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Adrian Rogers, R.I.P.

arogers (14k image)Adrian Rogers died in the hospital this morning, succumbing to the combined attacks of double pneumonia, colon cancer, and chemotherapy.

I had heard a little of Dr. Rogers (yes, he had an earned doctorate) before I came to Memphis. I knew that he was a president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a key figure in that denomination’s controversy over whether Christianity or liberalism was to be taught in the seminaries.

When I entered seminary here, I heard him speak a number of times on campus. I came to believe, as I still do, that he was the finest preacher in the the English speaking world. Of course, since I haven’t heard all of the preachers, my opinion is a bit hasty. But I’ve heard quite a few great ones, with large followings, but I’ve never heard one who could match Adrian’s mastery of homiletics.

He was an unrelenting foe of Calvinism, which is the idea that Jesus died only to save a chosen few out of humanity. Adrian believed that he died for the whole world and that every soul was a real candidate for salvation. I heard him preach once “You can say what you will about election, but it’s a wonderful thing to see how many more get ‘elected’ in a red-hot revival meeting.” Only God knows how many thousands came to the Savior through his ministry.

I met him one day. His church numbered nearly 30,000 members, so I guess I had an opportunity that many of his own members never had. It was Thanksgiving morning, 1996. As befalls great and small alike at one time or another, it was a holiday and he had a house full of visiting relatives and no toilets. The sewer at his house on Grove Park Road had stopped up. Whom do you call at such a time? The mayor? The president? The pope? No, you call Kevan. It was quite difficult, but I got him flushing after a couple of hours with the assistance of my fine trainee at the time, Andrew Brawley.

We didn’t find ourselves dealing with a pompous, arrogant boss who considered the grubby plumbers to be a lower form of life. He was gracious and kind, and he gave us each a generous tip for being available on a holiday. Practically all great men whom I’ve met are like that.

I feel dwarfed when I think about Dr. Rogers, not worthy even to clean his sewer. But Adrian would be the first to confess the words of St. Paul. “I am what I am by the grace of God.”

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