In 1994, Rev. Dr. Michael A. Rogers accepted a call to pastor Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lancaster, PA. Over the next 24 years Westminster Presbyterian would nearly double in membership and plant 4 daughter congregations, all the while contributing faithfully to global missions. In addition to his pastoral work, Dr. Rogers faithfully served on the Board of Trustees at Westminster Theological Seminary from 2002 to 2014, and again from 2015 until his retirement in 2018. In 2013 Crossway published Rogers’ What Happens after I Die?, a book on heaven and hell.
This past February, Dr. Rogers retired from the pastorate after more than 45 years of ministry. In a letter thanking and congratulating Dr. Rogers for his service to the church and to Westminster, Drs. Lillback and Garner wrote,
“Deploying the preaching and leadership gifts entrusted to you by our Lord, you have served as his chosen instrument in hundreds of lives to bring new life, growth, vitality, and greater love of the Lord and his Word. . . May the Lord bless you and Carol in these retirement years, as you enjoy your children and grandchildren, and as you step into this new phase of ministry for Christ and his church.”
Dr. Rogers graciously agreed to talk with us about his ministry and his association with Westminster, sharing invaluable insight into a generation of faithful ministry:
When did you come to know the Lord?
“I was born in Buffalo, NY in 1949. As a child we attended a Baptist church, and I professed a heartfelt faith in Jesus at the age of 7 at a Vacation Bible School program. I was in more or less a fundamentalist environment for the first 18 years. Only then would I encounter Presbyterians who were also Christians.”
What was your path to the ministry like?
“I started out wanting to be a scholar. I wanted to get a PhD and teach. I had some occasions to preach and found I was gifted at it. And I found that I enjoyed talking to real people more than just Academics.
“I graduated with a ThM from Gordon-Conwell in 1974, and was ordained in the United Presbyterian Church, USA. From 1974–76 I pastored a congregation in Worthington, PA, and then in Monroeville, PA from 1976–1980. In 1980 I joined the PCA and planted Church of the Savior in my home area of Williamsville, NY.
“In 1988 I earned a DMin from Westminster Theological Seminary and was called to serve as Senior Pastor of Valley PCA in Lutherville, MD until 1994 when I came to Lancaster.”
How did you come to be involved with Westminster?
“I was pretty strongly Reformed by the time I decided to do a DMin and had been aware of what I felt was Westminster’s superior reputation. I was living in Western New York at the time, and it was a reasonable day’s drive to campus.
“My original invitation to the board came through my friend, Sam Logan. I feel pretty strongly that Westminster is an important place, and I wanted to help Westminster be the banner seminary that I felt it was.
What advice do you have for young pastors entering the ministry?
“I’m an ordinary pastor. . . I don’t really have any great wisdom to impart. . . Seek to find some man in ministry you believe has integrity and wisdom and ask him if he will meet with you as a mentor on a monthly basis for your first two years.”
Which writers and preachers most influenced your ministry?
“Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Stott, Jonathan Edwards and Jim Boice all made an impact. Arnold Dallimore’s two-volume biography of George Whitefield, J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, and Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers were all very important books for me as well.”
You served on Westminster’s board during challenging, formative moments in the seminary’s history. What lessons can you share about facing challenges at an institution like ours?
“Carl Trueman correctly stated that any institution entirely dedicated to the inerrancy of Scripture is going to face an internal crisis in that commitment every 40 years. I believe we endured that trial by fire within the WTS faculty five to ten years ago. Practically every meeting was like a suspense thriller. It’s a hard thing to do these days, and I hope we don’t have to go through it again soon.
“I was a part of the decision to appoint Dr. Lillback as President at the time. I think that was an important moment for us. I think he was God’s man for the hour.”
What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for WTS? In what areas would you like to see the seminary grow?
“First, finding funds for a campus building program needed in an era when the number of students seeking a seminary education is declining. And second, raising up new excellent young professors as the ‘big name’ Reformed men begin to retire.
“I’ve always wanted to see the practical theology department strengthened more. Unfortunately, it’s always taken a backseat and I’d like to see that be stronger.
“For Westminster, just survival is an issue. There are fewer and fewer students interested in seminary, and each seminary is competing for those same students. It’s going to get intense in the next few years. I don’t want Westminster to merely survive. I’d like to see it thrive.”
What are your plans, post-Retirement?
“I am working to discover what meaningful ministry outlets I can have as a pastor emeritus, living and worshiping within the geographical orbit of the congregation I served for 24 years, without trampling on the new Senior Pastor. I believe it can be done but will require self-discipline and firm ground rules observed by me.”