‘Come to Jesus’ was hallmark of Adrian Rogers’ life & ministry
CORDOVA, Tenn. (BP)--Steve Gaines, the new pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, filled the pulpit for the funeral of his predecessor, Adrian Rogers, who led the Memphis-area church for 32 years.
A transcript of his Nov. 17 message follows:
On behalf of the family -– the Rogers family and the Bellevue family -– I want to say thank you to each of these who have spoken so wonderfully tonight about our dear pastor emeritus, friend, mentor, brother in Christ, Dr. Adrian Rogers.
Dr. Rogers, all of us know, was a once-in-a-lifetime preacher because he was a once-in-a-lifetime person. I’ve had people say, “What’s it like to follow Adrian Rogers?” You don’t follow Adrian Rogers. You just show up and then say, “May the grace of God help me. Help me to be like Jesus and to be like him.”
When I think of Dr. Rogers’ life and ministry, I think of so many comparisons between him and various figures of the Bible. When I was here this past March and I spoke at his retirement service on Friday night, I took those few moments to compare him to the Old Testament priest Levi, mentioned in Malachi 2:6, which says, “True instruction was in his mouth, unrighteousness was not found on his lips. He walked with me,” God says, “in peace and uprightness and he turned many back from iniquity.”
As I prayerfully sought to prepare this tribute this evening, my heart went to another great man of God in the Old Testament, to whom Adrian Rogers can be readily likened. And that’s the Old Testament man of God, Samuel. Samuel lived in a day of spiritual decadence and moral corruption. The Bible says that word from the Lord was rare those days, visions were infrequent. And yet in the midst of that abysmal spiritual climate, God called and used the man named Samuel to bring revival to his people.
How does Adrian Rogers remind us this evening of Samuel? First of all, like Samuel, Adrian Rogers was obviously a predestined preacher. Samuel, you might know, was called by God to be a priest very early in his life. From childhood it was obvious to all that God had big plans for Samuel. The Bible says that he grew before the Lord, just like the Lord Jesus did, in stature and in favor with both the Lord and with men.
In the same way it was obvious in the life of Adrian Rogers that he was destined for greatness even when he was young. At Palm Beach High School, many of you know that he was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” He was the captain of the football team, the president of his senior class. He was saved and called to preach as a teenager.
The Lord equipped young Adrian Rogers with tremendous talents and gifts -– a brilliant mind, an athletic frame, a winsome personality, that million-dollar smile that we all loved, a disciplined work ethic and a voice that can only be described as golden. The Lord would use these traits throughout his entire ministry and life. Like Samuel, Adrian Rogers was a chosen, predestined vessel to preach the word of God.
But as someone else has said tonight already, another way we can liken him to Samuel is this: Like Samuel, Adrian Rogers was a prophetic preacher. The Bible says that as Samuel grew, the Lord was with him, and he let none of his words fall to the ground or fail. The Lord’s good hand of favor rested upon Samuel. When he preached, God moved. And for many years, Samuel called Israel to repent and return to the Lord.
Likewise, all of us would agree that Adrian Rogers was indeed a prophetic preacher. From this pulpit here at Bellevue Baptist Church, Dr. Rogers shared the gospel of Jesus not only with the nation, but with the entire world. He was a prophetic voice, calling lost individuals, broken families, wayward denominations and indeed a backslidden nation to put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Adrian Rogers was a modern day prophet of God.
Another way he resembled Samuel is this: Like Samuel, Adrian Rogers was a prominent preacher. The Bible says, concerning Samuel, that from Dan even to Beersheba -- that’s from the north all the way to the south -– all Israel knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. The Bible also says that all the people lived in the fear of the Lord and Samuel. It also says that in his day, Samuel presided over the company of all the prophets of Israel. Without a doubt, Samuel was the most notable representative of Yahweh in his day. He was the one who anointed the first two kings of Israel –- King Saul and King David –- and he gave them both wise counsel.
Dr. Rogers resembled Samuel in this regard. Like Samuel he presided over the company of all the prophets in his day. I wonder, I just want to know, if you’re a preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, would you please stand just for a moment? Let’s thank the Lord for these men.
Dr. Rogers was our leader. He served as a president of the Southern Baptist Convention for three terms. He was the first Southern Baptist Convention president to use his appointed powers to make sure that all of the trustees of our Southern Baptist Convention agencies and institutions believed that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. He preached more frequently at the Southern Baptist Convention pastors’ conferences and annual Southern Baptist Convention meetings than any other preacher. He was usually the closing preacher at all these meetings, and we never wanted to miss his messages.
Like Samuel, Adrian Rogers was not only prominent among preachers but also among presidents. At least four different presidents –- Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush -– all cherished friendships and benefited from those friendships and from the wisdom of Dr. Adrian Rogers. He was a prominent preacher.
Like Samuel in another way, Adrian Rogers was a prudent preacher. The Bible says that Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He was the last of the Old Testament judges and one of the first of the great Old Testament prophets. The word “judge” implies that those men would possess God’s insight and wisdom. Indeed, Samuel was filled with wisdom from above.
All of us would agree that indeed Adrian Rogers was also filled with wisdom from above. I’ll give you just a few of the quotes that we would all write down in our Bibles:
-- “Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.”
-- “Faith is praise turned inside out.”
-- “Define the trinity and you’ll lose you mind. Deny it and you’ll lose your soul.”
-- “Satan wants to cripple you and then blame you for limping.”
-- “If man could have salvation and not know it, he could lose it and not miss it.”
-- “Man isn’t a sinner because he sins. Rather, he sins because he is a sinner.”
And I love this next one:
-- “You marry a child of the devil and you’ll get the devil for a father-in-law.”
Don’t you wish you’d said that?
-- “Some people can’t find Jesus for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman.”
That one always got a delayed response.
-- “Nothing is politically right that is morally wrong.”
Now listen to these three quotes:
-- “Death is just a comma to a Christian, not a period.”
-- “Jesus saves the best for last.”
-- “Eternity is only a breath away.”
These are the words of prudent preacher named Adrian Rogers.
Fifthly, like Samuel, Adrian Rogers was a prayerful preacher. Samuel said to the people of God one day, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” The psalmist said about Samuel, “Moses and Aaron were among God’s priests; Samuel was among those who called on his name. They called upon the Lord and he answered them.”
Likewise, Dr. Rogers was a man of prayer. He prayed. He led this great church to be a praying church. He prayed daily with his wife. Several times I would call and he would say, “Joyce and I just finished reading our Bibles and praying.” He prayed daily for his family and for this church. As I said several months ago at his retirement service, Dr. Rogers knew how to talk with God. That’s precisely why he was so effective at talking for God. He was a prayerful preacher.
A sixth way we can liken him to Samuel is this: Like Samuel, Adrian Rogers was a passionate preacher. You see, Samuel had a passion to obey God. It was Samuel to said, “To obey God is better than sacrifice.” Concerning Samuel, the Bible described him by simply saying that he did what the Lord said. He also had a passion for people, even people, as has already been said, who didn’t always do what they were supposed to do. The Bible says that the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel. It was Samuel who grieved over Saul. It was Samuel who was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night because of Saul.
I tell you, that Dr. Rogers was a passionate preacher. He passionately desired to obey God and to honor God in all that he did. He also loved people with passion. It was not uncommon for Dr. Rogers to shed tears when he preached about subjects such as the cruelty of abortion or the eternal future of a lost person. I’ve talked with him and I’ve seen him get a tear in his when he talked about the love of his life, Miss Joyce, and also his children. I’ve also seen him get a lump in his throat and a tear in his eye when he talked about the thought of seeing Jesus one day in heaven. He understood what one preacher has called the ministry of tears. He was a passionate preacher.
There is one more thing. Like Samuel, Adrian Rogers has now become a prize-winning preacher. The Bible says Samuel died and all Israel gathered together and mourned for him and they buried him. In the New Testament you find that Samuel was one of the few Old Testament characters who was inducted into the great hall of faith in Hebrews 11.
And now, just like Samuel, our dear friend Adrian Rogers has died. And even as all Israel gathered and mourned for Samuel, this great host of people who loved and admired Dr. Rogers have gathered tonight to mourn for him. But as Dr. Vines has said, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. We know that just as surely as Jesus died and rose from the dead, Adrian Rogers is alive. He has entered the gates of pearl. He’s walked and kicked up on those streets of gold. He’s embraced and talked with the Rogers’ son Phillip. He’s got such an inquisitive mind, you know he’s talked with Noah and had him explain about the boat. He wanted to know what it was like for Moses on Mt. Sinai. He asked Elijah to tell him about that chariot of fire that we heard about a moment ago. Don’t you know that he’s talked to Jonah about the whale.
I believe he has sung with David, laughed with Peter, listened to Paul and revelated with John. He even knows who wrote the book of Hebrews. But the greatest thing of all is, he’s seen Jesus. All of life’s heartaches, including cancer, have been forgotten. He has won the victory. He has received the reward. As his daughter has said, he has fought the good fight, finished the course, kept the faith and now he has been given the crown of righteousness by the Lord Jesus, the righteous judge. He won the prize. He is with the Lord.
As David said, he cannot come back to us, but hallelujah, we will go to him, if we know Jesus as our Savior and Lord. This has already been said –- Dr. Rogers’ favorite statement when he preached was this, say it with me, “Come to Jesus.” I thought about that this week. I believe when he was a teenager the Holy Spirit said to Adrian Rogers, “Adrian, come to Jesus and be saved.” And Adrian Rogers was saved.
Not too long after that, the Holy Spirit again spoke to Adrian Rogers and said, “Adrian, come to Jesus and preach.” And Adrian Rogers began preaching the gospel. For more than five decades the Holy Spirit spoke out through Adrian Rogers to millions of people those same words –- “Come to Jesus” -– and only eternity will be able to display how many tens of thousands did just that. And I believe this past Tuesday morning, at about 3:05 a.m., just one day after the birth of the Rogers’ first great-granddaughter, Marianna Rose Luce, after a valiant struggle with illness, I believe with all my heart that the angels of glory came to Memphis, Tenn., and they hovered down the Baptist East Hospital, entered ICU unit number three, came alongside the bedside of the great man of God and said, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. Adrian Rogers, come to Jesus.” And he did.
Do you know what Adrian Rogers would say if he were standing here right now to this congregation? What would he say? Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus.