Longtime Southern Baptist pastor and denominational leader Adrian Rogers died earlier this week. This excerpt from a Baptist Press article includes a moving footwashing ceremony as reported by Steve Gaines, who succeeded Rogers as pastor of his 29,000-member church. [EDITOR’S NOTE TO NON-GRACE BRETHREN READERS: Footwashing is a regular part of the communion service in Grace Brethren churches]
“I can’t believe [he’s dead],” Gaines said. “It just happened so quickly…. I believed with all my heart that when he went into the hospital just a little over a week ago, that he would be coming home, that this was just sort of a temporary setback, that they would hook him up with some oxygen and he would be OK. And that’s just not what happened.”
Yet in the few short weeks that Gaines was Rogers’ pastor (Rogers kept his membership at Bellevue), Rogers provided a shining example of both leadership and humility.
Immediately before Gaines preached his first sermon as Bellevue pastor Sept. 11, Rogers washed Gaines’ feet on the Bellevue platform, using a basin of water and a towel as Gaines sat in the pastor’s chair. It was all Rogers’ idea.
“At first we were going to do it in a private time, in just a simple way,” Gaines said. “He did not do that for a show or anything like that. But he and I both prayed about it, and we both felt like it would really be a wonderful thing for the church to experience.”
Rogers also placed a cloth mantle on Gaines to symbolize the passing of the torch.
“After the foot washing, Dr. Rogers … called my wife up and his wife up, and they laid hands on us and prayed for us,” Gaines said.
Foot washing, Gaines said, “symbolizes the heart of a servant” and is modeled after Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet.
Rogers, Gaines said, epitomized humility.
“He was never impressed with himself. He never was one to brag about himself,” Gaines said. “The Bible says, ‘Let another person’s lips praise you and not your own.’ He never, ever brought attention to himself in any way. I believe that one of the reasons that God exalted him is because he humbled himself. That’s just the way he lived.
“He was aware, obviously, that God had done great things through him. But he always gave Jesus the glory.”