Video: Where have All the Godly Men Gone?


It is a joy to be here. I bring you greetings from Kansas City, Mo., and your sister seminary, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. My wife, Karen, is here with me this morning, and we have five young children. It is a delight to serve the convention and to serve the churches of the convention and to be here today. I’m grateful to Dr. Patterson for having me down to Fort Worth to recruit personnel . . . I mean, to preach in chapel. Just kidding, you can keep your gun holstered, but it is good to be here today.

I was talking to my 10-year-old daughter the other day about preaching in chapel here. She has come to know and to study our domination, which is a real joy to me to see our children awakened to these realities. I tell you, she had your résumé pretty well down. She knew what you had done, where you had been, and she said, “Dr. Patterson is at Southwestern Seminary.” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Before that, he was at Southeastern.” I said “Yes.” She said, “He was part of this Conservation Resurgence.” I said, “Yes, he led that.” She said, “Daddy, how long has he been in denominational leadership?” I answered her earnestly and said, “Not long enough.” I mean that with all my heart. I am grateful to God for your president here and the first lady, Mrs. Patterson, and all that is taking place on this campus.

I want to draw your attention this morning to the book of I Timothy, chapter 6. I want to read two verses this morning, verses 11 and 12. My sermon title is this, “Where have All the Godly Men Gone?” First Timothy, chapter 6, we will be looking at verses 11 and 12 together.

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.


It is a joy to serve one of your sister seminaries. I was elected this past October and we moved as a family this past November. What called me to Midwestern, I suppose—above anything else—was a love for the local church that exists in my heart. I love the local church, and I love Southern Baptist churches. My wife will tell you that we will take road trips as a family and be driving out in the middle of nowhere, and I will see a little Southern Baptist church. My car will just pull over magnetically into the parking lot just to get out and walk around and look at the church. Of course, the church is more than bricks and mortar. I share that to say, my heart is given to the churches of this convention.

You think about the structure we have: about 46,000 churches, about 16 million Southern Baptists, and the six seminaries they have entrusted to train ministers, pastors, and missionaries for the Church. I believe in the church. I believe Christ will build his church. I believe Christ is building his church. I believe the church is the very center of Christ’s kingdom activity. I have a passion for the local church. With all of that I have, I also have a burden for our churches. That burden is tethered to these two verses because it is a burden that intersects with my desire to see more godly men. A question that presses on me with great frequency is, “Where have all the godly men gone?”

If you think of it, the church exists in a state of irony these days. We have more conferences than ever, but fewer conversions. We have more books than ever, but fewer baptisms. We have more words than ever—we talk about everything, and we talk over everything—but we seem to have less witness. We have more products and paraphernalia perhaps than ever, but little power. We have more and nicer facilities than ever, but no fire. We have more resources than ever, but no revival. Perhaps the antidote to these things, by God’s grace, is that he would raise up godly men to serve our churches. That he would do an awakening and call forth a new generation of godly pastors and godly men who will serve and lead our churches.

I ask the question, “Why so few godly men?” Perhaps we are getting fewer of them because we are expecting and desiring fewer of them. Churches seem not to want them. Churches seem to look on the outward, not the heart. They look for men as pastors with administrative abilities, with speaking gifts, with people skills, with cute families, and all the rest before they look for men who, first and foremost, are men of God. In fact, if you think about it, modern ministry seems not to necessitate godliness.

In the history of the church, pastors have never been more removed from the life of the congregation than now. In the New Testament, we see ministers living with the church throughout the history of the church. We see pastors living by and near and among the church. Now we seem so distant, so aloof. We seek our pastoral engagement through social media more than life-on-life connectivity. We have members who are over-committed in their lives. We have pastors that are over-committed in ministry. Both pull each separate from the other, a together in life-on-life ministry, where that moral accountability would be more present.

Moreover, if you think about it, ministerial peer pressure seems not to encourage godliness. The conversations on your campus are perhaps much like mine. They are often given to more talking about books, blogs, conferences, topics, and things. It is though we have elevated the accouterments of ministry and the garnishes of ministry above and beyond the eternal, the lasting, the true biblical urgencies in ministry. It is as though someone has snuck into the shopping mall of the kingdom and changed all the price tags, upsetting and inverting God’s value system by elevating the ancillary and the mundane aspects of Christian ministry, all the while cheapening the true virtues and true values of ministry.

So, my charge for us this morning, and my plea for this morning is simple, but it is really daunting. My great ambition is that God would do a renewed awakening in our churches—a new work in our churches. A part of that, the very heart of that, I believe will be raising up of men of God. Perhaps we won’t know revival in our pews until we first have revival in our pulpits.

I want to draw your attention to these two verses this morning, and quite simply, just unpack for us what we are presented here about a man of God. You recall what is going on here. This is Timothy, Paul’s son in the faith, one to whom he has entrusted much. He is exhorting him to stand strong in this book and in II Timothy. He is teaching him how to do church, what a healthy church should look like, and how a healthy ministry should function. Timothy is serving the church at Ephesus, which was losing its way. He gives Timothy a designation in verse 11. This title, in verse 11, occurs in the New Testament only in association with Timothy. In referencing him, he says in verse 11, “flee from these things you man of God.”

It’s a unique, a lofty, a noble title. In the Old Testament, it’s bestowed on men like Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, and Elisha. In the New Testament, it’s given singularly to Timothy. It’s a title of contrast. He says, “But you flee from these things, you man of God.” In the Old Testament, it often contrasted true prophets, true spokesmen of God, with false prophets. Here, it does the same in this passage as in chapter six. It is this great statement of contrast between those who will be false teachers, those who will be carnal in ministry. It is a title of exhortation to be godly. It is a title of encouragement to buck-up. As Paul charges Timothy with this title, Timothy knows exactly what is going on because he knew the sacred writings. It rang a bell in Timothy’s heart, and he knew it as an aspirational title—that which he should long for and seek after.

What strikes me as peculiar about it is that it is associated with so much action here in verses 11–12 especially. When we think of a godly man, we tend to think of one that is contemplative, one that is meditative, one that is reflective. I suppose that is right and true because prayer, biblical intake, and all of the rest do need contemplation, reflection, and meditation. But here this title is given in a context of action. It is a context of action surrounded by these calls to fight for certain things, grasp for certain things, follow after certain things, and flee from certain things. So, it comes as a title of honor, but not an honorific title. It is a title earned by merit, but not an emeritus title, because it is bestowed upon the one who would do the things prescribed here. That is why it shows up situated in this list of commands and admonitions.

Now the passage unfolds quite clearly. If you are a note-taker, it just does not take much creativity to comprise this sermon outline because it is so obvious. By the way, the best sermon outlines are the ones that are obvious in the text. Notice what we are presented with first. Who would be the man of God? The first call of the man of God is to flee from all immorality. Notice verse 11, “But you, man of God, you flee from these things.” You keep fleeing from these things. It strikes me as interesting that to be a man of God one must put on his running shoes, figuratively. You run from certain things.

There is a reference to preceding verses here. Back to verse three: run to flee from unsound doctrine, from false doctrine. Notice verse three,

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions . . .

He challenges Timothy to flee from certain things, and the first thing he calls Timothy to flee from is false doctrine. You may be thinking, “That seems peculiar because doctrine is first and foremost an intellectual endeavor.” We tend to think of godliness as a lifestyle or disposition of the heart, but the two are tethered together here. They are connected. Listen closely. You cannot be a man of God that embraces false doctrine. I was having a conversation a few weeks back with a man who I will leave nameless, but by any estimation is one of the most infamous theological liberals of the 20th century. When I got done visiting with him, several men that I serve with at Midwestern said, “How was the conversation? How did it go?” I said, “He was very kind.” They said, “Yes, we have heard he is a godly man.” I said, “No, he is not. He is not a godly man. You cannot be a godly man and reject the truth of the faith.” You can be a mild-mannered man. You can be a soft-spoken man. You can be a sheepish man and reject the faith. But you cannot be a godly man and reject the faith.

Notice also what he says here in verses four and five: not only to flee from false doctrine, but flee from divisive personalities. Again, this is tied to false doctrine here. This person is “conceited. They understand nothing. They have a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” He says, “You run from people that are pugilistic, or argumentative, because they are bitter and envious and angry.”

Notice what he also says in verses 6–10, “Flee from the love of money.” This really is the full gist of Paul’s concern here for Timothy. Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation, a snare, and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction: “For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Why such concern over money? If you read your New Testament carefully, you see much said about money from Jesus and from the apostles. You also know that repeatedly we see the church called to rightly care for those who would serve the Word of God to them and would labor among them. So, we are presented with a balance, but here the concern is clearly that Timothy, the man of God, would guard his heart from the love of money. Then, Paul ticks through what this corrosive desire can do to ministry, to the Christian life, and how it can fundamentally disorient who we are in Christ and what we are to be doing for Christ in ministry.

I love bi-vocational ministers. They form the backbone of our denomination. I have served as a bi-vocational pastor before. I get what bi-vocational ministry is, and I praise God for bi-vocational ministers. May their tribe increase, and may we do a better job serving them as a denomination. The type of bi-vocational ministry that is supplementing one’s income so that you are not a burden for the church when the church fundamentally does not have enough resources to meet the needs of your family I applaud, I congratulate, I pray for, I cherish, I value. The type of bi-vocational ministry that is not based upon a lack of resources of the church, to not be a burden for the church, or to free up resources within the church, but is driven by a love of money where a person is always seeking to supplement their income, I fear for you. That is a hindrance to the church. It can disorient your call. It can disorient what God has called you to do, and it can lead to material greed that is given to pursuing filthy lucre. It can undermine your credibility and your calling in ministry. If God has called you to bi-vocational ministry, then do nothing else. If he is calling you to serve Christ and the church with all that you are, all that you have, and all of the time he gives you, do not dare take up some secondary pursuit. You fall from these things. You run, you sprint, and you dash mentally, emotionally, sometimes literally. You flee from immorality.

Let me give a personal word of encouragement to the men in the room. Do not think you will outgrow the lust of the flesh. You run from it all of your life and all of your ministry. The great preacher, Vance Abner, as an old man once said, “I pray, Lord, keep me from becoming a dirty old man.” You never cease running as long as you live.

Notice what we are presented with as we move forward in this passage. It is not only to run from something or to flee from something, but to follow after Christ-likeness. Notice verse 11b, “Flee from these things, you man of God and pursue, follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” You must follow after and intentionally cultivate these things. When we come to a set of words like this in our Bibles, there is a tendency to conclude that this is sort of a pile up of words and just to gloss over them. It is not a pile up of words. Let’s consider each one.

Paul says first of all, to follow after righteousness, referring to that outward testimony—your relationship with God and man. We especially think of this in light of I Timothy 3:1–7 and the characteristics of the minister. It is this ongoing call to live a life above reproach and in ongoing accountability to God’s Word and to God’s people. You live a life of righteousness, a life of godliness, referring to the inner man—that state of being internally, spiritually vibrant, where there is a life in the soul, God’s Word is fresh, your prayer life is real, and worship is the overflow of your heart. It touches on the motives, thoughts, ambitions, passions, and your inner moral disposition. You pursue this level of godliness.

Matthew Henry once famously said, “There are some men who preach so well, it is a shame they should ever come out of the pulpit, but live so worldly, it is a shame they should ever enter into it.” Let that not be you. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith—this confident trust in God, a dependence on him, not on your gifts, resources, or money. Pursue love, a sacrificial love, and then again, perseverance, knowing in ministry there might well be dark hours of the soul—trying times inflicted on you by ungodly people who will attack you and your ministry. You persevere. I love this caboose word here: gentleness. All of this is with a spirit of humility, meekness.

Why is this so urgent? Listen closely, especially men who would pastor churches. There is a trickle-down effect between you and your ministry. You show me a college minister who is godly, over time, I will show you a college ministry that becomes more godly. You show me a youth minister that is godly, over time, I will show you a youth ministry of godly young people. You show me a pastor who is a godly man, over time, I will show you a church increasing in godliness. You can add many other descriptors there. You should me an evangelistic pastor, I will show you a church over time that becomes evangelistic. You show me a pastor given to prayer, I will show you a church over time that is increasingly given to prayer. There is this trickle-down effect that takes place. As you follow Christ’s likeness, those under your charge will be increasingly Christ-like. Paul would tell Timothy in a sister passage to “Guard your light and your doctrine because as you do, you will ensure salvation for yourself and for those who hear you.” There is a trickle-down effect in ministry, so it is all the more urgent that we pursue, we follow after, Christ-likeness.

I am still a relatively young man, as Dr. Smith noted. I have been serving in ministry for about 15 years in one role or another. I have been able to get to know many different people in ministry over those years. I have been in ministry long enough to see the track records of some of the other young men pursuing ministry the same time as me. Tragically, regretfully, there are a couple of those who have flamed out in spectacular ways and, given some scandalous activity, brought reproach on the name of Christ, tarnished them, and disrupted their families in significant and tragic ways. There are more who are not in ministry anymore, not because of some scandalous sin, but because day-by-day, little-by-little, they just quit following after Christ-likeness. Their call to ministry withered over the years, and their love for Christ withered over the years. There was never a single event where some tragic activity occurred that dispelled them from ministry. Rather, they woke up one day and in place of that love for Christ, the church, and the gospel that once compelled them to ministry was nothing but ashes.

I grew up as a boy on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Ala. My folks lived on the water and they still do. I grew up with boats, and most summer afternoons we would be out boating and fishing or skiing and doing things that boys do on the water in boats. There was an old man who lived down the river from us, a man who was dear to our family. He is still alive. He is in his 90s now, and his name is Mr. Denmark. I would drive our little boat to his house and would visit with him there. If we ever needed a tool to borrow, we went to his house. He had a surplus of tools. He and his wife had gone to yard sales their whole lives and had accumulated anything that could be accumulated. You know folks like that. So, whenever we needed a tool, we would go to his house. I wanted a fishing lure, and he had 80 of the kind I wanted. I needed to borrow a rod and reel, and he had 300 rods and reels to borrow. He had all of this stuff. He was a kind old man, and he had lived in his house for more than 50 years. He built it as a young man to live in. He had several hundred feet of shoreline and a huge yard there on the water. I would drive my boat up, tie up to his yard, and get out and visit him once or twice a week. He was the neatest guy to know.

Everyone else had these sea walls that they had built that clearly walled-in their property, and it was very clear whose property was where, but he did not have a sea wall. One day I was talking to him, and there was a pylon out in the water about 3–4 feet out from the shore. I said, “Mr. Denmark, what is that pylon there?” He said, “That is where my property was when I bought the house. My shoreline went all the way out there when I bought this property many decades ago, and I drove a pylon there because I was going to build a sea wall, but I never quite got around to it.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “When I was a young man, I had the time and energy, but not the money. Now that I am an old man, I have the money but not the time nor energy.” I said, “You mean to tell me that when you bought this property your bank went all the way out to there?” He said, “Yes. Over the years, as boats go by and the tide flows and waves lap, it has washed away much of what is mine.”

I fear for brothers and sisters in ministry who are not following after Christ-likeness. Subtly, unbeknownst, you wake up one day, and that once-clear call and once-clear standards of ministry have eroded away. You wake up one day and realize that pylon used to be me, but now this is all that is left.

Ministry is not a passive action, and the man of God is not a passive man. He runs from certain things, and he follows after certain things. Notice, thirdly, what we see in verse 12. He not only flees from immorality and follows after Christ-likeness, he fights for biblical truth. He fights the good fight of faith. He fights the good fight of the faith—a better rendering here. It is a reference to the truth of Scripture. As Jude would say, “To contend earnestly for the faith once and for all, delivered to the saints.” It is this phrase that draws comparisons to the military world or the athletic world. It is to concentrate, to focus, to discipline yourself for something. Not only to fight for the truth, not in contradiction to being a godly man, it is precisely a part of being a godly man. It is here in this passage plain as day, “Timothy, you man of God.” With that title and charge comes a certain responsibility—fight for biblical truth.

You have a pattern here you know well. Your president has given his life contending for biblical truth here. Listen closely: there will always be your fights, and there will always be your challenges. Do not spend your energy over the petty, but give your life to the things that matter—especially the truth of Scripture. We are all inheritors. We are all stewards of this Word that we have been given. Each one of us takes the baton in our own generation to fight for biblical truth. There is a New Testament preoccupation with truth, isn’t there now? Look, for instance, in verses 3–4—I alluded to them already:

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with a doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions.

Look over in II Timothy 1:13–14: “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” Second Timothy 2:25: “Be diligent to present yourself a workman, approved to God who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Of course, Titus 2:15 famously reminds us, “These things, speak and exhort and approve with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

Throughout your Bibles, especially throughout your New Testament, you see this persistent call to be men and women of the truth. Why is that? It is because from the Garden of Eden, when Satan’s, “Hath God said,” became the common question throughout history and has been this ongoing undermining of the Word of Truth. The man of God is the one who will have none of that. He is the one who will fight for truth.

Interestingly enough, I told you a half-truth earlier in the sermon. This passage is the only New Testament designation where a man of God is tied specifically to a person—Timothy. The phrase does show up one other place. It is in II Timothy 3:16–17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The direct connection of the truth of Scripture to the man of God, in such a way that he who would be a man of God, is the one whose life is given to Scripture.

Notice with me in verse 12, this fourth charge to be faithful to your call. “Take hold of the eternal life to which you are called and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” I love this phrase. Of course, it does not mean to cling to something because if you do not, you will lose it. It is a reminder to hold tightly in a way that means to cherish your call. If you are in ministry, you have a double call. It is a call to Christ and a call to ministry. You cling to that and hold it closely. As a footnote here, we see a harmony of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. “You take hold of the eternal life to which you were called,” and by the way, “that to which you made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” You take hold of that, you cling to that. That is the mark of the man of God.

I am not nearly as adventurous as your president. I bruise way too easily. His office is marked by animals that he has slain. If my office were to display slain animals, it would consist largely of framed insects and the like. I did have some adventure a couple of weeks ago. I was on a little plane flying back to Kansas City from Oklahoma. It was one of these really little planes that had one propeller. It was an old plane, and I was flying with one gentleman, another up front with him, and another in the back with me.

We were flying back from Oklahoma City through ice. I thought, “These guys know what they are doing. We will be fine.” We were trying to fly around the ice, but the closer we got to Kansas City, the more intense it got and the engine began sputtering like it is trying to deal with condensation. I was ignoring it thinking, “If they are not worried, I’m not worried.” I was in the back reading and minding my own business. We were 2,500 feet above downtown Kansas City as we were coming in, and we went from a sputtering engine to a stopped engine. It was a graveyard dead engine, as Jerry Clower would say.

It was shut down, and I learned something in that moment. Big planes with big wings coast. Little planes with little wings drop. We were seated there, and that plane began to descend so rapidly it nearly scared me to death. I’ve learned that in these situations you watch the pilot, and if they are not too worried, you are not worried. They were worried. They were frantic up there, turning gauges and switching things around. They finally switched to another fuel tank and flushed the moisture out. It reignited and we were able to land, but it scared the begeebers out of me and it should have.

I do not want to over-torch the story. I do not have some glorious scene that took place there, but I tell you, I thought about that a lot afterward. I thought about that a lot with this passage and with what the Lord has entrusted to me. Whenever I meet him, that day or many days forward, I will tell you how I want to be known. I could care less if anyone remembers I did a Ph.D. I could really care less if anyone knows that I was a seminary president. Preacher is a nice title, pastor is a nice title, and brother is a nice title. I want to be known as a man of God, and I want you to be known as men of God. The church needs you, and our convention needs you. I dare say, the Lord needs you. Where will they come? How will we find them?

Let me conclude with this charge: how to have a man of God. Fling him to his office, tear the office sign from the door, and nail on the sign, “STUDY.” Take him off the mailing list, lock him up with his books and his Bible, slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the flock of lives—of a superficial flock—and a holy God.

Force him to be the one man in our shallow communities who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms really are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through, and let him come out only when he is bruised and beaten into a blessing. Shut his mouth forever of spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever, tripping lightly over every non-essential.

Require him to have something today before he dares break the silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley. Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God, and make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone, burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets. Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit and make him preach the Word of the living God.

Test him, quiz him, examine him, and humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political infighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day. Sir, we would see Jesus.

When at long last, he dares enter the pulpit, ask him if he has a Word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him, you can read the morning paper, digest the television commentaries, think through the day’s superficial problems, manage the community’s weary drives, and bless the sorted baked potatoes and green beans ad infinitum better than he can. Command him not to come back until he has read and re-read, written and re-written, prayed and re-prayed, until he can stand up worn and forlorn, but rightly say, “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity, smack him hard with his own prestige, corner him with questions about God, cover him with demands for celestial wisdom, and give him no escape until he is backed against the wall of Scripture. Sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left—God’s Word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around in it, to camp on it, to sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.

When he is burned out by the flaming word, when he is consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he is privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently, blow a muted trumpet, and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword in his coffin and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of Scripture, and ere he died. He had become a man of God.


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