by Robert Earl Houston
A tall cedar has fallen on the preaching landscape of the United States, as the Lord has called home his servant, the Rev. Dr. Gardner Calvin Taylor on Easter Sunday, April 6, 2015. He was 96 years old.
Dr. Taylor was world-reknown for his preaching gifts and was dubbed “The Dean of American preaching” by Time Magazine. He was born June 18, 1918 and graduated from Leland College and Oberlin Graduate School of Theology.
He was called a “National Visionary” by the National Visionary Leadership Project for “his use of metaphor, dramatic timing and biblical truths to weave a seamless narrative in his sermons exhibit(ed) his mastery of the technical aspects of preaching that have inspired both laymen and clergy alike. Many have been entranced and transformed by Taylor’s oratorical gift.”
Dr. Taylor was the only child born to Reverend Washington and Selina Taylor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His father died when he was 13, however, he influenced his son’s preaching style. As a young man, he had hopes of becoming a lawyer and it wasn’t until he survived a serious car accident that he experienced his call to ministry and realized God’s claim on his life.
Instead of attending the University of Michigan Law School, he went to Oberlin in 1937 where he met his wife Laurabelle Scott. They married in 1940 and had one daughter. While in school, he pastored Bethany Baptist Church in Oberlin from 1938 to 1941; the Beulah Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA, 1941-1943; the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, LA, 1943-1947. In 1948 he became pastor of Concord Baptist Church at the age of 30, which at the time had 5,000 members. By the end of his tenure, church membership exceeded 14,000. Under his leadership, the church build a home for the aged, organized a fully-accredited grade school and developed the Christ Fund, a million-dollar endowment for investing in the Brooklyn community.
As a denominational leader he sought the presidency of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. He ran against the incumbent president, Dr. J.H. Jackson, who had differing views about the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his supporters, of which Dr. Taylor was one. Following very controversial proceedings, Dr. Jackson was declared president and in Cincinnati, the other faction organized that Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. Several years later, Dr. Taylor became President of the Convention and was honored as the President Emeritus unto the time of his passing.
He received numerous awards and honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to his by President William Jefferson Clinton.
He served as the senior pastor of Concord for 42 years and retired 25 years ago in 1990. He was in demand as a preacher world-wide and authored several books, include the six-volume series, “The Words of Gardner Taylor.” HIs wife Laura Bell passed away on February 5, 1995. He later married Phillis Strong. His daughter is Martha Taylor Lacroix.
I had the privilege to serve as the Webmaster of the Progressive National Baptist Convention during the 50th Anniversary of the Convention in Washington, DC, and Dr. Taylor was present at the Convention. He gave words of wisdom and I stood there in awe as he sat in his wheelchair and dispensed wisdom to a crowd that was completely in awe and in silence, soaking up his wisdom. He shared a great line: “Some young pastor asked me Dr. Taylor what should be my goal as a young pastor? I looked at him and said, live to be an old pastor.”
At the time of his passing he was residing in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Phillis. I wrote this on Twitter: “Dr. Gardner Taylor was to preaching what paint was to Picasso, what a needle was to a record album, and what a lyric was to a song.”
HOMEGOING ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN ANNOUNCED AS FOLLOWS:
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Christian Faith Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina
Viewing 6 – 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Concord Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York
Wake 5 – 8 p.m.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Concord Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York
Viewing 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Homegoing Service 11:30 a.m.
– Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
– National Ministries.org
– National Visionary Leadership Project
Please see the Pastoral Announcement and Application below:
by Robert Earl Houston
We are asking members, partners and supporters of this ministry to assist in the undertaking of an initiative called Project G650. The mission of Project G650 is to acquire a Gulfstream G650 airplane so that Pastors Creflo and Taffi and World Changers Church International can continue to blanket the globe with the Gospel of grace. We are believing for 200,000 people to give contributions of 300 US dollars or more to turn this dream into a reality–and allow us to retire the aircraft that served us well for many years. (The Huffington Post)
I have been watching the discussion, jokes, and expert opinions about Dr. Creflo Dollar’s (Pastor of the World Changers Church International in the Atlanta area) request for money to buy a top of the line jet. I think that the problem that many have with it is not necessarily the need for a plane – it’s a plane of that order and that type. What was probably a great idea in a planning and creative session (which mega ministries have) backfired because somebody either didn’t say or was overruled in the wisdom of putting this down on video and letter to ask for a first class jet that only the super-rich possess.
The downside of this has become all of the chatter, criticism and last night during The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, one of the ministers of the television reality show, “The Preachers of Detroit” greatly rebuked Dollar and the panel basically made it sound like the poor was being pressured into giving – when the truth is that poor folk aren’t the only ones who give to his (or any other mega ministry) because he clearly said it was sent to his congregation AND his worldwide donors list, which meant these were the people who had already been giving.
This debacle has made the words “those preachers” become inclusive of most of us who don’t drive or own luxury cars, live in fancy homes or have congregations that pay us six or seven figure salaries. Most of us struggle, to be honest. Those of us who went to school haven’t gotten the appropriate amount of pay for school nor experience. Most of us deal with established boards who come to the table not with the spirit of the pastor’s vision, but their own brand of division. Not to mention a spirit of suicide that erupted in the Body of Christ last year which saw several pastors (none of those who pastored megachurches) end their lives tragically.
I’m saddened by all of this, without a doubt. It’s been a long time since Jim and Tammy Bakker and other financial excesses have been public fodder. So, please forgive me if I don’t join in the chorus of those who are joyfully exploiting this situation with suspect glee – it’s saddening and disappointing on many, many levels. Since the public outcry, the campaign has been cancelled.
A friend of mine, Bishop Victor Couzens of Cincinnati, Ohio recently went on a missions trip. Packed his bags and shared the gospel with those who are struggling in life. Upon his preparation to return to the States, he heard the voice of the Lord, and all of the clothing and possessions he brought with him to Kenya – and to leave it all to those in the village and he literally returned home with nothing but the clothes on his back. The people of that area gave him a Maasai name: “Lemaylan” – which means “the one who is blessed to be blessed.”
I choose to serve so that I too will be called “Lemayla.”
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
I am concerned about division. I’m concerned as a believer, as a preacher, as a pastor, as a church member. I don’t like to see nor experience division in the body of Christ. I’m not a proponent of splits especially in our denominational structures that have taken us from one convention in 1914 to well over 20 conventions, reformations, and fellowships in our African-American baptist context. We are so divided it’s hard for any one group to make an impact upon society because of our fragmentation.
I’m reminded of when the National Baptist Convention of America split in 1989. I was a young pastor, just started my pastoral ministry in Portland, Oregon and then watched my home convention split and the reverberations spread across the country. Those who had served together for years and many of them icons were now drawing borders and fellowships that had existed for years were now laid bare on the ground.
There was an incident that occurred when a pastor from NBCA wrote a pastor from NMBCA and stated that since the National was splitting, a decades long fellowship between the two local churches was no longer in his best interest. I said it then, it was a sad day when we can’t worship together on a local level.
However, there is a move afoot and I think it’s worthy of mention that it seems that we are becoming increasingly divided due to stances of theological proportion. Back in the day, E.V. Hill could preach in Los Angeles in his pulpit on Sunday morning, appear on the Charismatic TBN broadcast with Paul and Jan Crouch Sunday evening, fly to Denver to preach to a Focus on the Family event and then wind up at a City-Wide revival at the end of the week. In other words, he had no problem flowing from reformation to reformation. He preached for liberals, conservatives, pre-trib, post-trib, pentecostals, baptists, methodists, episcopalians without any hesitation, in order to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The problem, as I see it, is that many pastors are willing to die on ant hills instead of mountains. We have too much in common in the word of God to sacrifice it on a small list of differences that will either cause us to express disdain or withdraw fellowship because, frankly, what we think is a sacred cow is nothing more than putting personal ideology over biblical practice.
Hot button issues aside, we are becoming the Baptist Hatfields and McCoys. I can’t come preach for you because your people shout. You can’t come preach for me because I have women in the pulpit. I can’t come preach for you because you don’t have a higher degree. You can’t come preach for me because you aren’t conservative enough in your theology. I can’t come preach for you because your church is not large enough. You can’t preach for me because all you’ll do is squall at the end of your sermon. And while we play these ecclesiastical games, our churches are thinning out and pulpits are dying.
Even if a stance evolves or shifts there is no reason to cut off fellowship completely. I had a friend that was “ride or die” and when I changed a stance, all of a sudden I became an anathema to him. I tried several times to call – not to chop it up theologically, but just to call and say hello. No response. Called several times. No response. So I had to write off a friend that I had worked closely with for many years because of the foolishness of an ant hill mentality.
I long for the day when denominations will cease. But I long more intensely for the day when division among baptists will cease.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.
by Robert Earl Houston
This has been brewing in my spirit all day. I want to offer some advice to young preachers – I mean those who are teenagers/early 20s – who have been called to the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and commissioned to carry this glorious gospel into all the world with power.
Enjoy being young.
I was a “boy preacher” at 17 years of age, who received a call from the Lord during my senior year at Thomas Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon and the late Dr. Arthur Bernard Devers, I, was my pastor at that time. I missed out on some social interactions because “I’s a preacher now” that at the age of 53 I regret.
I also dismissed out of hand some experiences, celebrations (i.e. my senior prom) and other activities because I was a minister. I felt that I should be “the preacher” all of the time and I actually lost the opportunity to be a Christian witness at some functions because I was not there.
Don’t rush age.
Listen, age will catch up to you. You don’t have to pretend and personify a “preacher’s vocabulary” at 16. There’s plenty of time to answer the phone, “Praise the Lord” or even have a voicemail that says “You’ve reached Minister XYZ, the associate minister of the ABC Church located at (address). I’m busy serving an awesome God, please leave your name, message, and this ministry will return your call at our convenience,” when the truth of the matter is that you’re in Algebra class, where you usually are around 11 a.m. in the morning on a Tuesday.
While you’re young – enjoy life. I’m not saying don’t be committed to your Pastor and Church, because you should be, that’s granted. However, while you’re young – enjoy life. Travel. Broaden your mind. Broaden your experiences. Take your time in life. Read – not just the Bible, but books that will stimulate and challenge your thought processes.
Don’t make the mistake of other preachers who were called as a kid, got married (because you thought you had to in order to get a church) at 18, divorced at 19, drunk or high at 20, and then quit the ministry at 21.
Take a moment to start and develop a hobby while building a resume;
Take a moment to take in a movie while studying Pastoral Theology;
Learn how to talk english and learn slang too while learning Greek and Hebrew;
Learn how to say the words that may save you in the future – “no” and “not today” and learn how to inhale and exhale – it will save you stress in the future.
One of the worst things I did as a “boy preacher” was becoming Minister Robt. E. Houston (I learned to abbreviate Robert to Robt. from two people – my English/Journalism Teacher, Ruthann Hartley-Harris and Dr. Robt. H. “Bob” Wilson, Sr. of Dallas, Texas) before I learned who Robert Earl Houston was.
I worry about a generation of young preachers who call each other “Doc” and “Bishop” and “Apostles” and don’t know the difference between preaching and performance. Do you know what Jesus called Peter? He called him Peter.
Young preacher you don’t need armor bearers, ministry logo, a briefcase (and yes, I had one), scheduling service, business cards, websites, product, and all of the entrapments of ministry. How about becoming a great Christian and human being first? As one preacher of old once said, never build a skyscraper on a chicken coop.
Remember this – one day you’ll grow up and you’ll look back and see pictures of you in the pulpit, but where will be the pictures of you in the pool, playing pool, singing with your friends, eating a meal, wearing silly hats, and vacation venues or explorations or bike rides or just a photo of you smiling?
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME
by Robert Earl Houston
If he were still alive, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have celebrated his 85th birthday. He and my mother are around the same age and who can imagine what life would have been had his life not been cut off by the bullet from an assassin.
This weekend I participated in two MLK celebrations.
The first one was in Frankfort which is sponsored by the Frankfort/Franklin County Ministerial Alliance. I have been a part of that body of leaders since my arrival here in 2009. I’ve been the Chair of this event for the past 3 occasions and hosted one at First Baptist Church. This year we were at the St. Paul United Methodist Church pastored by Rev. Donna Aros. In our Alliance, we welcome all Christian denominations and we’ve been led by Dr. Jackson Brewer, retired pastor of First United Methodist Church and frankly – the man for the job. FFCMA started ROSM (Resource Office of Social Ministries) that ministers to literally thousands through the years with assistance on life’s necessities. We also supply prayer support as chaplains for the House and Senate of the Commonwealth.
Rev. Aros, Dr. Brewer, Rev. Glenn Spaulding of St. John AME Church serve as the program committee and this year (with great input from Rev. Aros) we expanded the setting. We invited our hispanic brothers and sisters to join in the celebration and one of the new pastors, Rev. Maikel Rojas Perez of Tabernaculo de Aviviamiento offered prayer in spanish after Rev. Jermaine Wilson, pastor of St. John AME Church, prayed in english.
Also this year we invited and received partnership with government officials. Mayor William May, Sheriff Pat Melton, State Representative Derrick Graham, Kentucky State University President Mary Sias, and Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes. Not only did they come to speak – they stayed through the entire service. Music was sweetly provided by the St. Paul UMC and St. John AME Choirs.
Dr. C.B. Akins was the guest speaker. Dr. Akins is the newly elected Moderator of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky – the largest baptist body in Kentucky. Dr. Akins has been a great friend since my arrival here and I was delighted to invite him to be our guest speaker. Dr. Akins was off the hook! His sermon was from Exodus 3:1-14 and he used the words of Maya Angelou as his subject, “Arriving on a Nightmare, Praying for a Dream.” It certainly challenged the audience and he was superb! We also awarded small grants to The Franklin County Women’s Shelter and The BackPackSnack Program.
Today, I was the guest preacher for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service sponsored by the Greater Shelby County Ministerial Coalition (GSCMC) led by my friend, Dr. Kilen K. Gray. Services were held in the newly built sanctuary of the St. John United Methodist Church were Rev. Robert Marshall is the pastor. It was my first time preaching for this group but I’ve preached in several venues in Shelbyville and actually it’s one of my favorite places to preach at in Kentucky. I’ve done revivals there and annual days there and this service was awesome.
I don’t take invitations to preach lightly. I realize that there are thousands upon thousands who could have stood at that spot. I even realize there are thousands of thousands of preachers who are better prepared, have a longer resume than mine – however the Lord continues to favor me with invites like this. I’m grateful.
First, it literally, due to the new worship space was double in size. And every pew was filled. Secondly, the worship atmosphere was tremendous. The choir (a mass choir from throughout the city), the soloists, the presentations all lent themselves to a fabulous worship experience.
When I got up to preach, the Lord was kind. My text was based on Genesis 37:21 and my subject was “You Can’t Kill My Dream.” The Lord was so kind to the worship and I was received very warmly. I’m grateful for the brothers and sisters of the GSCMC.
by Robert Earl Houston
Where art thou? . . . (Genesis )
I’ve been “blogging” off and on for several years. Recently, I discovered a way to combine several of my enterprises, namely “Homegoing of the Saints” which puts a spotlight on those African-American pastors who go home to be with the Lord; the “Vacant Church List” which was the first listing for African-American Baptist pulpits online (and I’ve done it without charge or entry fee for years); and then I’ve put out several notices, etc. and developed a fairly strong following. Since being on WordPress since late last year, I’m approaching 250,000 visits. God be praised.
In recent years other pastors have been regularly blogging – H.B. Charles, Jr. has an excellent blog and leans heavily on preaching themes. Dwight McKissic has an excellent blog as well and he “gets after” Southern Baptist Convention issues and is one of the leading SBC bloggers. Kip Banks, General Secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention recently started a blog and there are other brothers out there blogging – but to my knowledge, that number is less than 25. Shaun King’s Shaun in the City is one of those mind-stretching blogs and he is very transparent in his church planting saga.
Where are the Black Pastoral Bloggers?
The purpose of this blog today is to encourage African-American Pastors to blog. Blogging is to participate in a form of social media that is more probative than a 140 word tweet or a quick flash on Facebook. It’s not expensive – there are free sites available and many internet providers are available so you can personalize the site even more with your own name (which I recommend).
The diaspora of African-American pastors should be reflected in the blogosphere. Pastors who are in the rural parts of the nation, I believe, are just as significant in their struggles, triumphs, etc. as those who pastor mega-churches. Those pastors who came before us carried to the grave pieces of wit, wisdom and experience that I know would have been a blessing to this generation. You can participate.
I would love to post and re-post articles that I’ve discovered from those of African-American hue. I think that our experiences are just as real and profound as MacArthur, Stanley, Piper, Stetzer and others. Matter of fact, I ran a search for “best pastor blogs” and maybe 1 or 2 blogs of people of color were even mentioned.
It’s because we have a story to tell that we’re not telling. We have great minds, great talents, great experiences that should and need to be heard.
I’m not a mega pastor. My congregation (on roll) is around 700 members or so. We don’t have one church in multiple locations. We have our issues like everyone else. But blogging for the pastor gives you a discipline in word construction, sentence structure, and analytical thinking that enhances your pulpit presentation. Trust me on that.
Just a word of warning – blog but don’t vent. Never take to the national stage your local church issues. If “Sister Sally” is kicking your tail in business meeting, don’t make her a national issue. If “Brother John” just cussed you out last week, don’t make him a national celebrity. In other words, be careful what you blog about – if it’s murky to you – it may leave room for a church member to misinterpret what you were trying to say.
I will make this promise to you – if you have a blog or know of a blog that will be helpful – I will make a link to it from my site – and if you have one, I hope you will do the same.
One final word – this is not to demean other races – that’s not my purpose. My purpose in this fast-changing African-American led church, is to encourage pastors (not laypersons, not associates) but pastors to share their views.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
by Robert Earl Houston
This was one of the best Sundays I’ve ever experienced as Pastor of First Baptist Church here in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Before I discuss the service, I’m a worship leader. No doubt about it. I love to worship the Lord, but today, I re-introduced a song to the church and I believe they fell in love with the song as well. It’s an old Andraé Crouch hit, “Jesus Is The Answer.” The lyrics are simple yet profound:
“Jesus is the answer | For the world today | Above Him there’s no other | Jesus is the Way!
Jesus is the answer | For the world today | Above Him there’s no other | Jesus is the way!”
I’ve been dropping tears all day about that song. I don’t know why but that song has really moved me today – not with sadness, but with an awesome joy.
We had one of the largest crowds today that I’ve seen at the 8 a.m. service. 11 a.m. service was very well attended. The Magnificent Mass Choir sang and we recognized birthdays as we normally do on the first Sundays. Today is the start of Loyalty Month, where we ask every member to “check in” during the month of January.
By the way, I love me some FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH!
The word was the beginning of our new sermon series, “Construction Zone” which coincides with the remodeling of the church. Today’s sermon was from Philippians 3:12-13, where Paul emphasis is on his pursuit of relationship with Christ and that he must now put things behind him and press toward the mark.” God was kind to the preaching moments.
We received two adults into the fellowship of First Baptist Church.
I met with our Associate Ministers this evening at 5 p.m.
– The Baltimore Ravens looked playoff-ready and took out the Indianapolis Colts, 24-9.
– The Houston Texas (as expected) defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 19-13.
– Seattle Seahawks beat Washington and RG3 (knee injury), 24-14.
– Green Bay Packers easily handled the Minnesota Vikings, 24-10.