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
My heart aches for the family of Pastor Jarrid Wilson, who tragically committed suicide. Ironically, he was known for being a suicide prevention pastor, who advocated for the same malady that took his life.
Whenever a pastor commits suicide (and it’s happening more now than ever) it gives one pause. When I first started preaching in 1978, I cannot recall hearing about suicide among clergy. My instincts tell me that it must have occurred, but people were way very less transparent than they are today.
Being a pastor is not an easy job. That is for sure. We get box seats to great days in peoples lives and we get front row seat to the worst days in the lives of people. We get the opportunity to serve God’s people while at the same time receive some of our most painful wounds at the hands of God’s people. We get to worship God with amazingly gifted people and at the same time are held to standards that people don’t enforce for themselves.
I’ll never forget that in a previous pastorate that I had decided to stay away from local high school sporting events. There were no professional or minor league teams in that town. But I decided, why not? So my wife and I went to a high school football game and one of my members walked up to me and said, “When my son was playing you didn’t come. I guess he’s not on your favorites list.” I immediately got my wife and we left. I went back to my original plan and it showed me that you can’t even attend as sporting event without receiving undue criticism.
The truth of the matter is that when people look at pastors they automatically view them of the lens of Sunday mornings. Not in the view of having to juggle professional duties, home duties, and in some cases secular jobs if you are multiple streams of income and/or bi-vocational. In my first church I was bi-vocational and I found out this truth: You can take your church work to work but you can’t take your work to the church.
Not to mention the stress and strains that you have to absorb on behalf of your family. When the stage lights are turned off, the instruments hushed, and the building is cleared, you have to go home. Sometimes the person that you are married to has been a casualty of collateral damage. Some people will go through your spouse or your children to get to you. In some cases, it makes a child refute the church and they no longer believe in your Jesus because of the actions of people. I’m one of those parents who have watched a child walk away from the church.
What’s being discussed in recent years is the mental health of pastors. I have no shame in saying that because of the stress in a previous pastorate that I sought out (and still undergo) therapy with a mental health professional. He’s on the “Pastor’s Team” along with my general physician, my dentist, my barber, my foot specialist, my banker, my friends, my mentors, my Computer salesperson – all that help keep me together. Sadly, I was one of the many, who looked at life and said “this is not worth it” and contemplated suicide. But thank God for the Holy Spirit and those around me who made it an option and not a final answer.
I’m in a great season in life. However, there are many pastors who are not. It would help if instead of, out of formality, saying, “hey Rev., what’s up?” That a member or team of members could go to the Pastor and say “Pastor, how are you doing? How’s your mental health?” It may sound insulting, but it’s not.
Encourage your pastor to rest.
Encourage your pastor to take vacations.
Encourage your pastor to enjoy your area.
Encourage your pastor to go to ball games.
Encourage your pastor to take up a hobby.
Encourage your pastor to go to movies.
Encourage your pastor to take time and grieve.
Encourage your pastor to spend time with his family.
People can be cruel. In a previous pastorate, I had served faithfully for years. I hadn’t had an increase in pay or benefits in six years. In a Deacon Board meeting I requested consideration for a raise. The words that came back were chilling to the soul and almost tipped me over the edge: “What have you done to deserve one?” After preaching, teaching, burying, marrying, standing in hospital rooms, offering comfort at funerals, doing bulletins, doing graphic arts, etc. – my heart was crushed. But, God is faithful. However, I could have easily that night become another statistic.
I’m grateful for pastors like my friend, Dr. E. Dewey Smith, and others who have with me, rang the bell as loud as we can . . . Pastor, you do not have to suffer in silence. Please seek the help that you need and deserve to have. It’s better to go to a mental health professional and discover all is well than to not go and be unwell.
You can be saved, sanctified, filled with Holy Ghost . . . And depressed. The spiritual does not always align with the mental/physical. I pray this helps someone.
by Robert Earl Houston
For the record, there is no less Holy Ghost nor Revelation for those who are led to manuscript a sermon than it is for those who do not. You’re not more profound because you don’t use notes and I would never attack anyone for their style of preaching.
I think there is not one style of preaching that fits all. I personally utilize manuscript preaching because I want to be concise, constructive in my preachment, and want to stay on point and on the text.
And yet some of my biggest influences in preaching either used notes, a full-blown manuscript, or memorized their previously written manuscript. You still have to study. You still have to pray. You still have to do research. You still have to hear from God.
Oh, that we could celebrate each other’s gifts rather than to create a non-spiritual litmus test of “preferred preaching styles.” Last I checked, I thought we were all preaching for the same goal – that souls would be saved, edified, and drawn closer to the Lord.
Just a few words from someone who has been preaching for 41 years . . . and found the style that fits me best.
By Robert Earl Houston
All of the National Baptist Conventions have the same problem – REGISTRATION. It doesn’t matter which convention, who the president is, the process has become cumbersome and marked by dramatic lines at all of the conventions. No one asked me, but these are some helpful suggestions from someone who has been on both sides of the table, taking into consideration that this is 2019:
1. Make Online registration available throughout the convention to the close of business on Thursday evening/Friday morning. An area can then be designated for pickup of materials.
2. (Announced in late night last night): Make registration available at the Late Night Services, therefore registration can literally be from 7 a.m. to Midnight (why not???).
3. Partnership with a computer firm (or a partner) and place 10-15 registration kiosks in the registration area, similar to what is in our airports nowadays.
4. Recycle delegate badges – make them generic and at the end of the session, allow delegates to drop them off at various areas for use at the next session.
5. Have more credit card readers or utilize online credit card inputs for processing of credit cards (no one should have to wait in line and then have the person doing the registration wait in another line to use a credit card reader).
6. Use Givelify for Church and Personal registration with an option and link it to the Church registration code.
7. Utilize some of the young people, who are very computer literate and savvy to work the computers. This should not be done by anyone who is not familiar with computers and their functions.
8. Design the registration process and eliminate everything at one station. Why not try three step process – check in at one desk, pay at another, and pick up materials at a third station.
9. Have a separate station for State Conventions and District Associations – and encourage them to register online as well.
10. Partnership with a vendor and offer water and/or juices (or something healthy) to those in line. Also, consider a number system where people can sit down and wait for their number to be called (similar to DMV) – helpful especially when you have a lot of senior delegates.
This is not a knock of anyone’s convention and I regret that when I talked about the registration process I was in yesterday, someone used it as a personal attack against a convention leader (which I swiftly removed when I was made aware of it). Not interested in being negative – I love (and have been a member) of all four of the traditional baptist conventions. I just want to see us do better! I support NBC and President Young; NBCA and President Tolbert; PNBC and President Stewart; and NMBCA and President Sharp.
by Robert Earl Houston
At press time, arrangements have not been announced for the following ministers. However, I did want to share the information of their home goings and as the information is made available I will update the page:
Services are pending:
by Robert Earl Houston
1. It’s not as easy as it looks. Touch your neighbor and say “It’s not as easy as it looks.”
2. Studying proficient preachers will aid in becoming a proficient preacher. However, the goal is not to become a carbon copy because God has given you special gifts and talents and limitations.
3. Never judge a sermon that looks like it “missed it.” Sometimes the Holy Spirit will take the foolishness of preaching and use the sermon to change somebody’s life. Many a Sunday I’ve beaten myself up over a sermon to look on Facebook to see the words “Pastor preached . . .”
4. The first person to hear the sermon should always be yourself.
5. Never choose to preach a sermon based on a suggestion from a relative or a commercial on television or something that sounds pithy. Prayer and The Bible should be the first and primary stop in sermon preparation.
6. A good steak will make its own gravy. Never cook the gravy first and then try to find a steak to put under it. Do not get caught up in spending three days practicing your whoop and thirty minutes in sermon prep.
7. A sermon that ignores the cross is a sermon that ignores the hope that was provided for us in blood. Jesus Christ should be invited into every sermon as the guest of honor.
8. Stick to the text. Rabbit hunting season resulted in Elmer Fudd being injured and that may happen to the preacher.
9. An Associate Minister should not preach “pastoral sermons” – if your pastor is under attack, your sermon may not help him, but hurt him. It’s not your job to “straighten out the church” on behalf of the pastor.
10. Keep three sermons on you at all times – one in your head, one in your heart, and one in your pocket (iPhone, iPad).
This is not a criticism nor a critique. This is just a few words from someone who has been an Associate Minister and matriculated to a Senior Pastor over the course of 42 years. My desire as I knock on the door of 60 is to be a blessing to preachers and pastors, especially this next generation – which I believe will be THE critical generation to the Church.
by Robert Earl Houston
1. Never advertise where you’re going to preach. Some church members want to hear only their pastor.
2. Trust God in the process.
3. Never criticize or fight your or another pastor – it will come back to haunt you. And, it opens you to reap the same when (or if) you pastor.
4. Always have a sermon ready – you never know when you may have to preach on the spot.
5. Never enter another church’s pulpit without invitation from the Pastor. It’s better to be asked up than asked down.
6. Encourage your pastor and fellow associates.
7. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy your time as an associate. The day may come when you wind up as a pastor and you’ll look back on the days when you sat under your pastor, etc.
8. Stick by your pastor. Repeat stick by your pastor.
9. Never end a sermon without expressing the hope and power of the crucifixion, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
10. Now is the time to start investing in your ministry. Instead of $800 gators on your feet, get Logos or Word Search. Instead of $1,500 to hang out in Vegas, use that money and go to IC3 or E.K. Bailey or other major conferences that will bless your ministry.
This is not a criticism nor a critique. This is just a few words from someone who has been an Associate Minister, an Interim Pastor, an Administrative Assistant, and a Senior Pastor. My desire as I knock on the door of 60 is to be a blessing to preachers and pastors, especially this next generation – which I believe will be THE critical generation to the Church.
Vacant Pulpit – First Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church (1st G Church), Louisville, Kentucky (Deadline: August 31, 2019)
PASTORAL VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT
Application Period August 1, 2019 – August 31, 2019
The First Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church (1st G Church) membership is prayerfully seeking a full-time Senior Pastor called by God who has the following qualifications, experience, characteristics and attributes to effectively preach and teach God’s Word. The Senior Pastor is to be responsible for the Biblical and Spiritual obligations as outlined in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, as well as a man after God’s own Heart (1 Samuel 13:14). The Senior Pastor is to be a born again baptized believer in Jesus Christ and can fulfill the spiritual needs of the 1st G Church congregation. The Senior Pastor is to be accountable, first and foremost to GOD and HIS WORD, secondly to his Family, the 1st G Joint Council, and the membership of 1st G Church. The Senior Pastor is to be a visionary with strong leadership and communication skills who preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ, teaches sound Biblical/National Baptist doctrine, engages in Christian growth and development, promotes missions at home and abroad, and pursues the Great Commission as outlined in Matthew 28.
1st G Church has been in existence since 1910 with a diverse, predominantly African American membership. On January 26, 2019, our pastor of 35 years, Dr. T. Vaughn Walker transitioned home to be with the Lord. God has proven faithful throughout the history of 1st G Church. May He continue to lead and direct us as we move, in His name, into a new era. WE BELIEVE in and stand on the Holy Bible as the revealed and inspired Word of God; The Lord’s perfect revelation to humankind. WE BELIEVE that Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is the only way to salvation. WE BELIEVE in a Triune God (Father, Son [Jesus Christ], and Holy Spirit) as the one and only true God. WE BELIEVE that all believers are called and spiritually gifted for ministry service for the present age. The local church is a body of baptized believers in Jesus Christ who work in covenant relationship under the headship of Jesus and led by a Senior Pastor as overseer and under shepherd.
Senior Pastor Job Description
Responsibilities and Functions:
Leading. — In consultation with God and in collaboration with the Leadership of 1st G Church, the Senior Pastor will establish the vision annually for this body of believers. The Senior Pastor will lead and develop the ministerial staff in equipping the congregation to fulfill the Great Commission and accomplish the vision and purpose of this church. The Senior Pastor will provide leadership, direction and operational support to the ministry and ministries of the church.
Administering. — The Senior Pastor will administer and oversee the ministerial staff of the church. The Senior Pastor will administer the policies and procedures of the church.
Ministering. — The Senior Pastor will use his spiritual gifts to edify and build this local body of believers. The Senior Pastor will provide appropriate pastoral care to members of the church and the community and will equip the members of the ministerial staff and the deacon body to do the same.
Communicating. — The Senior Pastor will preach and teach the Bible, believing that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter. The Senior Pastor will communicate the vision for the ministry that God gives to this congregation.
- Licensed and ordained preacher of the gospel with five years’ ministry experience.
- Master’s Degree from an accredited college or university.
(Degree from an accredited Seminary in Biblical Studies, Divinity, or Theology preferred).
- Expository preaching/teaching style
- Husband of one wife or wife of one husband.
- Evidence of effective administration, leadership, and communication skills-verbal/written.
- Ability to work with a diverse congregation across all races, genders, and ages.
- Evidence of effective engagement in larger local, state, and national community.
- Committed to continuing education, personal development, and convention participation.
- Staff and volunteer development and coaching.
- Financial awareness and responsibility.
- A visionary with sound judgment and discernment.
- Not convicted of a criminal offense.
- Other administrative duties.
Please submit a candidate package consisting of the following documents:
- Cover Letter
- Current Resume
- Ordination Certificate
- Copy of College Degree(s)
- 2 Preaching Sermon DVDs/video links
- 2 Teaching Bible Study DVDs/video links
IMPORTANT NOTE – PLEASE READ PRIOR TO SUBMITTING DOCUMENTS:
Documents may not be submitted independently of each other and any missing information will result in automatic disqualification.
Selected candidates will be notified and asked to provide additional information later in the selection process. In addition, final candidates must also submit to a reference check, a criminal history background check, and a credit and financial history review (preformed through an outside agency for complete confidentiality). The Pastoral Search Committee will treat any and all information confidentially.
All documents may be submitted by mail or via email to:
First Gethsemane Baptist Church
Attn: Pastoral Search Committee
P.O. Box 21432
Louisville KY 40221
Mailed documents must be postmarked by August 31, 2019. Emailed documents must be received no later than 11:59 p.m., August 31, 2019.
All applicants will receive a receipt confirmation email within 14 business days.