Anyone who is the slightest bit familiar with my own ministry will know how profoundly I have been influenced by Adrian Rogers. He was in many ways a father in ministry to me, and it grieves me that many younger evangelicals may not know much about this giant from the previous generation. To me this is a tragedy, especially for those who, like me, identify as Southern Baptists. No one was more responsible for the Southern Baptist Conservative Resurgence than Dr. Rogers (along with Drs. Patterson, Vines, and Judge Paul Pressler).
So I’d like to do a few brief posts that will hopefully introduce or reintroduce you to this great man. First, I’ll briefly outline who Adrian Rogers was. Second, I’d like to share more personally about what Adrian Rogers has meant to me. Then I will point out some the lessons you and I can learn from him as we love and serve the Lord Jesus. Finally, I’ll share some of my favorite quotes and clips that will further expose you to his life and ministry.
Certainly this is not intended to be hero-worship nor hagiography. Instead, I hope this series accomplishes two things: (1) I hope it leads you to be thankful to God for raising up choice servants at pivotal points in history. (2) I trust this will give you a clearer glimpse into my own ministry, since Dr. Rogers has had such a profound impact on me over the years. (I would note that Tony Merida, David Platt, and I dedicated the Christ-Centered Exposition series to both John Piper and Adrian Rogers.)
So who was Adrian Rogers? Dr. Rogers is best known for serving as the long-time pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church just outside of Memphis, TN. He started at Bellevue in 1972 and served there until he retired in 2005, which is the year he died (November 15). Bellevue was already a large church at the time of his installation, having been led previously by the influential R. G. Lee. Under Rogers’ leadership, however, Bellevue’s membership exploded to upwards of 29,000.
In an age before podcasts, Adrian Rogers was known around the world through his radio and television ministry, Love Worth Finding. It was here that millions were exposed to his simple yet powerful practice of preaching expository sermons week in and week out at Bellevue.
Though Rogers’ ministry was primarily in the local church, he will most likely (and deservedly so!) be remembered for his role in the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. Prior to this denominational transformation in the 80’s and 90’s, conservative pastors in the SBC had noticed a leftward drift in the denominational entities, most notably the seminaries. A grassroots effort to reform these entities and bring the convention back to conservative positions on biblical inerrancy and authority ensued, with the goal being to get conservative leaders elected to the office of SBC President. Over time, successive presidents would be able to influence the institutions of the SBC through conservative appointments to committees and trustee boards.
In 1979, Adrian Rogers was the very first of a still unbroken line of conservative SBC Presidents. This string of elections has allowed for the steady retrieval of denominational entities to theological conservatism, including all six SBC seminaries. With this in mind, it’s hard to overstate the importance of Dr. Rogers as the first of these presidents. God raised him us as the right man at the right time to gain enough support to stem the time of liberalism and guard the SBC from potentially losing the gospel itself. Such liberal trends would almost certainly have led to a dying denomination and many dying churches.
This is an incomplete picture of who Dr. Rogers was. He was a man of God, a leader, a humble servant, and an example to an entire generation of pastors and church leaders. Without going into many more details of his life, I’ll take the next post in this series to share what it has meant to me personally to be able to know and learn from this great man.