NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Tuesday we grieved over the death of Adrian Rogers. But we do not grieve for him; we grieve for ourselves. We will greatly miss him. We celebrate his coronation into the very presence of the Lord as he is now absent from the body and present with the Lord.
Solomon wrote, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother’s born for a difficult time” (Proverbs 17:17). Both of these statements describe the life of Adrian Rogers to me. A friend and confidant for over 25 years, he was the North Star for many of us. Always loving, always calling us to do what was right, never wavering in his commitment to God and to His Word, leading us to stand firm on matters that must not be compromised and by his character and extraordinary giftedness compelling us to follow his leadership.
He became a cherished brother during the difficult days of the conservative resurgence. His partnership in the effort to lead the Southern Baptist Convention to an unquestioned commitment to the authority, inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture provided the energy and strength to carry on that effort. He was a giant in every way. He was a giant spiritually. To see him weep as he prayed for God’s will to be done was to see the purity of his heart and the passion of his soul. He was the epitome of integrity and grace. His one desire was to please his Lord.
He was a giant as a preacher of the Gospel. We often have thought that if God spoke audibly he would sound like Adrian. Few have ever commanded attention at the mere sound of their voices like Adrian. A master communicator and expositor of God’s Word, he had no equal in the pulpit. He was a giant as a counselor; when he spoke we all knew he was giving wise counsel and sound advice. His ability to analyze and decipher difficult issues and to give a clear and concise direction was remarkable.
So many memories flood my mind. Thirty-five years ago a member of my church whose baseball career led him to Florida for spring training sent me a tape of a phenomenal preacher he heard in Merritt Island, Fla. It was Adrian Rogers. That was my introduction to this magnificent Gospel preacher. His first ballot election as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979 sparked a renewal and reformation in our convention. In 1980 when I was president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference and Adrian was president of the Southern Baptist Convention, we attended the first Washington for Jesus Rally in Washington, D.C. The two of us sat on the front row of a pre-rally service at Constitution Hall. The program was enthusiastic, celebrative and very charismatic. I looked at Adrian and asked, “How many Southern Baptists do you think are here?” He looked around and then with his trademark smile he held up two fingers.
When our church in Euless, Texas, needed a great evangelistic thrust, it was Adrian Rogers who came and preached a great revival crusade. When I was inaugurated as president of the Sunday School Board [now LifeWay Christian Resources], Adrian Rogers brought the main challenge. On a number of occasions he asked me to preach at Bellevue Baptist Church; his confidence in me kept me focused on the task God assigned to me. I have observed Adrian as personal friend and fellow servant of our Lord. I’ve seen him through the eyes of Christian leaders who shared his passion for biblical truth. His daughter and son-in-law served on my staff, so I saw him through their eyes. My oldest son and his family were members of Bellevue for some years and Adrian was their pastor. Their youngest son, my grandson, was saved under Adrian’s ministry, so I have observed him through the eyes of my own children and grandchildren. The witness is perfectly consistent. He was a man of absolute integrity who lived out the message he preached.
When I was president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Adrian and I sat together at a meeting hosted by Jerry Falwell. Adrian looked at me and asked, “Can you imagine a Southern Baptist Convention big enough for Adrian Rogers, Jimmy Draper and Jerry Falwell?” I’m not sure at that time either of us could do that.
Now we are faced with the task of trying to envision the Southern Baptist Convention without Adrian Rogers. I’m not sure I can do that yet. He will be greatly missed. He was the heart of the conservative resurgence. No one can take his place. But that’s good because we’ll be driven to be reminded that the Lord is the source of our vision, our passion and our convictions. Adrian would be pleased with that because he never viewed himself as a leader, but as a servant, and always challenged us to draw closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. Farewell, my friend. We love you and thank God for the example you set for all of us.
James T. Draper Jr. is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.