August 24, 2018

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This article posted August 6 at the Georgia Christian Index.
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Dr. Adrian Rogers probably stepped on more toes than any preacher in Southern Baptist history! We loved him for it because he always spoke the truth in love.

Few sounded more like a first century Apostle than the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, from 1972—2005. I first heard Dr. Rogers at the old mid-town campus. His rich, resonant voice was captivating. Every point, pause, and phrase pulled at your heart-strings.

The power of Dr. Rogers came from his character, content, and connection with all firmly rooted in the authority of Scripture; those “golden pipes” helped! From his character you sensed that he had been with God and deep into the Word. From his content or the words that he spoke came the ring of truth with meaning for today. He connected with his hearers through a passionate delivery of words, interpretation, arguments, alliteration, and illustration that demanded a decision.

Many young Southern Baptist leaders are ill-informed concerning the defining decades of the 1980s and 1990s in the Southern Baptist Convention and the price some leaders paid. Cicero once said, “To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain a child always.” It is called the Conservative Resurgence. Certain pastors, theologians, and laymen stepped forward to make needed course corrections. The enemy of theological liberalism had already made ghost towns of other denominations; now it was scratching at our door under the guise of intellectual sophistication.

Liberalism mythologizes the Bible as not being a divinely-inspired record of revelation but more of a historical witness of the Jewish nation and the moral teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The miraculous is moderated and sin does not separate. Authority-based orthodoxy gives way to rationalist thinking and human experience. The warp and woof of Southern Baptist belief had always been a firm and full reliability on biblical authority coupled with a cooperative spirit fueling our aggressive missions mandate. Who would raise the flag and be the tip of the spear for Biblical inerrancy?

The SBC “is a good old ship that has taken on much water and is slowly sinking. The choices seemed to be to abandon the ship or to man the pumps,” Adrian Rogers said according to his wife Joyce. She made the comments in 2014 on the 35th anniversary of his election as SBC president. BP/Special

The 1979 Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas, became the turning point for the Conservative Resurgence. Adrian Rogers was elected on the first ballot with 51 percent of the vote; however, he did not go there with the full resolve of allowing his name to be placed in nomination. What’s more, Rogers became embarrassed and upset when Dr. W. A. Criswell spoke these words during the Pastor’s Conference, “Well, this will be a great Convention if for no other reason than to elect Adrian Rogers as our president.” Since Rogers was preaching next, he said this made it look “like we were in cahoots and the thing was planned.”

Several things caused the reluctant Rogers to change his mind. First, the encouragement by legendary retired missionary Bertha Smith; secondly, a personal message delivered from professor Charles Culpepper, the missions professor at Mid-America Seminary. Finally, it was a midnight prayer meeting as Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines came to the hotel room of Adrian and Joyce. As the men knelt in prayer it is said that Paige got to weeping and Adrian got to praying and God moved into the hotel room giving Adrian the calm assurance his name could be placed into nomination.

Homer Lindsay, Jr. made the nomination speech for Rogers and he eventually served three terms from 1979-80 and 1986-1988.

At the June 11-13, 1985, Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, a special committee was created to study and determine the sources of controversy and from their conclusions make recommendations to bring harmony. This group became known as the Peace Committee. They made their report on June 16, 1987, while Dr. Rogers served his second term as president of the SBC.

At a certain point in their many deliberations over the Bible’s inspiration, Rogers made his epic and unforgettable assertion after a lawyer from the moderate camp said to him, “Adrian, if you don’t compromise, we will never get together.” Rogers kindly replied:

“I’m willing to compromise about many things, but not the Word of God. So far as getting together is concerned, we don’t have to get together. The Southern Baptist Convention, as it is, does not have to survive. I don’t have to be the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church. I don’t have to be loved; I don’t even have to live. But I will not compromise the Word of God.”

Roland Maddox, a longtime friend of Dr. Rogers and member of Bellevue Baptist Church, said in an interview with Gerald Harris that, “I think those words were the turning point in the effort to restore our denomination to Biblical inerrancy.”

Adrian Rogers loved Jesus first and foremost! He dearly loved his wife and family. He dearly loved the Word of God. These great loves helped him finish well in ministry.

Before slipping into unconsciousness after a battle with pneumonia and cancer at the age of 74, Dr. Rogers shared these last words with those gathered in his hospital room, “I am at perfect peace.”

The New York Times covered the death of Dr. Rogers on Nov.16, 2005, and concluded with a quote about his accomplishments in life: “I think the part that God allowed me to have in the turning of the Southern Baptist Convention may have the longest-lasting effect and be the most significant.”

Thank you, Dr. Adrian Rogers, for being the prophet of the Conservative Resurgence — your courage was contagious! Your voice is still heard.

© Ron F. Hale, August 2, 2018

The SBC, a Good Old Ship: O, captain, my captain.

August 13, 2018
[Adrian] Rogers believed that he faced a choice: leave the convention or lead a change.

“Adrian considered leaving the denomination,” Joyce Rogers wrote. “This would be a major step should he do so. It would require his leading his church to come out of the denomination or else resigning. But in his heart he believed something could and should be done. He used this analogy. The Southern Baptist Convention is a good old ship that has taken on much water and is slowly sinking. The choices seemed to be to abandon the ship or to man the pumps. He chose the latter and was ultimately blessed in ‘manning the pumps’ along with others.”



During the conservative resurgence, Rogers was asked to serve on the Peace Committee. Rogers and the other committee members were charged with reaching a compromise between liberal and conservative Baptists on key theological doctrines. At one point in their meetings, Rogers was approached by a lawyer who represented the opposing side. During this conversation, Rogers made a famous statement that in so many ways defines the man. Of that event his wife Joyce writes, “A successful lawyer who represented the moderate faction pulled Adrian aside and said, ‘Adrian, if you don’t compromise, we will never get together.’” Joyce noted her husband’s reply, “I’m willing to compromise about many things, but not the Word of God. So far as getting together is concerned, we don’t have to get together. The Southern Baptist Convention, as it is, does not have to survive. I don’t have to be the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church. I don’t have to be loved; I don’t even have to live. But I will not compromise the Word of God.

5 Lessons I learned from Adrian Rogers


August 2, 2018

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This article originally posted July 30 at the Georgia Christian Index


Following the 1990 Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans a host of conservative Baptists converged on the Café du Monde to celebrate another victory for the cause of biblical inerrancy.

Paige Patterson, writing in the Southwestern Journal of Theology, proclaimed, “The aroma of café au lait and powdered sugar-covered beignets was discernible several hundred feet from the famous coffee house.

“That night as the convention parliamentarian led the rejoicing conservatives in singing ‘Victory in Jesus,’ that coffee aroma was to conservatives the aroma of life unto life, but to scores of moderates who had tasted several years of defeat, it became the aroma of death unto death.”

I have had over a month to process the events of the most recent Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas; and for me it was a Café du Monde experience. The only difference is that I felt like I smelled the aroma of death unto death – at least for the SBC I have known for a very long time.

The Southern Baptist Convention is not just changing; it has changed. Many will consider it a blessed conversion. Others will feel disenfranchised, marginalized, and excluded. This convention confirmed that my decision to retire at the end of this year is well-founded, because I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness.

I grew up listening to the sermons of R.G. Lee and W.A. Criswell. Those men of God preached with great conviction, emotion, and passion.

R.G. Lee, with his distinctive southern drawl, command of the English language, and masterful oratorical ability, declared, “The Bible is a living Book. Book of the church militant is the Bible. Book of the church triumphant is the Bible. It’s the Book our mothers stained with grateful tears, the Book our fathers touched with reverent hands, the Book that unrolls the panorama of creation, the Book that gives the lofty imagery of the prophets, the Book that gives the portrait of Christ, the Book that gives the philosophy of salvation.”

W.A. Criswell was no less eloquent, but perhaps more direct in confronting liberalism when he declared, “There is some knot on a log, wart on a dill pickle who think that he’s been to school and he knows more than God… We have professors who think theological hairsplitting will save the world. Not in a thousand years. It’s a fervent heart and preaching for a verdict that saves the world.”

Southern Baptists were all about evangelism and missions for many years, but in the last decade it seems that we have changed our focus; and the decline in baptisms at home and abroad have been precipitous.

Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, has explained, “The true bad news is that when you put last year in the context of all previous years, it indicates the SBC is in the midst of a decline that shows no sign of either slowing down or turning around.”

The new emphases subtly infiltrating Southern Baptist life seems to be social justice, the social gospel, feminism, tolerance, and intolerance.

First, let us consider social justice. According to David C. Rose, social justice is a solution in search of a problem. I believe that we should show compassion for all people, but when social justice requires compromise on moral and spiritual issues it is desperately wrong.

Rose says, “Social justice is both misguided and dangerous. It is misguided because it regards observed inequality as prima facie evidence of injustice because of insufficient understanding of how a free market economy actually works. It is dangerous because social justice advocates therefore attempt to solve a moral problem that doesn’t exist and, in so doing, reduce a society’s ability to solve moral problems that really do exist.”

Second, consider the social gospel, which has surreptitiously found its way back into our denomination. The social gospel embraces ministries that provide help to the needy – clothes closets, food banks, and health-clinics – almost anything that would contribute to the welfare of society.

Churches should be engaged in these social ministries, but these ministries should not be the primary objective. Every social ministry or act of kindness should create a bridge to share the Gospel.

When I was pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta I read Steve Sjogren’s book Conspiracy of Kindness. Sjogren gives his readers an almost unlimited list of unassuming acts of kindness that Christians can practice to communicate the love of Christ. I discovered that many of our folks were excited about giving out water on a hot summer day, painting house numbers on the edge of the sidewalk, shining people’s shoes for free in the mall, and even providing free gift wrapping for a department store at Christmas, but they never shared the Gospel.

Good deeds are important, but there are countless service organizations that help the public. Christians not only have the privilege of putting a man in a new suit, but putting a new man in a suit as a result of the change wrought by sharing the Gospel.

Third, Southern Baptists seem to be welcoming a feminist movement in the church. George Barna reports through his surveys that the majority of attendees in a typical church are women. He refers to women as “the backbone of the Christian congregations in America.” He also reports that 93 percent of the senior pastors in America are men.

However, does that mean that we should seek equality for women and ordain them as pastors? It has been rumored that one of America’s most notable Bible teachers, Beth Moore, should become the SBC president in 2020. If she did, she would be placed in a position of preaching the president’s sermon.

The Bible does not support the practice of women serving as pastors or teaching men (I Timothy 2: 12), but the intrinsic value and extreme giftedness of women have throughout history fortified and enhanced the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church.

Fourth, the menacing worldly view of tolerance has raised its ugly head in the Baptist church. There was a time when lifestyles embodied in the LGBTQ community were universally condemned.

Today because of the normalizing of this deviate behavior in the media, the propagandizing of students in the schools, and the sensitivity training of corporate America we are getting too comfortable with sin and tolerant of aberrant lifestyles. The pulpit must not be silent in this day of tolerance lest our congregations become lukewarm. George Whitefield said, “Congregations are lifeless because dead men preach to them.” Adrian Rogers said, “The sins we once hid in the back alleys, we now parade down Main Street.”

Fifth, whereas tolerance abounds in some areas, intolerance abounds in others. It was good that we recognized our U.S. military and had a patriotic emphasis in the first session of our Convention in Dallas, but I could not believe the disrespect some messengers demonstrated regarding the invitation of Vice President Mike Pence to address our convention. Three motions were made to try to prevent him from speaking and when he did speak some walked out of the convention center obviously protesting his presence.

Have some Southern Baptists become like Jehovah Witnesses who refuse to salute the flag, do not rise in response to the playing of the national anthem, and often choose not to vote in elections?

The New Testament gives us some broad principles on how we are to respond to our government. Romans 13 declares that the origin and institution of government is something that God has ordained. I Timothy 2 reminds us that we are to pray for those who have authority over us. If God has established the government for our good and asked us to pray for those who rule over us; and we are fortunate enough to have a Christian as vice president is it right to protest his invitation to speak to SBC messengers?

In the late 1960s W.A. Criswell predicted that Christianity would be virtually extinct by 2000. He believed it would happen because so many preachers had “lost the conviction that the Bible is the Word of God.”

Perhaps the Conservative Resurgence postponed what Criswell thought was inevitable. He said then and I believe he would say now, “I believe it is time for every pastor and church member to call upon God to intervene on behalf of his church” – and I believe we need His intervention in the life of our Convention.

Article posted July 30 at

The Southern Baptist Convention is undergoing a seismic shift

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