From his childhood player piano to the pulpit, Robert Vogel has loved preaching for over 60 years. He cannot remember a time when he did not know that God had called him into ministry.
“As a first grader, I can remember coming home from church and I would go in my bedroom and I would preach my heart out,” he said. “It probably wasn’t too substantive, but it was passionate.”
After many years of cultivating that love in students, Vogel is retiring from his preaching professorship at Southern Seminary.
Vogel trusted in Christ and was baptized at the age of 6 at the First Baptist Church of Brush, Colorado. From that point forward, there was no doubt in his mind that preaching was what the Lord wanted him to do.
Vogel attended Western Bible Institute in Denver, Colorado. During his time there, he served on a gospel team that would travel to various churches in California. He met his wife at one of the churches on the tour. The following fall, in 1968, Kathy enrolled at Western. They were married in 1971 and have raised three children.
He taught preaching at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, teaching Southern Seminary professors Thomas R. Schreiner and Michael Pohlman during his time there, in addition to working alongside Bruce Ware and Gregg Allison.
“Dr. Vogel not only models great competency in the craft of preaching but the highest level of character,” Pohlman said. “His godliness combined with his gifting make him an extraordinary preacher and teacher. [He is] the man God has used perhaps more than anyone in my life to nurture in me a love for preaching and the Christ we proclaim.”
After 25 years at Western, Vogel was offered a full-time teaching position at Southern Seminary and his family moved to Louisville, where he has served as the Carl E. Bates Professor of Christian Preaching since 2003.
“Dr. Vogel is one of the finest preachers I’ve had the privilege to know and hear, but more than that, he’s one of the finest Christian men I’ve known,” Ware said. “He’s gracious to a fault, kind and courteous, and has that rare quality of showing deep interest in the person to whom he is talking. He is such a gift to Southern Seminary, and in a very personal way, he and Kathy are wonderful gifts to Jodi and me.”
The students, faculty, and camaraderie are three of the many things that have brought joy to Vogel during his time at Southern. A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons by John Albert Broadus was the first book on preaching Vogel ever read, and the opportunity to teach at the school Broadus helped found and that R. Albert Mohler Jr. now leads is a dream come true.
“Dr. Mohler is, in my estimation, without peer as a seminary president and leader of a place like this, and to have the privilege of serving on his team has been the privilege of a lifetime,” he said.
After 37 years of sharing his love of preaching in the classroom, Vogel is retiring from full-time teaching. The everyday activities of the broader field of service will change in degree now, but hopefully not in kind, he said.
He has had a lasting impact on the lives of many through his devotion to loving, teaching, and living God’s Word. “Who could ever forget the deep resonant voice of the invariably cheerful Robert Vogel?” Schreiner remarked. Vogel still hopes that he will continue to be involved with Southern Seminary.
“More than having a roster of the famous people I could point to, I am more drawn to the fact that there is a huge number of God-called pastors, missionaries, and others in various fields of Christian service who I trust are out there in some of the unsung and unknown places of this world holding forth the Word of God faithfully,” Vogel said about his former students. “It is the result of a whole faculty investing in those students, each of us in our own ways, subjects, disciplines, and with our life experiences and hearts’ passions bleeding over into those students’ lives.”
Vogel seeks to encourage his students and all those pursuing pastoral ministry to employ C.H. Spurgeon’s “self-watch” principle, so that they may prepare well, run well, and finish well. “There will always be pressures to quit or to compromise the truth; therefore, it is crucial that Christians guard their hearts that their hearts would not be hardened, resistant to the Spirit, or infatuated with the cheap pearls that the world has to offer,” he said.
Vogel says he desires to continue serving as long as he has the capability to do so: “I have always wanted to ‘die with my boots on’ and be active in the ministry until God calls me home.”
From preaching in his bedroom at 6 years old to teaching seminary students, he has learned that serving in a pastoral role means being completely convinced of the truthfulness of God’s Word and recognizing that both believers and unbelievers need to know it. “To preach is to proclaim Christ,” he says, “admonishing every man and teaching them with all wisdom that all would be presented complete in him.”