2 pastors pay tribute to fellow shepherd Adrian Rogers
CORDOVA, Tenn. (BP)--Two longtime friends of Adrian Rogers were among those who stepped up to the pulpit at his funeral, in their case, to voice the admiration of fellow pastors for his influence in their lives.
“Let us pray that a double portion of Adrian Rogers’ spirit shall be upon us all,” said Jerry Vines, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and a former Southern Baptist Convention president -– as was Rogers, who died Nov. 15 at the age of 74 after a battle with cancer and pneumonia.
“He taught us preachers, ‘Holiness is not the way to Jesus, but Jesus is the way to holiness,’” Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., told the crowd at Rogers’ Nov. 18 funeral at Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis.
A transcript of their remarks follows:
“I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of Dr. Rogers’ friends and his brothers in the ministry. Joyce reminded me Tuesday night that very often he and I would sermonize in our telephone calls. I must say to you, on more than one occasion I was able to creatively disguise one of his outlines -– as have we all. You haven’t preached until you’ve preached an Adrian Rogers sermon.
“So permit me just briefly to sermonize. When Elisha saw the prophet Elijah carried into heaven, he cried, ‘My father, my father! The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof. It was a cry of sadness, a cry of witness, a cry of gladness.
“It is a cry of sadness. ‘My father, my father!’ Elisha speaking out of the deeply personal grief he is experiencing. There is something deeply personal about that word. We grieve this evening, not to the level or to the degree of the Rogers family, but we bring our grief alongside your grief. Who could not but grieve? Who could have a dry eye over the loss of this good and faithful man? The Bible says we’re to sorrow not as those who have no hope, but it does not say we are to sorrow not. Our Christian faith does not dehumanize us.
“It is a cry of witness. There is something definitely testimonial. Notice the language carefully. ‘The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof.’ Normally it was spoken of the chariots -– plural -– of Israel. And yet when God gets ready for Elijah to go to heaven, he sends a chariot and Elisha recognizes that this chariot represents this prophet of God, Elijah. One man, who challenged and conquered the prophets of Baal, who through the power of his prayers could call down fire or rain, whichever was needed on the occasion.... Adrian Rogers was our acknowledged leader.... He led us in the Southern Baptist Convention conservative resurgence. He led by the godliness of his character, the Christ-likeness of his behavior and the power of his spirit-filled life. It is a cry of witness. There is something testimonial.
“It is a cry of gladness. There is something delightfully supernal about it. I have chosen that word, Joyce, carefully -- supernal. I think Adrian would like that word. It’s an old word. You pick it up in some of the hymns, Steve, of old. Supernal. Celestial. Coming from on high. ‘My father, my father! The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof. As he was propelled by a whirlwind, escorted by a chariot of fire into the presence.... When he went into the hospital, most of you read these things, he said, ‘I’m in a win-win situation.’ It sounds just like him.... He said many times, ‘When my time comes, don’t be sorry for me. I will be kicking up gold dust on the streets of glory.’
“So what’s left for us? Let us pray that a double portion of Adrian Rogers’ spirit shall be upon us all.”
“I believe it was a little boy in the fellowship of this church that best summarized Adrian Rogers’ life. It was a time when Dr. Rogers walked into the activities building and when he walked in, the little boy looked at him and said, ‘Hello Jesus.’ An assistant minister of activities said to him, ‘Michael, that’s not Jesus. That is Dr. Rogers. You know that’s Dr. Rogers and not Jesus, don’t you?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t know. Every Sunday he holds out his hands and says, “Come to Jesus.”’
“I’m here tonight to tell you that it wasn’t just little boys that thought Dr. Rogers reminded them of Jesus. It was preacher boys, and grown men and women as well. And I am honored to stand here and represent thousands of pastors who are in the ministry today because of the life and the ministry of Adrian Rogers. His life was as much like the Lord Jesus Christ to me as any man I’ve ever met. I loved Adrian Rogers, maybe at times too much, because his voice in my life always sounded like God’s voice. And because of that he guarded the counsel he gave me, fearing that I might follow him and not the Lord.
“I’m sure there were moments in his life he didn’t act like Jesus Christ, but I never saw any. He spoke like Jesus. He lived like Jesus. And he even died at 3:00 like Jesus. I found it very interesting the man that he and Miss Joyce read every morning in the devotional book, ‘My Utmost For His Highest,’ Oswald Chambers, and Dr. Rogers would look at the book and pick it up and say, ‘O.C., what do you say?’ I found it interesting that Oswald Chambers also died on Nov. 15.
“I felt safe as a pastor knowing he was alive. Safe as a denomination. Safe as a pastor who could call for counsel at any time. I know many pastors tonight would echo, he took time for them too. And we all wondered what it was like to be the senior pastor of the world. There are some things he taught us that will forever be etched into our being. Sadly he will no longer speak to our life, but he will forever speak in our life.
“He spoke with authority and his authority was the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. Hardly a night would go by that he would not meditate on a verse or a passage of Scripture before he went to bed. He taught us to love God’s word and preach God’s word. And when asked why he used God’s word, he would say, ‘I’m not smart enough to preach anything else. And then again, I’m too smart to preach anything else.’
“He taught us preachers, ‘Holiness is not the way to Jesus, but Jesus is the way to holiness.’ He would say that what’s down in the well comes up in the bucket, that God pays for what he orders, and then he would say, ‘That man, he’s hurting in one place and grunting in another.’ And then he would say, ‘Your problem is you got shot and blamed for limping.’
“He taught us that a faith that fizzles before the finish had a flaw from the first. He would say prophecy is history pre-written, that salvation is not a plan, it’s a man, that where God does not rule, he will overrule. And when he would preach, he would say to know Him is to love Him, to love Him is to trust Him, to trust Him is to obey Him and to obey Him is to be blessed by Him. He taught us preachers that character’s what you are in the dark. He taught us to love God and to hate sin. He showed us preachers how to love your wife and how to honor her, as he demonstrated publicly and unashamed that he loved his childhood sweetheart, his favorite singer, precious Joyce.
“Dr. Rogers and Miss Joyce have taught us that all of our children are individuals, and they taught their children to think, and they raised them according to their own bent. He taught us to look people in the eye when you talk to them and never be distracted when others are waiting in line. He taught us to return the correspondence of every letter sent to you. And so when I am in my pulpit chair and I sit leaning forward, with my back straight, I’ll think of Adrian Rogers. When I throw my shoulders back, as I walk to the pulpit, I’ll think of Adrian Rogers. He was the epitome of graciousness, and when I practice grace, I’ll think of Adrian Rogers. Others adore and idolize athletes. My hero was Adrian Rogers.
“When Jonathan and Saul died, David said, ‘How the mighty are fallen.’ When I think of Dr. Bill Bright, and Dr. Stephen Olford, and now Dr. Adrian Rogers, I echo those words tonight. My fellow pastors, we can no longer tell him how special he is to us, but we can show others –- by imitating his character, honoring his convictions and heeding his counsel.
“I was with my son this week, and he said, ‘Dad, I know you’re hurting.’ And I reminded him that I named him after Dr. Rogers –- Phillip Adrian Whitten. And he said, ‘Dad, I’ll try to live up to that name.’ And I would also like to say to Miss Joyce and this family, thank you for allowing me to tell others tonight of the profound impact Dr. Rogers has had on my life. I want you to know, I will try to live up to that name as well.
“Lastly I’d like to say to Dr. Rogers, thank you for letting me be on your staff. I am not only better for it, the entire Whitten family is better, but Idlewild Church and the city of Tampa are far better off tonight because of your life. I love you. I will miss you. You are right. God is love. Jesus is wonderful. He is a love worth finding, and you have come to Jesus.”