Two of my worlds will collide later today. The days of my youth growing up at Bellevue Baptist Church will intersect with my current ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. When I heard that SWBTS had secured the Adrian Rogers library, I was excited. Today that library will be dedicated on our campus.
There is much I could say about the influence of Adrian Rogers on my life. He was my first pastor. I learned how to follow a sermon by listening to his carefully articulated and cleverly alliterated points projected by his uniquely resonant voice. He captured my mind with his intellect and my heart with his passion.
In the days following his death, I wrote my reflections on what he meant to me as a pastor. The two memories I shared then I still cherish today.
As a 16-year-old, I had been called to ministry but did not know what to expect. At the advice of my parents, I scheduled a meeting with the pastor. It was a Wednesday night when Dr. Rogers was not preaching, so I skipped the youth Bible study and went to his office. I figured that I would get about 15 minutes of his time before he had to move on to “more important things.” Instead, he gave me all the time I wanted. I walked into his office, where he was sitting on the sofa with his feet propped up on the table in front of him. He asked me what was on my mind and we talked for nearly an hour.
I don’t remember all his advice on that day more than 21 years ago, but I do remember one item in particular. He asked me if I had any preaching opportunities coming up. Since I was leading a Bible study at my school in a couple of weeks, I responded with an excited “yes.” He asked me what text I had chosen, and I told him Romans 1:16.
I can still vividly remember his response. He leaned his head back, looked toward heaven, and gave me a perfectly alliterated four-point sermon for my text. Only then realizing what he was doing, I asked him to repeat it and grabbed my Bible and a pen and wrote the sermon outline in the margin next to Romans 1:16. I “preached” that sermon a couple of weeks later and fell into the long line of preachers who not only tried to emulate Dr. Rogers but who also tried to preach one of his sermons.
My other memory came just months before he passed away. As a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I was given the opportunity to pick up Dr. and Mrs. Rogers at the airport in April 2005 as he was flying in to preach for a chapel service. After a few weather delays, their flight landed shortly before midnight, and my wife and I were greeted by a notably energetic Dr. and Mrs. Rogers.
We got in the car and started heading toward the school when Dr. Rogers asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I gave him a couple of answers, and then I heard that famous voice speak up from the back seat of the car and say, “Well, my dear boy …”
For what seemed like an hour but was probably only 10 or 15 minutes, he described the joys of the pastorate and the impact someone can have by spending years in one church pouring himself into the people as their pastor. I could tell that he had spent his life doing what he thought was the most important role he could ever have.
During that drive to campus, he asked me about some of my professors, specifically wanting to know who I had taken for preaching. After telling him about my preaching class with Dr. Stephen Rummage, I attempted to compliment him by saying that the best preaching class I ever had was listening to him preach every week at Bellevue. The car got silent, and I halfway expected a response along the lines of “that’s too kind.” Instead, I got a glimpse of the humor many others had told me about. After a few moments of silence, he said, “You’re right. That probably was the best preaching class you could ever have.” That memory still makes me chuckle more than a decade later—but he was right.
My life has been forever shaped by the ministry of Dr. Adrian Rogers. After spending a few years in seminary, I realized that I knew what expository preaching looked like long before I knew what the words meant. I witnessed what it meant to be a man of integrity in the pulpit, even in the face of trying times and difficult circumstances. And, personally, I learned the impact that a man can have on a young preacher boy just by taking a few moments out of his schedule to sit down and talk.
I am so thankful that Southwestern Seminary will be the home of his library. I look forward to perusing the books and notes from which he developed the sermons I heard from my childhood until I left home for seminary. Adrian Rogers impacted my life in ways that I cannot even articulate. I am grateful that my students at Southwestern will be able to get a glimpse of this man I greatly respected and admired.