Doing ministry means walking through times of darkness and dryness. During seasons of spiritual desolation, what can a church leader offer the congregation? And is there any personal encouragement to be found in these "parched places"?
Sometimes the most comforting voice to hear during thin times is someone who has been there. Gardner Taylor is a man who has been there.
The Rev. Dr. Taylor served the congregation of the historic Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, New York, for 42 years until his retirement in 1990. His legacy beyond the pulpit includes civil rights activism, more than 2,000 archived sermons, preaching at President Bill Clinton's pre-inaugural festivities, and helping to found the Progressive National Baptist Convention along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Taylor is seen as one of the most influential homileticians of the 20th century, and was dubbed by Time magazine as "dean of the nation's black preachers." He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000, to recognize his outstanding contributions to American society.
But this career was not without struggle. During his ministry, Taylor experienced fierce opposition, discouragement, temptation, and grief. Now a man of 93, he has watched many of his friends die, he lost his beloved wife of 55 years in a tragic accident, and he has experienced the gradual withering effects of his own aging process.
Leadership Journal's Marshall Shelley and Chicago pastor Michael Washington met with Dr. Taylor at his home in Raleigh, North Carolina, to explore his seasoned perspective on doing ministry in the middle of a personal wilderness.