Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver

Dr. Alan Branch, a professor of Christian ethics at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), has been listening to Pastor Adrian Rogers preach for more than 30 years. But nothing could match the words he overheard Pastor Rogers say in 1993.

“I met him in 1993 while a student at Southeastern Baptist Seminary (Wake Forest, North Carolina). My wife, Lisa, was the administrative assistant to the dean of students. When I heard Adrian Rogers was on the preaching schedule, I told Lisa, ‘I don’t care what you have to do; I want to be the guy to pick him up at the airport. …So I got him in the van intending to talk about Evangelism Explosion but he started asking me questions and we never got around to talking about EE. Then when we got there, he had a gaggle of people waiting for him and I thought, well, that’s it.”

And now for what Alan Branch overheard:

“The next day I was headed back to class and Adrian Rogers was coming from the other direction and he caught my eye and waved. I’ll never forget it because he turned to the people he was with and said, ‘Gentlemen, that’s Alan Branch. He’s got so much potential I’d like to buy stock in him.’”

That comment, never forgotten, was to Branch “a word fitly spoken…like apples of gold in settings of silver,” Proverbs 25:11.

Branch earned his undergraduate degree from Kennesaw State College and his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to his 21 years of service to MTBS, Dr. Branch is a Research Fellow in Christian Ethics for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a regular presenter at the Evangelical Theological Society. He also served as a chaplain in the United States Army Reserves from 2009 to 2013, which included a Middle East tour of duty from 2011 to 2012.

When he teaches and preaches, he frequently uses Pastor Rogers’ sermon resources.

“I teach full time but I also serve as interim pulpit supply. Sometimes my weeks are so busy I don’t have as much time for sermon preparation as I’d like. It’s a real blessing to have resources I can depend on.”

Here’s why he uses “Adrian Rogers is best known for his turns of phrase and a preaching style that’s easy for people to understand, but some people don’t realize he was a theologian of great influence. He was instrumental in drafting both the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (widely adopted summary of biblically based beliefs on key theological issues, with Scripture references) and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (clarification of principles and practices related to the understanding of Scripture). He never wavered on the truth. I can’t say enough about his uncompromising stance on sexuality, marriage, and the sanctity of human life. He spoke and wrote the truth unapologetically, matter-of-factly, without ever making people feel they were being talked down to.”

He also knew how to use humor and how to turn a phrase, Dr. Branch said of Pastor Rogers.

“He used humor to release tension. He never told a crude joke or something off-color. The humor would usually be self-deprecating—something funny about being a Baptist or about his own life. He’d provide a moment to breathe and then go back into a tough subject. I look for ways to bring that into my preaching. Jesus had a sense of humor but he never devalued people.”

“His ability to turn a phrase was genius.” I remember a sermon he preached from First Peter 3:1-7. This is where husbands are to honor their wives as the weaker vessels. That’s a tough sermon in our culture. He made the point that a man has greater muscle mass and wouldn’t want to bully his wife. And then he used a great comparison. He said, ‘the wife may be weaker but that does not make her less valuable. …Silk is weaker than denim, but silk is not less valuable than denim.’ He addressed difficult passages in sound ways that were easy for people to understand.”

Dr. Branch heard his favorite Adrian Rogers sermon in 1996.

“I was at a church leadership conference. Dr. Rogers spoke from First Samuel about how Israel had tried to use the ark as a good luck charm. I’ll never forget what he said—‘God won’t be used and He can’t be captured.’ He made the application directly to pastors that the Gospel does not exist for us to make a platform for ourselves. It was a sobering reminder.”

Dr. Branch still has in his office a literal “baton” passed to him by Joyce Rogers at the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006 after Pastor Rogers went to be with the Lord. “This was a reminder to the next generation to be faithful. It means a lot to me. I’m a pro-life, pro-family ethics professor. It can take a lot to stay faithful in this generation.”