Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Morning Blessing

A number of years ago, Dr. E.K. Bailey was showing me and a number of other ministers the line-up for his first expository preaching conference. The list was a veritable 'who's who' of preachers, scholars, pastors and church leaders. Almost out of reflex I asked him, 'Bailey, what about Joel Gregory? Why don't you get him?"

"Britt", he said, "I tried. He says he's not ready yet. But don't worry, I'm gonna stay after him until I get him."

Joel Gregory is a former pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. He is probably one of the most eloquent, erudite, Bible expositors I have ever heard. He possesses this rich, baritone voice and, quite unashamedly, I tell people he is one of my favorite preachers, anywhere!

He was called to the church to serve in a type of 'senior pastor in waiting' in anticipation of the retirement of the legendary pastor preacher, Dr. W.A. Criswell. When it became apparent that Criswell wouldn't be retiring in any time frame in accordance to what he was led to believe when he left Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Gregory resigned. It was a dramatic resignation that took place one Wednesday night as they broadcast their services live! At 44 years of age, Joel Gregory had resigned from what was purported to be the largest protestant church in the world!

Gregory, after leaving the church was soon divorced, lived in a one room apartment and was selling funeral plots door to door. No church would have him preach and he was prepared to live his life in obscurity.

That is, until about a year after E.K. and I had that brief, sidebar conversation.

After Gregory accepted Bailey's invitation to preach at his annual conference, African-American preachers hearing him for the first time, were absolutely blown away. From that time, Gregory has no problem telling anyone that God restored his ministry through E.K. Bailey and the black church. He has standing preaching engagements in African-American houses of worship throughout the country.

Gregory preaches now all over the world and is now the Professor of Preaching at George Truett Seminary on the campus of Baylor University. In addition, Joel taught 34 ministers in two seminars at Regents Park College, Oxford University, UK.

In the years since he has returned to the pulpit, I have had an opportunity to get to spend time with Gregory. After years of watching him on television, both as pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist in Fort, Worth and First Baptist Dallas, listening to him on the radio and reading his books, I'm proud to say he is a delightful man, with a lively intellect and an unparalleled passion for preaching the Gospel.

I hope you enjoy this clip of his preaching at Houston, Texas, 'Church Without Walls', pastored by my friend and former schoolmate, Dr. Ralph West.

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