BP Toolbox

10 things I learned about life and leadership from Adrian Rogers

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the passing of my pastor, Dr. Adrian Rogers. As a seminary student at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and church member at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., under Dr. Adrian Rogers, I had the privilege of being in the presence of a remarkable man of faith and wisdom, one of the 20th Century’s great leaders and preachers. His life was a shining example of what it means to be a dedicated servant of God. In my time with and around him, I learned invaluable lessons that continue to shape my Christian life and ministry.

Here are 10 things I learned from being around my pastor, Adrian Rogers:

1. He loved Jesus

Dr. Adrian Rogers’ love for Jesus Christ was palpable. You heard it in every sermon and felt it in every conversation. His unwavering faith and devotion to our Savior served as a constant reminder of the profound impact a personal relationship with Christ can have on one’s life. He often said, “Our love for Jesus ought to be the center and circumference of everything we do.”

2. He loved the Bible

Dr. Rogers had a deep love and reverence for the Word of God. He firmly believed the Bible was inspired, inerrant, and the ultimate source of truth and guidance. His commitment to studying and teaching from Scripture was a testament to the power of God’s Word in transforming lives. His love for God’s Word compelled him to lead the Southern Baptist Convention back to a commitment to the truthfulness and authority of the Bible.

3. He loved people

One of the most striking qualities of Dr. Rogers was his genuine love for people. You felt it whenever you were near him. Whether you were a member of Bellevue Baptist church or just a stranger he met on the street, he treated everyone with kindness, compassion, and respect. I remember one of his children sharing the story of a man who interrupted their family dinner one night at a restaurant to say hello and have the opportunity to meet the well-known pastor of Bellevue. When the man left, his child noted that his father didn’t have anything disparaging to say about the man or even a negative remark about their dinner being interrupted. As his family noted, he was the same in the pulpit as outside the pulpit. His love for people reflected Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves.

4. He loved the church

Pastor Adrian Rogers had a heart for the local church. He understood the vital role that the church plays in the life of a believer and the community. His commitment to strengthening and growing the church was unwavering. This love enabled him to lead Bellevue to become one of the largest and strongest churches in the nation – if not the world.

5. He loved preaching the Gospel

The pulpit was his passion, and proclaiming the Good News was his focus. Dr. Rogers approached preaching with passion and conviction, proclaiming the Gospel message with clarity and boldness. He believed that sharing the Good News of Christ’s salvation was the most important task for any believer, and he demonstrated this in both his public and personal life.

6. He loved preachers

Dr. Rogers deeply loved and respected fellow ministers of the Gospel. He mentored and encouraged many young preachers, recognizing the importance of equipping the next generation to proclaim God’s Word faithfully. The time he gave me as a young college and seminary student has left a deep, meaningful, and lasting imprint on my life.

7. He loved his denomination

Dr. Rogers loved his Southern Baptist Convention. He knew she was not and will never be perfect, but he also understood the tremendous impact tens of thousands of churches could have for Jesus when united, under the Word of God, to get the Gospel to the world. He believed that the body of Christ should be united in its mission to advance the Kingdom of God and worked with many mission organizations worldwide. This love led him to be willing to serve three terms as President of the Southern Baptist Convention at a time when the battle for the Bible was hottest in his denomination. His election as President in 1979 is commonly used to mark the beginning of what came to be known as the Conservative Resurgence.

8. He loved to laugh

Amidst the seriousness of ministry, Dr. Rogers had a wonderful sense of humor. He understood the value of laughter and the joy it brings to life. His laughter was infectious and reminded us that even in challenging times, we can find moments of levity. I remember the jokes he would crack in our preaching seminars at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and the chuckle he would get when the little wire counterbalanced fisherman he knocked back and forth on the end table in his office. As he talked to us preacher boys, that little wire fisherman he knocked back and forth occasionally fell to the ground. He’d laugh, pick it back up, and start knocking it back and forth again.

9. He loved his friends

Pastor Adrian Rogers cherished his friendships. He understood the significance of having a support system and the encouragement from deep, meaningful relationships. His friends were a testament to the impact he had on others. You could tell the names of those he considered good friends when he would talk about them and share their stories in his sermons. He smiled and chuckled; his eyes would light up when he told of their exploits and adventures together.

10. He loved his family

Last but certainly not least, Dr. Rogers profoundly loved his family. He demonstrated the importance of prioritizing family amidst the demands of ministry. His love and devotion to his wife, children, and grandchildren were evident to all who knew him. I always admired how he would pull his wife, Mrs. Joyce, up close to his side on the pulpit at Bellevue, lean his head over, and kiss her on the cheek. I watched as he interacted with his son at the Pastors Training Institute and listened as he talked about his daughter with us students. His love for his family was obvious, evident, and an example for all.

As I sit this morning in my office at Abilene Baptist Church, the lessons I learned from being around my pastor, Adrian Rogers, continue to shape my faith and ministry. His love for Jesus, the Bible, people, the church, and so much more serves as a legacy and an inspiration for all who seek to follow Christ wholeheartedly. Dr. Rogers often told us, ministry students, “The most important thing in life is to love and serve the Lord faithfully.” May we all be reminded of that on this significant day.