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FIRST-PERSON: A tribute to Adrian Rogers

DALLAS (BP)–Dr. Adrian P. Rogers was in a class all by himself. He was my friend, a loyal friend. If Adrian Rogers was your friend, you had a real friend.

I always said Adrian Rogers was the Elvis Presley of Gospel preaching. He was the single greatest pulpiteer I ever heard. Rogers was a man after God’s own heart. He was the “Godfather,” coach and quarterback of the Conservative Resurgence of Southern Baptists — without a doubt. W. A. Criswell was the founder.

A favorite memory of mine took place when I was conducting a revival for him in Merritt Island, Fla. He would stay up until midnight in the foyer of the church, weeping with teenage hippies, druggies and young street prostitutes as they prayed to receive Christ. I met very few people like him with such a great passion for Jesus and the souls of lost men. What an impression he made on me.

At the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston in 1979, several people, including myself, persuaded Dr. Rogers to allow his name to be placed in nomination for SBC president. We had been responsible for recruiting thousands of messengers. It was my first time to be involved in the presidential election of the Southern Baptist Convention. I had stayed out of any type of politics in the SBC. Rogers was special to me.

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In Houston, I asked Dr. Rogers, “Are you afraid you are going to get beat?” The others who were nominated came essentially from a Who’s Who list. He looked at me. He never did answer. We had had an all-night prayer meeting to persuade Rogers to let us place his name in nomination. I went into his room the next morning and several others were there, including his wife Joyce. I said to him, “Is it a green light go?” He replied, “I’ll have to see it in the sky.” I said, “You will … today. There’ll be a plane doing sky writing this afternoon. I promise you’ll see it in the sky.” He later said, “Let’s go.” Dr. Homer Lindsay Sr. nominated Rogers.

While the votes were being counted, Rogers asked me, “If I get beat, will you still be my friend?” I said, “You’re not going to get beat. You’ll win on the first ballot.” He won on the first ballot. At the Astrodome, before Billy Graham preached to 60,000 attendees, Rogers was introduced as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

One of the great things about Rogers is that he never forgot his friends. I was preaching in Mississippi and coming through Memphis once. I called Rogers and he was insistent that I spend the night. I really liked to stay in a motel. He was persistent and even came to the airport, and literally picked up my luggage to put in his automobile. He treated me like I was a king.

He was “the Godfather,” no doubt. He was the type of personality with such charisma and leadership. I never met anyone like Rogers in the Christian community. If I was a young preacher, I would secure every tape and CD the man ever preached. When Adrian Rogers spoke, people listened. His legacy will live until Jesus comes.

In the two days after Dr. Rogers died, I received more than 25 calls and e-mails from individuals asking me questions about him. If you come to our crusade headquarters, pictures of Dr. Rogers are all over the walls. There is even one picture of him as pastor of Merritt Island, Fla., baptizing hippies and druggies. He was really one of a kind.

In 1982, when I was elected president of the National Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, he came up to me and said, “You don’t take no prisoners.” I said, “Well I’m going to be a denominational bureaucrat.” He really laughed and said, “That’ll be the day.” He was my kind of man.

When he went to Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., he invited me to come preach for him. What was amazing was he wanted me to talk about “drawing the net” — giving the altar call. He had a genuine passion for lost souls. He was a friend of sinners. He was an incredible witness -– a soul winner. His passion was bringing people to Jesus. I shall never forget Adrian Rogers’ quote — I wrote it in the front of my Bible, “Many of our churches are sacred societies for the snubbing of sinners.” So True.

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Adrian P. Rogers was never a big shot. He’d walk across the street and shake your hand. The greatest single thing I can say about Rogers, without a doubt, is he never forgot your name or who you were. He was human and full of grace. When I would call him on the phone, he’d always want to know how many were saved. He never got over where he came from and who he was.

The Gages will always be indebted to Rogers for his gratitude and loyalty. I’m indebted to our Lord for letting me know the real Adrian Rogers.
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Freddie Gage has served as a fulltime evangelist for over half a century. He has served as president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists and was instrumental in starting Crossover, which has become a regular evangelistic event at the SBC annual meetings. He and his wife, Barbara, have raised four sons who are ordained Southern Baptist ministers.

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