Walking with Giants: An Interview with Dr. Bobby Roberson

“I feel like I’m about to die if I stay there.” Bobby Roberson told his friend and mentor, Dr. Harold Sightler. Brother Bobby suffered a heart attack at age twenty-nine, five years after becoming a pastor. He laid in the hospital for twenty-one days, and he thought the Lord was done with him. Dr. Sightler didn’t. “God’s grace is sufficient young man,” he said. “You stand true.”

In 1956, Dr. Bobby Roberson became pastor of Gospel Light Baptist Church in Walkertown, North Carolina. Since then, Pastor Roberson has seen God grow the church both numerically and spiritually. He has seen blessings from God, and he has endured trials of faith. But he was not alone.

Many great men of faith influenced Bobby Roberson’s ministry. Some stood for truth when it wasn’t popular. Others were encouraging voices when Brother Bobby needed it most. Each of them was a man of God who remained faithful throughout their lives.

At his church in North Carolina, Dr. Roberson told The Baptist Voice how God has been faithful throughout his ministry, and he spoke of the men who God used to support him.

HOW DID GOD LEAD YOU INTO THE PASTORATE?

I got saved in 1948 in the Kerwin Baptist Church about three miles from here [Gospel Light Baptist Church]. When I was a member there, someone came to this area and put up a Gospel tent for several weeks. I never attended the meetings, but that group of Christians organized the Gospel Light Baptist Church. God blessed the ministry of D.W. Long, the pastor of the new church for seven years. After he went into evangelism, the church called me, and I became pastor here the first Sunday in July, 1956.

HOW HAS GOD SHOWN HIMSELF FAITHFUL THROUGH THE YEARS?

I became the pastor here when I was twenty-four. At age twenty-nine I suffered a heart attack on a Sunday, and I laid in the hospital for twenty-one days. For a while they did not think I would make it. When I got back there was trouble in the church, and I went from 212 pounds to 145. I lost my appetite. It was a burden to go to the pulpit. I about decided God was through with me here, but He wasn’t. I was going through a testing time. You will hit some hard spots out there in your ministry if you are going to pastor, but you stand true. God will use them to help you.

WHO ARE SOME OF THE PREACHERS GOD HAS USED IN YOUR LIFE?

Dr. Harold Sightler I guess was one of the closest preacher friends I ever had. He was a tremendous preacher—greatly educated, old fashioned. He pastored the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He had a Christian school and a college. He had a daily radio broadcast for many years. Dr. Sightler preached nearly every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I’m guessing at least forty years, and many of them around here in North Carolina. I heard him say one day, “If I knew there was a compromising ounce of blood in me, I’d cut my vein and let it out.” He really believed the Word of God. He had good standards and stayed true.

Oliver B. Greene was a tremendous radio preacher. I remember one time we had him for a three day revival. The first night of the meeting he said, “I answered mail this morning until I got ready to come up here, which is two-hundred miles.” He was on 125 radio stations. And he said, “I got a letter from a station in California. They said, ‘Brother Greene, you are a little too hard on some things. We want you to think about it. We don’t want to have to take you off of our station, but you think about this for a while.’” This is what he said, “I answered that letter before I came this morning. I told them before I would compromise with them, they could put that station in the ocean.”

Dr. Lester Roloff—what a man! He had some sayings I always want to remember. He said, “I want to see God do something so great that man will have to say ‘God done that. Man couldn’t do it.’” We give too much praise to man when God deserves it.

He and I were riding along one day in my car. I was cutting up and said something to him, I don’t know what it was, but I felt bad about it. I said, “Brother Roloff, I’m sorry for what I did to you. I wouldn’t hurt you for anything.” He looked over to me seriously and said, “Brother Bobby, if you hurt me, it’s not your fault, it’s my fault, because I’m supposed to be dead. You can’t hurt something dead.” I never forgot that.

Dr. Lee Roberson was a great inspiration to me. I attended many conferences at Highland Park and Tennessee Temple. My boy, Steve graduated from Temple back in 1972. I remember when we came into this building we are in now. We had just about finished it. Dr. Roberson was preaching in the area and came to look at it. He walked in, popped his hands, and said, “The acoustics are good, the acoustics are good, Bobby.” I remember him saying, “This will be the last one you will build.” We’ve been in this building over twenty years now. God’s been good.

I remember attending a two day soulwinning conference with Jack Hyles, and John R. Rice. Dr. Hyles announced that night that Tuesday morning he was going to teach on how to win a soul to Christ in their home or their place of business.

I was saved at an altar in a church. I had visitation, but we always invited people to come to church. I never knew how to win people just personally to Christ. He taught us thirty-five points, and he acted out knocking on a door, getting a conversation up with a person, and how to approach him. I wrote it all down.

That was on Tuesday. On Thursday I got one of my men to go with me, knocked on a door and led my first two people to Christ. And that’s been almost fifty-four years ago.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., preached for me one Sunday at Gospel Light. He was a great dynamic preacher. He would kind of hold his hand up beside him, and he would say, “You bunch of modernists, you are going to Hell if you don’t get saved!” He was a great preacher and a sweet man.

Dr. Curtis Hutson was a precious friend of mine. He was pastor of the Forest Hills Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia. It was a great soulwinning church. I went to see him in Murfreesboro about seven days before he died of cancer.

“Brother Bobby, I’m going to see Jesus in a few days,” he said to me. “But I’m ashamed I haven’t won more people to Christ.”

I said, “Brother Curtis, you have been one of the greatest soulwinners I have ever known.” He said [shaking his head], “Oh no, oh no.” I’ve often wondered since then that the closer we get to the Lord, the more I believe we see our failures.

WHAT IS IT LIKE PASTORING THE SAME CHURCH FOR OVER 50 YEARS?

It has been a real honor and I thank God for allowing me to be here these many years. I find the longer that you are with people God increases your love. Dr. Harold Sightler told me, “Brother Bobby, if you stay a long time at a church, the people will feel like one of your relatives when they pass away.” We have some wonderful people in this church, and they have been good to me through the years.

WHAT IS SOME ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO A YOUNG PASTOR?

If you are not careful, the ministry gets too mechanical—like a business. I heard a great preacher say a while back, “Brother Bobby, even if you cannot preach well, but you love your people, that means something.” Don’t look for benefits, but look to do God’s will and God will take care of you.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY FOR A PASTOR?

Dr. Lee Roberson said this to me, “Bobby, I’ve preached in 1,700 churches since I retired from the pastorate. I think the missing link in our churches is compassion.” Don’t look for some big church or some small church, look for God’s will and love people.

The extended version of this interview with extra material on the preachers mentioned is compiled in the special video presentation, Walking with Giants