Reverend Gardner C. Taylor

 

UNIDENTIFIED MINISTER: Give welcome to Dr. Gardner C. Taylor.

KIM LAWTON: Reverend Gardner C. Taylor gets a celebrity’s welcome when he takes the pulpit in churches across the nation, and at 88, he still shows the charm that has pulled in worshipers for more than six decades.

Reverend GARDNER C. TAYLOR (Preaching): It’s been a year, and I must say you don’t look a day older. Of course, I don’t see as well as I used to!

LAWTON: During his long career, Taylor has been repeatedly honored as one of the greatest preachers in America. President Bill Clinton agreed and gave him the Medal of Freedom in 2000.

Rev. Taylor

Rev. TAYLOR (Preaching): They marched on …

LAWTON: And Taylor is still at it, a frequent guest preacher all over the country, even though he is technically retired. He says preaching is always a tenuous endeavor.

Rev. TAYLOR: It is quickly lost. It’s uttered, heard, and sometimes lost. But it is the mystery of preaching that it survives, and that it has survived so much of our bad preaching.

LAWTON: Professor Richard Lischer teaches preaching at Duke Divinity School. He says Taylor has set the bar high.

Dr. RICHARD LISCHER (Professor of Preaching, Duke University Divinity School): He almost singlehandedly has elevated and made visible great preaching. He is one of the first whose influence crossed over into the realm of white homiletics and white preaching.

Rev. TAYLOR (Preaching): My father, who was a pastor, said that the children of Israel reminded him of the people he pastored. Not you, but the people he pastored. They were always complaining.

LAWTON: Taylor was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1918.

(To Rev. Taylor) (Looking at Photos): Was this you?

Rev. TAYLOR: Yeah. I like that serious look on my face.

LAWTON (To Rev. Taylor): I know. You were very intent on being a cowboy, I think.

Early on, Taylor says, he didn’t want to follow in his minister father’s footsteps.

Rev. TAYLOR: I wanted to be a lawyer, but no person of color had been admitted to the Louisiana bar, ever. And when I told an old family friend that I wanted to be a lawyer, he said, “Where you going to practice, in the middle of the Mississippi River?”

A young Rev. Taylor

LAWTON: Taylor ended up at Oberlin College’s School of Theology in Ohio, where he discovered he had his father’s gift of speaking.

Rev. TAYLOR: Both of my grandparents were slaves, and neither could read or write. But somehow he had this feeling for the melody of the English language, and I inherited it.

LAWTON: In 1948, Taylor and his wife, Laura, moved to Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, where he spent the next 42 years, until his retirement in 1990. His eloquence and intelligence led to national prominence.

Rev. TAYLOR (Preaching): And on Sunday morning, he came forth declaring, “All power is in my hands.” My friend, that is the destiny of history.

Dr. LISCHER: He manages to keep an enormous range of rhetorical skill under tight, disciplined control, so that when you’re listening to a Gardner Taylor sermon, you feel like something is about to break out or explode.

Rev. TAYLOR (Preaching): John talks about the song of the Lamb: “I saw a new Heaven.”

LAWTON: During the civil rights era, Taylor played a key role raising money in the North to support the Southern church’s efforts. Together with Martin Luther King Jr., he pushed the black Baptist establishment to get more involved in the movement. When that didn’t happen, the two helped found a new denomination, the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

Taylor and King were close friends, often vacationing together. But Taylor says King never really talked about his personal struggles.

Rev. TAYLOR: I did not realize — I should have, I’ve felt guilty about that — I did not realize the pressures this man was under. He was not universally supported by blacks. There were threats on his life constantly. He lived under that shadow day by day, and as I look back upon his years I wonder how he managed.

Dr. LISCHER: Gardner C. Taylor was King’s role model of how one employs the Scripture in order to use its great themes to preach the gospel of freedom for all humanity.

Dr. King speaking

Rev. TAYLOR (Preaching): And so a people marched out singing, “Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

LAWTON: Taylor remained involved in social issues. Looking back, he admits at times he may have been too involved with Democratic Party politics. But he also worries that many contemporary churches have lost their prophetic edge, focusing more on personal prosperity than on issues like poverty and injustice.

Rev. TAYLOR: I think the church today in America partakes of the contemporary American disease of “Let me alone! I want to get along, and I don’t want to be bothered with too many things.” And I think that’s in the churches. When a pulpit becomes an echo of the pew, it loses, I think, almost all of its reasons for existence.

Rev. TAYLOR (Preaching): You will discover, if you live long enough, that almost all those people around you disappear one by one.

LAWTON: Taylor says as he’s aged, his preaching has begun to reflect more about the frailty of human life. That was tragically brought home in 1995, when Laura, his wife of 55 years, died after being hit by a truck. He has since remarried and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he can often be found playing golf.

Rev. TAYLOR (Practicing Golf): I wish I could do that on the golf course!

LAWTON: This spring, Taylor taught a preaching class at nearby Shaw University.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #1 (Preaching): That way, that path, and that truth is Jesus, for John 14:6 says, “I am the way.”

LAWTON: As part of the course, he critiqued students’ sermons.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT #2 (Preaching): But my mama used to tell [me] that everything that feels good to you is not good for you.

Rev. Taylor critiquing a student

LAWTON: And he didn’t hold back with his comments.

Rev. TAYLOR (To Student): I think you’ve got talent, but I think you want discipline. You just — you wear people out. You don’t want to do that. You want to carry them with you.

LAWTON: He also offered encouragement.

Rev. TAYLOR (To Class): You do not want to strive to be known as a great preacher. You do want to strive for people to feel, when you have tried to preach, what a great gospel it is.

LAWTON: Taylor keeps busy, but in recent years, he says he’s begun to practice what 19th-century British pastor Alexander McLaren called “sitting silent before God.”

Rev. TAYLOR: This is not praying, it is not reading, it is just opening oneself. It’s a mystic kind of thing. But we do so little of it, and we who preach are likely to engage ourselves in so many things and to neglect that aspect of being open to what God has to say. And I wish to heaven I had practiced this more early on in my ministry.

LAWTON: He says the older he gets, the more he relies on God’s promises of eternal life.

Rev. TAYLOR: I’m 88, and I lean much more upon the promises, because I need them much. I guess I always needed them, I shouldn’t say that. But I feel the need of them more.

LAWTON: Which of those promises are the ones you’re leaning on?

Rev. TAYLOR: That He will see about me, and I do not know what, but that I will be in a better condition than I am now, and I think that’s at the heart of the Christian gospel.

(Preaching): Sickness and sorrow, and pain and death, are felt and feared. God shall wipe away all, all, all, all tears!

  • Rev. Curtis A. Minter

    My life has been one of hopeful validation, that one day despite the human aroma that consistently holds me now, that God will allow me again to stand with his words on my lips. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Taylor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and I haven’t been the same. Thank you sir for inspiring my life as a man and as a preacher.

  • Clifton Hicks

    I live in chicago.I would like to know if there are future visits by Rev.Taylor anytime soon.Or a city close by.

  • CARL A. COLE

    I live in tampa fl once lived in brooklyn ny clinton hill and had the wonderful honer of hearing pastor taylor proclamation of Gospel it changed my life in a mighty way. I am a church musican and my number one song is Standing on the promises of God, my prayer is the Lord continue make known his promises in your life so you,re able to continue lifting me and millons of other fives up to him.

    PS: I THANK GOD FOR BRINGING PASTOR GARDNER C. TAYLOR THIS WAY

  • Rev. Abraham J. Thomas, Jr.

    A friend of mine introduced me to Rev. Taylor over 20 years ago. It is always a joy to listen to his spiritual wisdom. One of the things he indicates that I believe in is that: if you live long enough all of the people around you will dissappear one by one. The result of wich leaves you only a loving God, who will wipe all tears away.

  • james bo whitesides

    When i first Doc his message was so strong the whole church he talk about dr,\.luke and paul paul living in the valley the sermon had me on the edge of my seat it lasted for about 15 min you could hear a pin drop. it was in 1985 when 4 preachers told me that he was the greatest preacher that ever lived black or white i hope he will read this message the other greatest preacher is dr.sandy ray great orator i hope rev john osborne ,jason barr will
    see this . bo whitesides forest city nc

  • Rev. Donald R. Cook, Sr

    I had the blessed privilege of meeting Dr. Taylor and hearing him preach at the Progressive National Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Washington, DC in 1999. I found him to be a very warm and compassionate person. In addition to him being a great pulpiteer and full of much wisdom and knowledge, he was also very down to earth. He never put on any airs about himself. That year the first book containing some of his greatest sermons was unveiled at the convention, and I bought one for myself, my pastor, and one of my close friends. He personally autographed each one of them, and he was also kind enough to take a picture with me. I will treasure that picture and his autographed book for as long as I live. There is a bit of folklore around his home in Louisiana that people used to pack the church at a funeral, whether they knew the deceased or not, all because his father, Rev. Washington “Wash” Taylor was preaching the eulogy.

  • james bo whitesides

    i love preaching better than anything else in the world it the living word may god bless all preaching that lifting up the name of jesus’

  • Rev. Telika McCoy

    I am a graduate of Shaw University Divinity School where I was blessed to be taught by Dr. Taylor. The course was entitled, “The Preaching of Dr. Gardner C. Taylor.” I tell you, reading his books and hearing his sermons is great; but sitting under God’s teachings, through Dr. Taylor, is/was beyond words. I figure this must be how Paul the Apostle felt as he sat under the teachings of Gamaliel (smile). I’m so blessed and changed after such an experience. All Glory to God!

  • Rev. Reginald W. Lawrence

    I had the distinct honor of hearing Dr. Taylor preach in 1976 and of meeting Dr. Taylor nearly twenty years ago. In the years between and since my respect for him as a minister of the gospel has grown exponentially. He meets that extremely difficult standard of leaving his listeners most impressed with the glory of our Lord, while also awed by the power of his presentation. Dr. Taylor’s preaching is of an extremely high order indeed.

  • Curiis Lambert (10-4)

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I had a friend of mine try to find the cassette that Reverend Taylor gave to me personally when he was in Washington DC at Gethsename Baptist Church located off of Kansas Avenue, N.W. I am so displeased with myself for losing that tape, for he gave it to specially for his singing of the song, “One Day At A Time, Sweet Jesus.”

    I work at the church and was stricken ill last month when I had bouts of strokes. I lost my ability to speak properly, and understandably during that time. Thank the Lord, I am back to serve the Lord-, and my thoughts of near death episodes, caused me to slow down a bit, and think about Reverend Taylors song, One Day At A Time. I know the secretary asked for a $10.00 fee for the cassette, at which time I don’t have because of unexpected monies that had to be paid out last month to IRS. It is so hard to live properly these days.

    If you could do this, just this one time, under your hardship applicant receipts, it would be so appreciative by me and the Lord. Thank you.

    God Bless You.

  • Rev. Clinton Craig Hoggard

    I am seeking to personal meet Dr Gardner Taylor and be personal mentored by Dr. Taylor. It is further my goal to attend Princeton Theological Seminary or ITC International Theological Seminary in Atlanta. I will graduate from Eastern Baptist Theologiclal Seminary in Philadelphia in May 2012. My critical journey has been inspired by Dr Taylor. How can I arrange a personal meeting with Dr. Taylor and have a hour or a day to shadow and be mentored by Dr. Taylor?

  • Rev Franklin T ”Frankie’ Reid

    I met DR Gardner Taylor,at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta GA. MRS Coretta Scott King was there that Day.
    I remember the moment as it was yesterday,I watch MRS king smile as DR Taylor preach,after service I shook
    hands with DR Taylor we talk like one of the boys.I did not know he was the Giant . I new he was my Friend.
    never will for get that moment in time Rev. Franklin T Reid . My Domicile Fayetteville nc Winston salem nc
    Atlanta ga .

  • Fred Williams

    I had the great honor and the privilege of sitting in an informal question and answer session hosted by Dr. Taylor during a Shaw University Minister’s Conference. I felt that I was sitting in the presence of greatness. I was profoundly impacted by the wisdom of this man’s experience, his great intellect and his passion for the word of God and the purposes of God! Anyone who avails themselves of the opportunity to be in his presence will be much the richer!

  • Barry Cox

    I am a Bahamian living in New york city. I heard Dr. taylor at the historic Bethel Baptist Church in Nassau,Bahamas. In my opinion, I thought i heard one of the greatest proclamation of the Gospel that i’ve ever heard. The sermon was about until he put all things under his feet. That was a sermon of God putting all things under Jesus feet. I am still being blessed from that sermon. To God be all the Glory through Jesus Christ my Lord

  • John Brown

    Are there any to Dr,Taylor’s sermons available on audio or video….God bless

  • Patty Eiben

    I saw Dr. Taylor on Charlie Rose…Does he still preach or has he passed on? I’d love to hear his sermons (or anything else he recorded)