The Voice. The Last Great Elizabethan Orator. A man whose life in three acts resembles those of Joseph and Job.
All these phrases describe the chaplain of the week for Week One, Joel C. Gregory, professor of preaching at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University. Gregory will preach at the 10:45 a.m. service of worship and sermon on Sunday in the Amphitheater.
His sermon series, “About Time,” begins Sunday with “Six Degrees of Separation.” He will share his faith journey at the 5 p.m. Vespers in the Hall of Philosophy. He will continue to preach at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship services in the Amphitheater every day this week.
Gregory first felt the call to ministry at 16, after hearing Bill Glass, a member of the Cleveland Browns and later an evangelist and prison minister. Gregory studied at Baylor University and graduated summa cum laude before receiving his doctorate. He received his Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Seminary, where he also taught preaching. He served a variety of churches through the 1980s, and in 1990 was invited to First Baptist Church in Dallas to become the administrative pastor and co-pastor with W.A. Crisswell, a conservative leader of the Southern Baptist Convention.
He left First Baptist, separated from his wife, and they later divorced. He ended up selling pre-need funeral plans door to door.
But he was not forgotten.
He had become friends with E.K. Bailey, pastor of Concord Baptist Church in South Dallas. They had worked together to keep public swimming pools open in the predominately African-American neighborhood.
It was Bailey who kept urging Gregory to preach and pulled him out of a largely self-imposed silence. Bailey invited Gregory to preach at the E. K. Bailey International Preaching Conference in 1997.
Gregory expected a small seminar; instead he was preaching to more than 900 mostly African-American preachers.
“I spoke on 2 Corinthians 4:6 — ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels,’ ” Gregory said in an interview in Baptist News Global. “It was a life-defining moment.”
He started preaching again, invited by these pastors to pulpits all across the country.
“One of the African-American church’s strong points is its ability to give people second chances,” said Ralph West, pastor of the Church Without Walls in Houston. “The black church identifies with broken people. … Black preaching is not done just by black people.”
Gregory, he said, “has an uncanny ability to relate to people through other people’s stories and by revealing just enough of his own story to say: ‘I identify with you. I sit in the ashes with you.’ ”
Today, Gregory heads Joel Gregory Ministries and preaches all over the world — from Westminster Chapel in London to the International Seminary at Buenos Aires, Argentina. He will preach the closing sermon at the Baptist World Convention in Durban, South Africa, on July 26.
Gregory served for six years as the weekly preacher on the “International Baptist Hour” heard on 500 stations, and was twice elected unanimously as president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the 5,400 church denomination of Baptists in Texas.
He is founder and teacher at Proclaimers Place seminars, a four-day seminar that has been conducted 80 times in 15 states, for 10 years at Oxford University in England, Paris, Rome and last summer in Athens, Greece.
Gregory has authored or edited eight books, including Baptist Preaching: A Global Anthology, and has contributed to dozens of journals, anthologies and periodicals, including the Abingdon Dictionary of Preaching and Our Sufficiency is of God: Essays on Preaching in Honor of Gardner Taylor.
Gregory’s sermon titles for the week include: “Last Minute Help” on Monday, “Doing Time” on Tuesday, “Waiting in the Desert” on Wednesday, “Risk While There is Still Time” on Thursday, and “God Has Time for You” on Friday.