WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–There are probably thousands of us out there. At church, we were called “Bellevue Babies.” We were the ones who started attending Bellevue Baptist Church nine months before we were born.
For my generation, we had the incomparable experience of sitting under the preaching of Dr. Adrian Rogers starting from our most impressionable days. There are a host of memories that could be recounted, but for me, some of the greatest memories come from my personal interactions with Dr. Rogers.
For a member of a church the size of Bellevue, I recognized that the demands on our pastor were great and his time was limited, but somehow he found time to meet with me when I was a high school student. I had recently felt God’s call upon my life to enter the ministry, but I really 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 11 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 actually tried to preach one of his sermons.
My final personal interaction with Dr. Rogers came just a few months ago. 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 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.
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.
To me, he was a mentor and a pastor, but most of all, he was a man of God.
Evan Lenow grew up in Memphis, Tenn., where his parents still reside and are active members of Bellevue Baptist Church. He is a Ph.D. student in Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Fo