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GLMX #246: Gardner C. Taylor, the Prince of Preachers, was "Surprised by Grace"

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Daniel Whyte III

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Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, who passed away on Easter Sunday this year, is hailed today as the "dean of American preaching." But, if Gardner C. Taylor had had his way, he would have never been a preacher at all. According to a Christianity Today feature story, Dr. Taylor was born in 1918 to Reverend Washington and Selina Taylor, and he inherited "Baptist genes" that many assumed would lead him into pastoral ministry. But Taylor said, "I recoiled from the thought of being a preacher. I wanted to go to law school and become a criminal lawyer. My boyhood friends in Louisiana tried to discourage me from that idea, though; at that time, no black person had ever been admitted to the Louisiana bar." Taylor pursued his goal, and after being admitted to the University of Michigan Law School, he was well on his way to a career in law.

However, shortly before leaving home to go to college, he was involved in a tragic car accident. One night in rural Louisiana, another vehicle suddenly cut across his path. He said, "I tried to avoid them, but I couldn't." Both of the passengers in the other car -- two white men -- died. And the only witnesses to the accident were a white farmer and a white oil refinery worker.

Being a young black man, Gardner Taylor was worried about how everything would turn out. He said, "In that day, for a white person to tell the truth about a black person in that situation was incredible; but those men told the truth. I would not be here today if they had not." That event was the turning point in his life when he finally decided to accept the call to preach. He said, "I was surprised by God's grace. I had been brooding about my future for a long time, but that was the defining moment."

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