Joyce Rogers: God 'isn't finished with me'
BARTLETT, Tenn. (BP)--For 54 years, Joyce Rogers walked alongside her husband as he became one of the best known pastors in Southern Baptist life.
Adrian Rogers, for 32 years the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., and a three-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention, died in November 2005, just a few months after retiring from the pulpit.
Yet, as Rogers' ministry and legacy lives on through his Love Worth Finding Ministries and the Adrian Rogers' Pastor Training Institute, Joyce Rogers continues a ministry of her own.
Besides serving on the board of directors for both ministries, she is happy blending in as a layperson at Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tenn., where she joined almost two years ago. After teaching Sunday School since the age of 18 and spending more than 30 years working with children at Bellevue Baptist, Rogers is engaged in a Bible study group at Faith and sings in the choir.
Pastor Danny Sinquefield laughs that he and Rogers made a deal that they would keep her joining Faith "under the radar," but that didn't last long. Guest speakers at the church would point out Rogers in the congregation.
Since her cover had been blown, Rogers agreed to be interviewed on stage during an April sermon series Sinquefield was preaching on "Strength for Life's Struggles." A gifted writer who has six books to her credit, Rogers recently had authored "Grace for the Widow: A Journey Through the Fog of Loss."
Sinquefield, the current president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, questioned Rogers on how she was able to cope with the passing of her husband. She told the church her husband had taught her to love the Word of God and that she was continuing to trust God.
In the foreword of her new book, Rogers wrote: "I trusted God before, and I would trust Him now. God's Word was the basis for my life before. It would be my foundation now."
After her husband's death, Rogers said she was digging into God's Word and was struck by Isaiah 43:19: "Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert."
Rogers said she felt a burning sensation as she read that verse and felt God was telling her He "isn't finished with me yet." She continued, "I knew there was hope for tomorrow."
When Sinquefield asked Rogers what one lesson she had learned during her journey, she replied, "Even though I already knew it, God taught me a deeper level of this truth -- Jesus is enough." She told the congregation her husband would always say you could never know Jesus is enough until He is all you have.
Over the past few years, Rogers has spoken at various Baptist-related meetings and been interviewed by media outlets. She recently spoke to bivocational ministers and wives in Tennessee and is slated as a speaker at the Southern Baptist evangelists' banquet slated in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.
"God has called on me to do some interviews since Adrian has been gone," Rogers said. "Afterwards, I look up and ask, 'How did I do? You told me I could do this.' I thank God for helping me."
She also is ministering to others through her writing -- and her latest book is an example.
"The premise of the book is that people can find help for their journey," Rogers said.
She observed that, in the days following her husband's death, it was as if she had been drifting "through a fog." She wanted to provide a simple resource that offered both the "profound and the practical." In her foreword, she writes that "the profound forms the foundation of our lives. This foundation is not built out of mortar and bricks, but from the Word of God."
Rogers also noted, however, that it is important to focus on the practical when dealing with a life crisis such as the death of a spouse.
"I never had a course on how to prepare to be a widow," she told the Faith congregation, but she learned she just had to do the basics -- like getting out of bed and spending time with the Lord. Then, she said, it is simply a matter of "do the next thing."
In her book, Rogers offers "A Practical To-Do List" of suggestions regarding thank you notes, financial decisions, making a budget, maintaining a balanced life, good nutrition and more. She also encourages people to study the various names of God that are mentioned in Scripture. She devotes a chapter to those names, along with comments on each one from her late husband.
Rogers said she is drawn to two Old Testament names. The first is "Jehovah Shammah," which means "The Lord, Who is There." "God has promised to never leave me," she noted. She also loves the promise found in the name "Jehovah Saboath," which means "The Lord of Hosts." "The Lord of Hosts has promised to be the husband to the widows and the father to the fatherless," she said.
"My earthly protector [Adrian] was gone, but I realized that God would be my protector," she told the Faith congregation.
In addition to her book, Rogers ministers personally to widows she knows. A year or so ago, with the help of her daughter and daughter-in-law, she invited several widows to her home on Valentine's Day. The time included a lunch and, more importantly, a time for reflection on their "sweethearts."
Yet Rogers doesn't plan for her ministries to focus entirely on widows or on wives of pastors, another group she closely identifies with. She wants to be ready to minister and respond to any opportunity the Lord provides.
She spent 54 years with a man known worldwide for asking people to "come to Jesus," so it's not surprising that this also is one of her strong desires.
"I want to spend the rest of my life asking people to come to Jesus and lay down their sin, sorrow and suffering at the feet of Jesus," she said.
Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (tnbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, in addition to hosting Joyce Rogers for a Friday evening banquet, will continue their tradition of providing a Sunday morning worship service for messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention. This year's worship service will begin at 9 a.m. in the Kentucky Exposition Center, Room South C201-203. Featured speakers will be Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock; evangelist Ron Herrod of Tennessee, president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists; Ergun Caner, president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va.; and international evangelist Sammy Tippit of San Antonio, Texas.