Southern Baptist pastors were given a simple yet poignant message Sunday to preach Christ and not themselves.
Citing what were likely familiar words from the late A.T. Robertson, Bob Pitman reminded them that preaching of one's self was "surely as poor and disgusting a topic as a preacher can find."
Dean of the Adrian Rogers Center for Biblical Preaching at the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tenn., Pitman directed his message to hundreds of pastors gathered in Phoenix, Ariz., for a two-day conference, held just ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting.
He pointed out that many Southern Baptists try to make church about themselves, though they might not admit it.
"I'm going to have it my way" and "this church can't survive without me" are some of the lamentable attitudes of some SBC pastors, he noted.
"Some pastors see themselves as CEOs of an organization."
Bringing them back to Scripture, Pitman reminded the church ministers why it is that they are called to preach Christ and not themselves.
"We're not the chief shepherd. We're the under shepherd," the long-time evangelist emphasized.
"God is not interested in any sand castles that we may build. God is not interested in any personal agendas that we may push. God is not impressed as we climb the ladder in the denomination. The only thing that really impresses God is when we live for Jesus' sake."
"It's not important that they know our name. But it's important that they know his name," Pitman highlighted.
He called pastors to true humility – where one comes into grips with their nothingness and Christ's “everythingness.”
"Preach myself? I cannot preach myself because I did not speak this world into creation but I know someone who did .... I was not conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin girl but I know someone who was ... I have not lived a life without sin but know someone who did ... I was never crucified on the cross for the sins of the world and raised again the third day but I know someone who was!" he exclaimed.
Pitman's message was received enthusiastically from conference attendees. Though a basic and obvious call to preach Jesus, the message came off as refreshing and straightforward especially at a time when pastors are worried that the Gospel message is becoming increasingly muddied.
The pastor's mandate, Pitman outlined, is to preach.
"We must preach because of the presence of false prophets," he said.
"False prophets use trickery and deception to draw men into their way of thinking. ... They twist Scriptures with the desire to ensnare people so that they might be corrupted."
The presence of false prophets isn't the only reason pastors must preach.
"We preach because of the mercy of God," he added.
Just as they were once lost but shown the mercy of God, pastors must extend that same message of grace and mercy to the rest of the world.
"There are pimps, and prostitutes, and homosexuals, and murderers, and thieves, and rapists, and child molesters and all of them need to know about the mercy of God," he underscored.
"We preach because people without Christ really are lost," he added. "They may be nice people but they're lost."
Pitman is among a host of well-known and lesser known speakers at the 2011 Pastors' Conference for SBC pastors. Other speakers include John Piper, Louie Giglio, Rick Warren, Johnny Hunt and Bartholomew Orr, among others.
Organizers took up an offering, 100 percent of which will go toward taking the Gospel to unreached people groups and hosting pastor training conferences on three different continents where the believers have no access to training.