Greg AddisonOctober 1, 2019
A Pastor’s Imprint
It was a night of blessing in 2002, the last Sunday night before Greg Addison would leave for his first senior pastorate in Arkansas. Hands had been laid. Prayers had been prayed. And now Greg and his wife, Janet, and their two young children, Grant and Mabry, shared the privilege of dinner with Adrian and Joyce Rogers.
“Sunday nights were special for me,” says Greg, who had been taught by the same pastor since age 7½. “I grew up singing Now the Day is Over at the close of every Sunday night service. Pastor would say, ‘Go home. Get a good night’s sleep. Because He who watches you never slumbers or sleeps.’ Every week of my life began like that.” Now Greg was launching into a new life buoyed by that familiar blessing and longing to hear some last salient advice.
“We went to Macaroni Grill that night, and I’m expecting Dr. Rogers to sit next to me so we can talk, and he says to my young son, ‘Grant, sit here by me. What are you having for dinner? Macaroni? Well, I’ll have macaroni too.”
GROWING UP BELLEVUE
Greg was 9½ when he gave his life to Christ. His father promptly took him to Dr. Rogers’ office for pastoral counseling. That office would become a familiar stop for Greg the next two decades.
“When I hear the word pastor that means Adrian Rogers to me. I see his face,” Greg says, fondly recalling a childhood memory of scooping dirt with Dr. Rogers during a groundbreaking. “He was that way with children. I’m not special. There’s a whole bunch of us out there just doing what God wants because that’s what we were taught.”
Greg’s planned vocational path didn’t include ministry. “I was headed off to Knoxville to get a law degree and Dr. Rogers wrote me a letter: ‘Study hard, come home, and let God use you here.’ So that’s what I did.”
Greg practiced law in Memphis for six years. In the meantime, he married his high school sweetheart, taught Sunday School, was ordained as a deacon, and was mentored by his father and his pastor—“the two wisest people I have ever known.”
When God later called Greg into full-time ministry, he knew he still had a few things to learn. “What I really wanted to do was preach.” Law is good training for homiletics and hermeneutics, Greg explains, “but I still needed to learn to preach. And I have to say that everything I do well in preaching is because of Dr. Rogers. He modeled five simple principles and I always follow them. I like to say I went to the Adrian Rogers seminary.”
Greg occasionally had the opportunity to practice his preaching at Bellevue. “After I’d preached, he’d come into staff meeting with that twinkle in his eye and make some comment using a key phrase I had used in my sermon. It was his way of affirming me, giving me a blessing, and letting me know, ‘your pastor saw and heard you.’”
Greg pastored two different Arkansas churches from 2002-2014. He says he often conducted himself, almost without thinking, in step with Dr. Rogers. “His leadership style was imprinted on me,” Greg says, adding that he’s had conversations with other “Bellevue kids,” now pastors and lay leaders, who’ve experienced the same realization of Pastor Rogers’ mark on their lives.
Perhaps that imprint is why in his last pastorate, while he was serving as President of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, Chaplain of the Arkansas House of Representatives, and President of the Board of Trustees for Williams Baptist University—literally at the busiest point in his career—Greg re-prioritized and made time to go on multiple mission trips with students.
“I remembered that night at the Macaroni Grill and the way Dr. Rogers treated my son. It’s funny how things play themselves out in your life.”
FIVE PREACHING PRINCIPLES MODELED BY ADRIAN ROGERS:
- Talk about Jesus. “Not God. Not a spiritual force. I say the name of Jesus as many times as I can in every sermon.”
- Use an anchor passage. “Dr. Rogers taught me to study the Bible and preach exegetically. Nothing is more effective.”
- Share the Gospel. “I always present the Gospel and always issue an invitation.”
- Make it personal. “Dr. Rogers preached with incredible authority but he taught YOU as if he was speaking directly to you.”
- Emphasize relationship. “Someone will walk up after a sermon and say, ‘I get it. Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus, not about following the law.’ Funny, since I’m a lawyer. When that happens, it’s a 1:1 blessing from Dr. Rogers. It just passes through me.”
Today Greg Addison serves as Associate Executive Director of Arkansas Baptists, overseeing myriad ministries that are part of a $21 million budget. The letter Dr. Rogers sent him as he headed off to Knoxville is in his office desk.