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Adrian Rogers' pastoral legacy: Passing on dedication to an inerrant Holy Scripture and equipping of local church pastors

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Earlier this week I had the privilege of attending a special and important event in Memphis. Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary was hosting the “Adrian Rogers Preaching Conference,” a three-day meeting (Aug. 14-16) that featured worship, workshops, and sermons from prominent, mostly Southern Baptist pastors and ministers.

The event also celebrated the formal installation of Dr. David Allen, a prominent Southern Baptist scholar and homiletician (and leading advocate of “text-driven” preaching), as professor and dean of the “Adrian Rogers Center for Biblical Preaching.”

Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) was one of the MOST prominent leaders of the “Conservative Resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Rogers had risen to prominence as the remarkably capable and inspirational pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis where he served from 1972 to 2005, during which time the church grew from 9,000 to 29,000 members. He was the first person the Conservative Resurgence elected Convention president in 1979.

Dr. Rogers also served as president again of the Convention from 1986-88. The admiration and trust which Adrian Rogers generated among rank and file Southern Baptists is illustrated by the fact that he was selected to serve as chairman of the committee elected by the Convention to recommend the revisions to the Baptist Faith & Message (the Southern Baptist confessional statement) which were overwhelmingly approved in June 2000 and has been known ever since as the Baptist Faith & Message (2000).

Dr. Rogers was a remarkably gifted preacher who was committed both to the inerrancy of Scripture and to expository preaching (preaching sermons based upon the exposition of biblical passages). Dr. Rogers also had an often-expressed deep burden for investing in future generations of preachers and instilling in them a deep respect for the inerrancy of the Bible and the zealous exposition of the Holy Scripture.

In one of the last public addresses Dr. Rogers delivered before his untimely demise at the age of 74, he warned pastors of the mortal threat presented to their ministries by the sins of lust and pride. Then, as he was exiting the podium, he paused and came back to the lectern to add that if they neglected their responsibilities as husbands and fathers they would also disqualify themselves for ministry (I Tim. 3:  1-8).

As this story was retold during the conference this week, I was reminded of a sermon I heard over half a century ago while I was a ministerial student at New Orleans Baptist Seminary. An older, retired pastor was speaking in chapel. Ascending to the pulpit, he looked all around that beautiful chapel,  then after a dramatic pause, declared, “Eighty percent of you will have your ministry compromised or destroyed by one of three things — love of money, seeking denominational prominence, or inappropriate relationships with women other than your wife.”

I am confident that I can speak for most of us in attendance that day in saying that we were shocked by the stark and emphatic nature of that statement and most of us thought that it was at the very least, an exaggeration. However, I suspect that most of us remembered it and we have lived to see too many of our fellow ministers have their ministries seriously compromised or even destroyed by some variation of those three moral pitfalls.

As I experienced the 2023 Adrian Rogers Preaching Conference I was reminded once again of the tremendous challenges that church pastors face in seeking to pastor local congregations in the moral turmoil that constitutes American society in the year of our Lord 2023.

When Mike Huckabee was running for president he was challenged about the wisdom of an ordained minister running for president. His reply, I felt, was quite apt and appropriate.  Huckabee explained that there was not a crisis impacting the American people — whether it was divorce, illegitimacy, abortion, domestic abuse, drug addiction, suicide, rape, incest, poverty, racial bigotry, sexism, etc. — that a local pastor could not put a human face on it because he has dealt with it up close and personal.

I was also reminded of how lonely it can be and how much pastors need the fellowship and encouragement of fellow pastors. Having been a pastor, I can testify that is truly vital to have access to fellowship with fellow pastors on a regular basis.

I truly enjoyed both the edifying and inspirational nature of the conference presentations, but the lively discussions and fellowship that occurred over meals and in hallways and spontaneous, serendipitous small groups sometimes just involving two pastors sharing with each other, each knowing the unique challenges of the local pastorate, were clearly invaluable.

It is vitally important for Christian institutions such as Mid-America Baptist Seminary to provide resources such as the Adrian Rogers Preaching Conference to facilitate continuing fellowship and support for these dedicated men of God who are contending for the faith and seeking to shepherd God’s people in local congregations in an increasingly post-Christian culture.

I am truly grateful that Mid-America Seminary has committed to making this conference an annual event. Lord willing, I will be attending every year until the Lord decides that my earthly ministry is done and He calls me home to be with Him. (Yes, I am certain that I will be spending eternity with Him, not because of any goodness inherent in me, but because of the promises He made to me when I confessed my sins to Him and accepted His promise to save me and that someday I would be with Him for eternity (John 3:16).

I hope and pray that other institutions will follow Mid-America’s example and provide local, regional, and national opportunities for pastors to come together for these critically needed times of encouragement, edification and encouragement.

As Dr. Michael Spradlin, Mid-America’s president expressed it, our seminary wants to do everything it can “to call out the called, edify and equip them for ministry, and encourage them along the way.” That is exactly what all our seminaries and all our denominational entities should be doing much more often than we do.

I hope and pray that Mid-America’s example will inspire and encourage others to do more than they are doing. I am confident that Dr. Rogers is smiling down from Heaven as he sees how his legacy continues to edify and fortify the Lord’s churches.

Lastly, please allow me to encourage all the readers of this column to commit to praying for the pastors of our local churches, starting with your pastor. And if possible, tell your pastor you are praying for him and thank him for his ministry in you and your family’s life. I can promise you it will be much appreciated, and your Heavenly Father will bless you for having done so.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I knew and admired Dr. Adrian Rogers for many years. I also served with him on the Baptist Faith & Message revision committee that produced the Baptist Faith & Message that was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of the Convention in 2000. I also was privileged to be Dr. David Allen’s professor when he was an undergraduate at Criswell College. David was in six of my courses during his four-year undergraduate experience and I must say he was the most gifted student I have had the privilege of teaching during my half-century of teaching ministerial students.)

Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.

Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.

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