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Roberts: Unconverted ministers pose problem in many churches

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Huge numbers of ministers of all denominations in America are unconverted, said author and speaker Richard Owens Roberts Feb. 13 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As a result, the focus is on “accepting Jesus,” which is nothing more than giving mental assent, or just agreeing with truth, Roberts said.

Speaking at the Kansas City, Mo., campus, Roberts told students, faculty and staff the presence of unconverted ministers in the pulpit is directly linked to a modern neglect of concern for spiritual regeneration.

After referencing a famous sermon by Gilbert Tennett delivered during the First Great Awakening on “The Dangers of An Unconverted Ministry,” Roberts turned to the first 13 verses of the New Testament Book of Jude to describe characteristics of unconverted ministers. Just as “certain persons” who were ungodly had crept unnoticed into the church of Jude’s day, so they have crept into the Southern Baptist pulpit, Roberts insisted.

“It’s hard for me to believe that a denomination could have such high percentages of its members who could tell you the day and the hour they accepted Christ but do not have the life of God in them, without having a parallel problem among the clergy,” Roberts said.

Roberts noted Jude, in his letter to the early church, drew parallels between such men and various natural phenomena. In verse 12, for example, these men are compared to clouds driven along by the wind which promise rain but do not deliver. In such cases, Roberts said, it is the congregation that suffers.

“In this world there are millions and millions of people who are dying for want of the water of life,” Roberts said. “And millions of them will be in the house of God yearning for a refreshing drink, but they will sit under the ministries of dry clouds.”

These men do not seem to have the moisture of God’s Word in their lives, Roberts said. Rather, they are like dry cups, and their preaching is like a tiny drop of water, wrung from a filthy sponge that has been swabbed against the dry cup bottom of their own lives.

“And that is supposed to bless the whole congregation,” Roberts said.

Likewise, Roberts said unconverted ministers can be like hidden reefs that can tear open a ship’s bottom in an otherwise safe harbor. The church is to be a safe harbor where Christians can let down their anchors and abide safely, Roberts said. But a church’s unconverted minister, like a deadly reef, can tear the underside out of a believer’s life, he said.

“Tragically, multitudes in the church have lost the bottom of their lives because they found anchorage in a situation that was anything but safe.”

Jude also used the analogy of a wandering star to describe these men, Roberts said. They do not remain in one place, so that anyone can take a sighting and know where they are. Rather, they prove to be unreliable points of reference as they move about from place to place, he explained.

Roberts encouraged students to examine their lives while they are in seminary in order to determine whether they are truly converted and whether they actually are who they appear to be. Seminary life is the time to face such questions squarely, he said.

“Will people find in your life the life of Christ?” Roberts asked. “Are you the kind of man or woman who is indeed a safe harbor? Or are you the kind of person that people need to beware of, because you’re an uncharted reef?”

Roberts was at the seminary at the invitation of the Midwestern Center for Biblical Revival. The center featured Roberts at a Feb. 15 conference on “Revival: Some Historical and Biblical Perspectives.”

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  • Clinton Wolf