Published November 24, 2005
"FAREWELL" was the lone word unfurled across the top of front page of The Commercial Appeal on Friday, November 18th. That was the word used by the Memphis, Tenn. newspaper to say goodbye to Adrian Pierce Rogers, the beloved pastor emeritus of Bellevue Baptist Church and one of America's most notable and powerful preachers.
The memorial services for the only man in recent history to be elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention three times was held at the 29,000-member church near Memphis at 6 o'clock on Thursday evening November 17th. The Memphis paper stated that more than 10,000 multiracial and multigenerational mourners gathered to show their respect and admiration for Rogers, many of them spilling over into rooms converted into viewing areas where large screens broadcasted the service.
The two-hour worship experience celebrating Roger's life was broadcast on local radio and television stations, as well as by the International Daystar Christian Television Network. It was also available on the Internet.
Adrian Rogers was a peerless preacher with a golden voice. At the memorial service, Jerry Vines, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., said, "You haven't preached until you have preached an Adrian Rogers sermon. Adrian and I would talk on the phone and sermonize, and I must confess that I have cleverly disguised some of his outlines. Haven't we all?"
Adrian Rogers was a dynamic leader. Vines stated, "He was the acknowledged leader of the conservative resurgence." Many contend that Southern Baptists would not have experienced the historic return to the faith of our fathers without the leadership of the Bellevue pastor.
In an interview with The Florida Baptist Witness in October Rogers stated, "I look back on my life and there are a lot of things that have happened. I have written books, pastored churches, and preached on radio and television around the world. But I think the part that God allowed me to have in the turning of the SBC may have the longest-lasting effect and be the most significant."
Adrian Rogers was the epitome of a loving pastor-shepherd. The wooden shepherds' staff leaning against the casket during the memorial service beautifully illustrated this strategic role. The shepherd feeds and protects his sheep. Underscoring this role, Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla. and former Bellevue staff member, commented, "I felt safe knowing that he (Rogers) was alive. I felt that our denomination was safe knowing that he was alive."
James Dobson, founder and chairman of the board of Focus on the Family commented, "Adrian Rogers was the wisest and most gifted human being I know. He was like a great oak tree and many little creatures find shelter in its branches, and when it falls everything is disoriented."
Adrian Rogers was phenomenally wise and had sanctified common sense that transcended anything this world offers.
Peter Lord, longtime friend and colleague in ministry, commented, "He could take either side of any argument and win."
Adrian Rogers was incredibly personable and upon occasion I visited with him. He knew how to make a simple, plain vanilla preacher like me feel like I was someone of genuine worth. Through the years he got to know our family and although he primarily only saw our identical twin sons at Southern Baptist Convention meetings he had the remarkable ability to differentiate between the two boys when their own grandparents had trouble telling them apart.
The last time I had a chance to talk with him at length was at the inauguration of George W. Bush earlier this year. We talked about his plans to train and equip young pastors and his desire to mentor those who wished to draw from his knowledge and experience. He was excited about the future. But cancer came on sandaled feet and attacked our hero, our knight in shining armor.
As I saw my hero lying in the casket, the feeling was surreal, hard to believe, almost impossible to accept. I had figured him to be immortal, invincible, and incorruptible. And of course he is all that, but now he belongs not just to us, but he belongs to the ages. He is no doubt rejoicing in his celestial home and undoubtedly "kicking up gold dust on the streets of glory."
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