In 1990, the year Gardner Taylor retired from preaching, Lee Strobel began to preach. By that time, Taylor had pastored historic Concord Baptist Church in New York City for 42 years. Today at 77 he still preaches almost every weekend, while Strobel regularly fills the Plexiglas pulpit at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois.
Taylor preached in a heyday of American preaching, when New York City pulpits were filled with the likes of George Buttrick, Robert McCracken, Fulton Sheen--and Gardner Taylor. In 1980 "Time" magazine declared him "dean of the nation's black preachers." The "Christian Century" recently quipped, "What was once alleged of Southern Baptist preacher Carlyle Marney may equally be said of Taylor: he has a voice like God's--only deeper."
Throughout his ministry Taylor's love of preaching was surpassed only by his love for Laura, his wife of 52 years. "I sometimes see her lying in repose now," he said, "and a great sadness comes over me because I know one of us must leave the other. But what can we do?"
Last February, several weeks after those words were published, Laura was struck and killed in a crosswalk by a city truck.
"My wife's passing," says Taylor now, "has given me a far larger confidence in the future life."
Before Lee Strobel began preaching, he earned a master's degree from Yale Law School and then became an award-winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune. The prototype Unchurched Harry, he began attending Willow Creek and moved from confessed atheist and irreligious journalist to a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
Eventually Strobel joined the staff of Willow Creek and now serves as a teaching pastor; he, Bill Hybels, and two others share the responsibility of preaching to ...