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The Last Words of Adrian Rogers

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Heroes are for the young, memories are for the old.

As a teenage preacher, one of my heroes was Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. I cannot remember the first time I heard him preach but I was quickly captivated by his resonate voice, biblical depth, and how he had a majestic reverence for the Lord Jesus. Personally being more of a tenor in tone of voice, I never felt the need to imitate him in preaching but I loved that fact that someone so solid on the Bible was out there, somewhere, preaching the truth. It was comforting somehow. There was a prophet in the land.

Arriving at college I soon found that some of the religion faculty did not share my preference in preachers. Adrian Rogers was more of a topic of criticism than a subject of praise. Though we religion students knew that some of our professors would not approve, several of us would secretly listen at night to Adrian Rogers on the radio…we called it Radio Free Memphis. Over time I learned why the professors and Adrian Rogers differed (the professors were wrong in my opinion) but my fascination with the text of Scripture drove me to agree more with Adrian and less with my professors.

Being the irreverent young theologues that we were, one of the college gang had a regular prank he would pull on me.  I would get a call and a deep voice on the line would say, “Mike, it’s Adrian Rogers, can I speak with you for a moment.?” Good times.

After graduating from college and arriving at grad school as a seminary student I experienced a spiritually refreshing revival. My new professors gave me a deeper understanding of the Scriptures which so fascinated me. My seminary professors taught me the Bible, spiritual discipline, and, as if that was not enough, I even got to hear Adrian preach every year on campus.

As an older preacher, most of my heroes are in heaven. Sensing it more than knowing it, a change has somehow occurred–the need for heroes has declined as my focus turns to getting to know the Lord Jesus better. I still have the memories of my heroes, however, and maybe that is comfort enough.

On becoming president of a seminary (my seminary alma mater, in fact) I finally met this wonderful man and knew him as my pastor. I always hesitated to call him my friend, even though we socialized, partly because of our age difference and also because I had held him on a pedestal for so long.

On an embarrassing note, I received a congratulatory phone call soon after becoming the president at Mid-America.  The voice on the phone said that it was Adrian Rogers and he wanted a moment to speak to me. I thought I recognized a familiar voice from college so I retorted, “Very funny, but I’m not going to fall for that after all these years.” Stunned silence greeted me from the other end of the line.  “I said this is Adrian Rogers,” the voice repeated. “You’re really good,” I thought to myself, even after all these years. However, the realization soon dawned on me that this was the REAL Adrian on the line.  He accepted my stumbling explanation with grace. Ouch.

Adrian Rogers loved Jesus and he loved Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. In fact, Adrian led Bellevue to donate land for a new campus for the seminary across the street from the church. We started construction as he began his battle with cancer and retired as pastor of the church.

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Hours from Heaven

It was a beautiful Monday. Adrian and I were going to lunch to discuss some classes he would teach at the seminary. I still remember where we sat in the restaurant. He was not well and I could hear every labored breath he took. He talked about the future and several unexpected topics. After lunch, he asked to go see the new seminary campus, at that time only partially constructed.

We drove to the front entrance of the incomplete building and he looked across the street to the three large crosses on the church campus and paused.  I asked him if he was pleased with the progress and he added a small smile to his distant gaze.  “Oh yes, Michael, Mid-America will always be in the shadow of the cross and at the foot of the cross.”

Adrian Rogers died a few days later, after a short stay in the hospital.  I had no way of knowing, of course, that he would be in Heaven in so short a time it could be counted in hours. I have been with several preachers shortly before they passed on and I stand in wonder when they seem to look to that faraway land. On the Mid-America campus, whenever I see a cross, I well remember the last words of Adrian Rogers . . . to me.

 

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6 comments on “The Last Words of Adrian Rogers

  1. John A Raulerson says:

    Thanks my brother for your thoughts and memories of a wonderful man and and a great Savior. I thank God for men such Dr. Rogers, Dr. Gray Allison, yourself and Mid-America.

    Like

  2. Martha Eberhart says:

    I loved him too! I remember that he said, right before he passed away, that he would “ be kicking up golddust on the streets of glory “.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Charles W. Sharpe says:

    Wow! Dr. Spradlin! I’m in tears just remembering Dr. Rogers. Your post brings back great memories of him and you as well as the greatest seminary in the world. I will always cherish my time at Mid-America.

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  4. Eric Vaught says:

    Good work Mike. I remember our days at McCllellan. We all nEw you would be in Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s work. The Lord just had it all worked out for you and Adrian Rogers to be together before he went to his Heavenly Home.

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  5. What a precious story, Mike. Reading your memories brought back many of my own that I will always treasure.

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  6. Carol Anne Posey says:

    Thank you, Dr. Spradlin, for this beautiful memory. I can hear Dr. Rogers saying those words now.

    For the last 9 years, soon to be 10, I’ve worked at Love Worth Finding. My job is to take the transcripts of Dr. Rogers’ sermons and from them craft shorter articles, devotionals, studies, etc. It is a job I treasure, for I get to work in the Word and listen to /read Dr. Rogers’ words every day.

    At the time of his death, I worked in Adult Ministries at Bellevue. The announcement to the staff that he had gone home to be with the Lord filled our hearts with both grief for this loss and the joy of knowing what he must be experiencing. We were also told what his last words upon this earth were. He had contracted pneumonia, secondary to cancer, and the doctors were going to intubate him. Just before intubation, from which he never awoke, he said to Joyce and those around him, “I am at perfect peace.”

    Those words have stayed with me ever since. I pray that when a similar time comes for me, I will be able to say and sincerely mean it, “I am at perfect peace.”

    Blessings to you and to Mid-America.

    Like

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