a class; or if someone is in need and a believer happens to be there, even though they weren’t even scheduled to be there.
That’s product placement.
I want to say to you my friend that if you’re available – if you just make yourself available to the Master’s will – He will place you. The qualifications of man can be overruled by God when He has assignment written on your life. I’ve seen pastors placed in churches to the awe of friends, family and fellow preachers – because they were placed there by the Lord. I’ve seen divorced men (including myself) get called to churches – because there was something that God needed for that church at that time. I’ve seen barriers broken at churches that were steeped in traditions because the Lord had someone ready to break the status quo and to put the church or organization where He wanted it to be.
So, the next time you wonder – why am I here – remember, that’s product placement.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.
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.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.