With the recent passing of Adrian Rogers, the Christian landscape lost a sequoia tree of towering influence. He will be remembered as a pastor par-excellence, and as a pulpiteer who spoke with accuracy balanced with grace. He was charming, witty, and down-to-earth. What always amazed me was the fact he was so easily accessible. I will never forget his taking time for me when I was an immature seminary student. I will always hold dear to my heart a letter of encouragement he sent to me simply because “the Lord laid you on my heart.” I will be eternally grateful for his counsel when I faced a crisis as a pastor. He taught me a lot. In an era when leaders were shooting and striving for position, Adrian taught my generation how to simply stand. And stand he did! With great poise and purpose, Adrian held to no other standard but the Word of God. Whether it was his integrity, his home, or his leadership, the Word of God was the plumb line he measured as the standard. Adrian became a great man of God not simply because of his giftedness, but because he took a road less traveled and went where few dare to step.
Still standing in the shadow of the wonderful R.G. Lee, I imagine in the early years of Adrian’s ministry there must have been a moment equivalent to that which is recorded in Joshua 3. Joshua has taken over for Moses and is within sight of the promise land. However, there is the mighty Jordan river standing in the way. The Lord tells Joshua in verse 3, “..when ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God…go after it.” Why was obedience of this command so critical? Verse 4 answers, “..that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way before.” Joshua had no route or routine to follow. He simply pursued the Lord when there was no path and left a trail for others to follow. Adrian often said, “We have no right to be believed as long as we can be explained.” God’s miracles are not handed to the brilliant and creative, but rather to the surrendered heart willing to trust God’s “yes” when the rest of the world screams “no”. To journey on a road less traveled, one must be daring, discerning, and different. What can be expected on such a path?
It is a pathway of unmeasured risk. In Exodus 33, Moses was told by the Lord, “..for there shall no man see me, and live.” Yet, Moses was willing to risk it all by asking, “show me Thy glory.” The mantle God trusted Adrian to wear did not come easily. It came with the risk of loss, pain, and disappointments. To love the Lord supremely will always come with risk to maintain the closeness of His presence. It cost Matthew a lucrative career to follow Him closely. It cost Paul a painful thorn for the privilege of heavenly visions. It cost Peter, James, and John their lives to walk in an exclusive crowd with Jesus. The Lord Himself understood such risk as He never walked in borrowed trails. He rode a colt “whereon never man sat.” He performed miracles that were “never so seen in Israel.” He was placed in a tomb where “never man before was laid.” Adrian never healed the blind nor raised the dead, but he did risk power, position, and prestige to follow Jesus on a road less traveled.
It is a pathway of undeniable respect. Adrian once said, “A man who won’t stand for something will fall for anything.” His life raised the standard for integrity in ministry. He stood tall that the next generation could glance from his shoulders at how to do it right. What was the source of that integrity? The Word of God! He took hard-line stands for the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. However, his life exemplified that inspiration and inerrancy are merely noble ideas if the Word of God is not held as the authority in every aspect of your life. Not everyone stood with him, but he was confident, courageous, and content enough in the Word of God to stand alone if need be. Perhaps that is why so many trusted his counsel. We knew he lived it! It was said of Jesus, “never man spake like this man,” and “we never saw it on this fashion.” Adrian’s life had us all saying similar words because we were honored to see a man that was the real deal.
It is a pathway of unbelievable reward. I find it an interesting observation in Scripture that of all the great men and women of God, less than ten earned the title “my servant” from the lips of the Lord. These were lives that labored long and hard. These were lives that gave their blood, sweat, and tears. These were lives that could have been given many distinguished titles. But, the Lord gave them the epitaph of simply being “mine.” When Adrian became president of the Southern Baptist Convention, he took the helm of a sinking ship. Like the disciples on stormy Galilee, contrary winds were blowing and powerful waves of resistance were beating at the hull. While others took the lifeboats and ran, he stood confident awaiting the arrival of Jesus. Jesus came, the storm ceased, and Adrian surely entered an elite group by hearing, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
With Adrian’s passing, he left shoes that would be difficult to fill. However, he would have never wanted anyone to walk in his shoes. Why you might ask? It wasn’t his shoes that made him the man of God he was, it was his choice of a road less traveled. As far as I am concerned, Elvis was just the other guy from Memphis!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2006 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.