Gardner C. Taylor is one of the pivotal figures of the 20th century pulpit, and this new collection of essays is a worthy and appropriate tribute to a great preacher and faithful pastor.

Taylor was named by Time magazine as one of America’s seven greatest Protestant preachers (1979) and “The Dean of the Nation’s Black Preachers” (1980).  Ebony magazine recognized him as one of the nation’s 15 greatest black preachers (1984). A Baylor survey ranked him as one of the 12 greatest preachers in the English-speaking world (1997). In 2000, he received the nation’s highest civilian honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Taylor is best known for his more than 40 years as senior pastor of Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, N.Y.; he retired from the 14,000-member church in 1990. He was a founding member of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and one of its first presidents. Through the years, he taught preaching at Harvard, Union Seminary and Colgate Rochester, as well as preached worldwide. In 1976, he delivered the 100th Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale, along with a variety of other lectureships at various seminaries and universities.

It’s appropriate that a book celebrating Gardner Taylor’s life and ministry should focus on preaching, and this volume is a remarkable collection of essays dealing with various elements of the preaching craft.

Among the contributors to the collection are a host of names known to students of preaching: James Earl Massey, Thomas Long, Henry Mitchell, William Willimon, Robert Smith Jr., David Buttrick, Joel Gregory and many more. (Disclaimer: The editor of this publication and author of this review contributed an essay to the volume.)

Among the particularly striking essays are Marvin McMickle’s chapter “What Shall They Preach?” Smith’s chapter on “Preaching as a Contemplative Theological Task” and Gregory’s on “Measuring a Preacher’s Creativity with a Borrowed Ruler.” As appropriate in a festschrift celebrating Taylor’s life and ministry, several chapters explore elements of Gardner Taylor’s preaching and influence. There is also an accompanying CD that includes audio of Taylor’s lectures inaugurating the William E. Conger Lectures on Biblical Preaching at Beeson Divinity School in 1993.

In the last of his 1976 Beecher Lectures, Taylor tells the story of a deacon who (on his deathbed) said he “wished that he could hear Dr. Taylor preach one more time.” Reflecting on that, Taylor told his listeners:

“Now, no preacher has of himself or herself anything of real significance to say to anyone who is within the view of the swelling of the Jordan. But there is a Gospel, and you are privileged to be summoned to declare it. It can stand people on their feet for the living of their days. And, also—what a privilege almost too precious to be mentioned—it may be that the Gospel which you preach will then steady some poor pilgrims as they come to where the bridgeless river is and some of them, feeling the spray of Jordan misting in the face, might thank God as they cross the river that He made you a preacher.”

Anyone who has heard Gardner C. Taylor preach—and anyone who reads this volume—will thank God that He made Taylor a preacher.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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