ORLANDO (FBW)—Florida Baptists’ legacy must be that they “poured out” everything in their ministries on the right altar that will bring glory only to God, David Uth preached Nov. 13 at the Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting.
Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, which hosted the FBSC annual meeting, preached from 2 Tim. 4:6-8 in his final message as FBSC president.
Focusing on the final emphasis of the annual meeting theme, “What Really Matters,” Uth spoke on his “prayer for my legacy, my prayer for our legacy,” even while acknowledging later that legacy is ultimately in God’s hands.
“I thought about this after we picked this theme and I began to work on all of these ideas—I’m not even so sure but what legacy matters. Think about it, it’s not our legacy to begin with. It’s His,” he said.
Asserting that he believes 2 Timothy was the last letter Paul wrote before his death, Uth said 2 Tim. 4:6 is often used in funeral messages, “But I’m telling you, this text is for the living.”
Uth said Gallup has found that what people fear most is being irrelevant, noting it’s his fear as well, both as a pastor and for the Florida Baptist Convention.
“I just want to share my heart tonight as [far as] some things that I have watched and God has taught me over the past couple of years, but even beyond that, the past seven years,” he said, alluding to both his tenure as FBSC president and pastor of First Baptist Orlando.
“I’m really concerned about our convention becoming irrelevant, about not even being in the conversation in this state, not even being a part of what’s happening in the state in the lives of people,” he said. “I’m concerned about our legacy. I’m concerned about what this story will be when we finish the race. What will they say about the group called Florida Baptists?”
Paul offers four aspects about his legacy, Uth said, that are applicable to Florida Baptists today: he poured out his life, fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith.
Uth said he believes the allusion Paul makes to pouring out his life is connected to the Jewish sacrificial ceremony of a drink offering poured on the whole burnt offering.
He likened Paul’s point to that of an athlete who asserts, “I’m leaving it all on the field.”
Uth said in the sacrificial ceremony, the entire drink offering—“every bit of it”—was poured on the sacrifice. “In other words, he would hold nothing back,” he said, illustrating the point by pouring out the entire contents of a chalice onto the stage.
“Sometimes I’m concerned that we hold back,” he said, noting some are afraid to risk everything for God.
“There’s risk involved when you want to leave a legacy. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ is the old saying. Since when is it safe to follow Christ?” he asked.
“I just want to challenge you and I challenge us as a convention, are there are things we can do differently? Are there things that we can start or ministries or ways that we can try to minister in this state that will make us more effective and see more come to Christ?”
Uth asked, “I just wonder, can you honestly say tonight, ‘God, I’ve given you everything’?”
Noting the priest would pour out the drink offering on the proper altar, with the steam that would arise being an incense offering of praise to God, Uth said,
“There is only one altar worthy of our life and that is the altar of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, the One who saved us, the One who called us and it is all for Him.”
Ministers sometimes pour out their lives on the wrong altars, pointing to prideful accomplishments of their churches and the denomination, Uth said.
“I just have a feeling that one of the things God is after is any of us who would take glory from Him,” he continued. “I’ve become very convicted about selfishness and the pride with which we minister. And those altars we’ve built to ourselv[es] and those moments that we have taken glory from God. One day we will stand before God and we will answer for the pride that we have held up before Him called our denomination, called our church, called our ministry.”
Uth pointed to his struggle with whether to accept the call to come to First Baptist Orlando following the legendary pastorate of Jim Henry. Friends in the ministry advised him against going to Orlando, suggesting he would inevitably fail as the successor to a loved, long-time pastor.
Uth said God told him: “David, I’m not calling you to Orlando to make your name great. I’m calling you to go to Orlando to make My name great.”
God hates pride, he said, “Because it looks just like the devil.”
“Wouldn’t it be great if we got egos out the way in this state, if we got our ministries out of the way, our agendas out of the way and we quit pouring our offerings out on altars that give us glory, and we begin to pour them out on the Lord Jesus and His work, and it’s just a matter of incense rising to the Father that pleases Him and gives Him glory,” he asked.
Uth said Paul also fought the “good fight”—“a fight worth fighting”—while Baptists too often like to fight the wrong fights.
“Can I just be honest with you? Man, we’ve been fighting a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter,” he said, citing as examples disputes over church name changes and the way churches “do church.”
“I don’t know how many days I have left on this earth, but you know what? I’m just tired of fighting fights that don’t make a difference,” noting a dispute in a former church over what kind of chair to purchase for the fellowship hall.
“Maybe for once in this state and once across our convention, we could leave the stuff alone that doesn’t matter and go after what does,” he said.
Like the Apostle Paul, Uth said Florida Baptists need to finish the course.
“Don’t stop. Don’t give up. ... Even when it’s hard, even when you’re tired, even when you don’t want to, pour it all out,” he said. “Some of you came to this meeting discouraged, some of you came at a very low point. Don’t you quit.”
Like thoroughbred racehorses that run the last portion of race on heart, ministers must do the same, he said.
“There’s some of you in this room that are running on heart. God bless you. Finish. Finish,” he said, citing the example of a marathon runner who crawled the last 200 yards to qualified for the Olympics with only two seconds remaining.
“If you’ve got to crawl to finish, crawl. Don’t you give up; don’t stop,” he said.
Uth said the Apostle Paul also kept the faith, meaning he “cherished it” as a valued possession or prize.
Like grandparents who love showing photos of their grandchildren, Christians should brag on Jesus because they cherish Him, he said.
“If you really cherish your faith, you’ll go to the ends of the earth to share it, because you want everybody to know. Don’t tell me you cherish the faith and never tell anybody about it,” he said.
Uth cited the example of three missionaries who each demonstrated they cherished the Gospel by their lives and their deaths, even though they were not widely known.
“I just want to say to you, nobody may know how much you have poured out for Him. Nobody may know how much you have given. But I promise you there’s One, the Righteous Judge. … I want to encourage you—it doesn’t matter if we know,” Uth said.
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