Each of the five pastors on the stage for Friday’s Convocation at Liberty University could have been there to discuss the impact that their respective ministry has had upon the world. That they were all there to honor the legacy and impact of one man — Dr. Adrian Rogers — spoke volumes to the life Rogers lived and the rippling effect of his life’s work.
Rogers, who died in 2005, pastored Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., for over 40 years. He also led his denomination as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for three terms and founded Love Worth Finding Ministries, a syndicated radio, television, and web Bible teaching and Gospel sharing ministry.
On Friday, singer/songwriter Steve Wiggins (also a member of the Christian rock group Big Tent Revival) and his wife, Misty, set the tone for the Convocation by performing two touching ballads focused on introspection of one’s life and character.
“The focus today is on legacy, on trusting in the Word of the Lord,” Steve Wiggins said. “If you want to be considered a patriarch or a matriarch 100 years from now, you have to live like one today.”
After the music, David Nasser, Liberty’s senior vice president for Spiritual Development, who speaks at youth events around the country and serves as a pastor to Liberty’s student body, moderated a conversation with four other renowned pastors: Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas and founder and host of Pathway to Victory radio ministry; Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church; Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock (Ga.) and onetime SBC President; and Jonathan Falwell, senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, a mantle he assumed after the passing of his father, Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded both the church and Liberty University.
Before the discussion began, a video showcasing the intense, passionate preaching of Rogers, calling masses to “come to Jesus,” was shown.
“He could be intimidating just by his very (deep) voice,” Whitten said, recalling his time serving under Rogers. “Adrian Rogers was a happy man; he was filled with joy. He loved to laugh; he loved to play jokes. … He was always teaching while you were serving along with him.”
What stood out to Whitten about Rogers was how consistent he was in living to honor God, even when no one was looking.
“The tongue in his mouth, the tongue in his shoe, they went the same direction,” he said. “Adrian Rogers was one of those men that taught us the difference between reputation and character. He would say, ‘Your reputation is what people think of you; your character is what God knows of you. … Your reputation is your picture; your character is your face.’”
Falwell said that Rogers’ work, as well as that of his father, continues to have an impact today because it was focused on something bigger than an individual.
“Ministry is never about a man,” Falwell said. “The responsibility that all of us have is to recognize that God has placed us here for a season and … regardless of how long we spend on this earth, we must be found faithful in doing what God has called us to do. … When we look at ministries like Love Worth Finding, and Bellevue, and other great ministries that continue to grow and continue to thrive, but more importantly, continue to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must recognize it is never about a man, it is about the man, Jesus Christ. … When we make it about ourselves, we guarantee its failure.”
Hunt added that Rogers never saw himself as a “big shot,” a lesson that keeps him humble to this day.
“If you are too big for a little church, then you are too little for a big church,” he said.
As the men discussed Rogers’ evangelistic lifestyle, Hunt encouraged the audience to not be afraid to share how Jesus has transformed them. Additionally, he reminded them of their responsibility to reach out because they likely have the trust of loved ones a pastor could never earn.
“I really look for Gospel conversations,” Hunt said of his daily life. “(It comes down to) sharing the Good News and how it has impacted your own life and how it continues to impact your own life. … I believe that lost people have a greater desire to hear than saved people do to tell.”
The panel discussed Rogers’ emphasis on speaking the truth, something Jeffress continues to consider as he makes regular national media appearances. He likened Rogers to Rev. Falwell in that they both sought to engage the secular masses.
“They taught me how to deal with the culture in the right spirit, how to speak truth in love,” Jeffress said, noting that neither man bought into the lie that “you can’t separate people from their behaviors,” and that you automatically hate those who disagree with you. “The fact is … the most loving thing that you can do is speak truth, even when truth is not popular.”
As the world becomes more steeped in darkness, Jeffress said it then becomes all the more important to have a voice in it.
“What is the answer to the darkness?” he said. “We are not to curse the darkness, we are not to isolate ourselves from the darkness, we are to dispel the darkness with the light of God’s Word, and that means coming in combat with our culture.”