August 17, 2008

A Defining Moment

2001 I was visiting Bellevue with friends. We attended Wednesday evening and had a meal before the service. My friend knew that I had previously been a Pentecostal and as we dined he ask me about the different views of Baptist and Pentecostals. I had a struggle finding the explanation without going into depth.

His wife and daughter went to different activities and We went to the auditorium for the Wednesday evening service. It was one of the rare times when Dr Rogers spoke on Wednesday nights. He referred to Church growth and at that time I was not familiar with The Purpose-Driven Church. *

I was familiar with the Church growth program at Fuller Theological Seminary under Peter Wagner, Donald McGavran and John Wimber. I had studied them in several college courses and had grown weary with them in years of study later in the ministry. I was disappointed to hear Dr Rogers enunciate these principles.

He referred to Bellevue's growth of over 800 baptisms in the past year and his point was that Bellevue can do much better than that! How often have you been in a Church service where a statement was made like that? Over 800 baptisms in one year at one Church! 800 baptisms!

A lady heard this and spontaneously broke into applause. Only one lady. In a sudden gesture, Dr Rogers raised his palms toward her and told her, "now you listen to what I was saying." "You didn't hear what I said." Now I was embarrassed for the lady and felt that this lady would go home that night feeling foolish.

She truly had not heard his point that even though they had over 800 baptisms that year they could do much more.

Later when we got into the car to go home, I stated to my friend that he had witnessed a difference in a Pentecostal and a Baptist service. In a Pentecostal service that woman would not have to suffer an embarrassment. The preacher in all probability would have deferred to her applause and ask the rest of the congregation to join her in an expression of praise.

I believe that God arranged for me to observe this. This seems to be a defining moment in spite of the incident being isolated. It was a slip-up for Rogers and I am sure he retired that evening wishing he had not treated the lady that way. That lady's applause has haunted me and I can't get it out of my mind. To me it is as Moses striking the rock instead of speaking to it. It had the appearance of being insignificant but God held Moses to a high standard and it cost him dearly.

The perception came across as regular people have their place, like a good woman should be seen and not heard. It seem to represent the view that massive Church growth took place over the individual. That woman responded to the thrill of her personal baptism. Her response was inspired by the Holy Spirit. His sermon was inspired by visions of massive people movements.

With all my heart I believe that woman's offering of praise, non-verbal clapping, was accepted in heaven. All Dr. Rogers had was the praise of men.

*Bellevue was using the 40 day program of PDC (1995) and along with Robert Schuler, Bill Bright, Jack Hayford, Rogers had written an endorsement to the Book. "Rick Warren has been used to challenge my thinking in the area of church growth in an incredible way. This book is on the must-read list for every pastor."


Straight Path said...


One day I informed my sister of a few comments Rogers had made back when I was a member at Bellevue. Here are a few of them:

a) A woman will back you up against the wall and start an argument with you to get your attention.

b) Older women get what I call a Supreme Court figure, NO APPEAL! (I was 22 when I first heart this and didn't realize there was no appeal at the Supreme Court level, but I certainly knew the joke was QUITE tacky.)

c) So what...your husband bought you a year's worth of household cleaner for your birthday, so what!

I asked my sister what she thought. She responded, "Adrian Rogers has a low respect for women." We are by no means flag-waving feminists, but I do agree.

The way Rogers treated the woman in your story is terrible. It was insensitive, callous and if I had been her, I would have never come back.

WatchingHISstory said...

This is a problem in most fundamental Churches today. It does not seem to be a "feminist" issue as much as eager Christians, for the most part unlearned, who want to really break out and grow in Christ. They hunger and they ask questions. Sermons do not really feed them and when they get a chance they "back the pastor up against the wall". The pastor takes this as a threat rather than a hungry seeker.

As a matter of fact I backed my pastor up against the wall last Sunday night after service and my question was so bizzare that he laughed at me. We are friends and I am thick skined but I ask myself do other people less skined than me, are they laughed at? How do they react when they are laughed at?

Are our pastors accessible to hungry seekers? No, they are expected to sit in their pew and be good Christians.

Was Adrian Roger's accessible to common people? Absolutely not. You were sidelined to a lower person. Not that a lower person is bad but you feel second class.

The women at Corinth were asking silly questions so often that Paul had to request them to ask their husbands at home. This is an indirect compliment to the Corinthian men. Paul had confidence in them to resolve many issues.

The point is that there are no silly questions and growth in Christ begins with answers to questions. Answers not found in glassroom or sanctuary settings.

This is not taking place at Church nor the home. Weak, hungry people are not given opportunity to grow.