What Preachers Can Learn from the Personal Library and Study of Adrian Rogers

 |  October 22, 2018

A recent trip to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary afforded me the opportunity to examine the personal study of Adrian Rogers, one of the great preachers of our time. Rogers is widely known for his legacy of faithful service to Christ and his leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention. He was the long-serving pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee. Under his leadership, the church grew from 9,000 to over 29,000 members. Rogers served as president of the SBC three different times. He was known around the world as a man of integrity and a preacher of amazing ability. Even after his death in 2005, his Love Worth Finding television and radio ministry continues to reach millions of people in over 150 countries.

The entire personal study and library of Adrian Rogers are preserved within the Roberts Library at Southwestern Seminary. The collection includes handwritten notes, photographs, books, desks, personal effects, and a Mac computer (which I was told he never used). All of these items have been cataloged and assembled in a way as to mirror Rogers’s actual study at the time of his death. Below are a few discoveries from the study that may not be well-known.

Rogers evaluated and scored his own sermons. Rogers had a system for evaluating his sermons, especially messages he delivered multiple times. On the back of his typed sermon notes, one can often find dates and information about where the sermon was delivered. He assigned a numeric score each time the message was delivered. How many preachers could benefit from a system of evaluation for their sermons? Some preachers never evaluate their messages after delivery, which is unfortunate. No preacher is beyond improvement. Rogers’s example serves as a reminder that even the most gifted preachers should strive to improve their skills of delivering the Word of God.

The study was arranged to keep up with his preaching load. Rogers’s study contained three separate desks. In fact, one of these desks belonged to the famed preacher R. G. Lee. Rogers utilized each of these desks for one of his three weekly sermons. He compiled the necessary books, materials, and notes to focus on the specific sermon, so he could stay organized and ahead in his preparation. Any preacher who delivers God’s Word multiple times a week knows the importance of organization and prioritization in the study. Rogers was a gifted preacher; yet, his natural giftedness did not cause him to neglect diligent study each time he entered the pulpit. As preachers, we must never succumb to the temptation to be lax in our studies. Every time we step behind the pulpit is a divinely appointed opportunity to speak the glorious truth of our King; we must be prepared.

A final curiosity from the study of Adrian Rogers can be found on top of his main desk: a beautiful two-volume set of books entitled My Life Without Christ and My Life Without Joyce. Each of these six-hundred-page volumes was authored by Dr. Adrian Rogers. However, inside each massive book, one will find only blank pages. Not a single word or character can be found within either of these enormous books. For Rogers, life truly began with Christ; before Christ, no life existed. We are reminded of the powerful effect of knowing Jesus. No sin, no accomplishment, and no gift is worth mentioning before Christ. Life truly begins when we meet the Savior. A dangerous thing for any preacher is to desire to be known for anything apart from knowing Christ. Rogers held dearly to these convictions. He once said “Every one of us will be known for something when we are gone. Do you know what I want them to think of when they think of me? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want them to say, ‘That man’s life was centered in the only message that really matters.’”[1]Adrian Rogers, Adrianisms: The Collected Wit and Wisdom of Adrian Rogers (Collierville, TN: Innovo Publishing, 2015), 71.

Roger’s second volume, My Life Before Joyce, highlights another profound point for married pastors: we are nothing apart from the gracious gift of a godly wife. For those of us who know the benefit and blessing of a godly wife, the blank-white pages of Rogers’s book make perfect sense. Any effective preacher is who he is in large part because of the health of this critical relationship. God gives many pastors the profound blessing of a wife. We may be the ones who step into the pulpit, but the special ministry of our wives make this possible.  We are able to do what God has called us to do in large part because of the blessing of godly companionship.

J. Dace Clifton is the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Hico, Texas, a PhD candidate at Southwestern, an adjunct professor at Arlington Baptist University, and a regular contributor to www.dailypastor.com.

The Adrian Rogers Library is part of the J.T. and Zelma Luther Archive and Special Collections housed in Roberts Library at Southwestern. Anyone can visit during our regular hours, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday.


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