JEFFERSON CITY – Following a ministry that spanned five decades, Missouri Baptist pastor Gary Taylor died Tuesday at Jefferson City’s Capitol Regional Medical Center following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 70.
Once dubbed “Missouri’s prime minister” by a former Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) leader, Taylor was pastor for several Missouri Southern Baptist churches prior to serving as state evangelism director for the MBC from April 2, 2007, until his death. For the past two years Taylor was a popular columnist for The Pathway, penning articles that focused attention on his passion: evangelism. Taylor was elected president of the MBC in 1998-1999.
“Gary Taylor’s life and ministry is the stuff of legends,” said John Yeats, MBC executive director. “One of my greatest remembrances is that of being on my face in prayer with Gary. He wept for specific people. He cried out for the lostness in our cities. He was a warrior for Christ.
“One of the things Gary and I spoke about was the vision of mobilizing our churches to distribute one million Bibles in 2014. With his broad winning smile, he looked me square in the eye and said, ‘We can do this!’”
MBC President John Marshall, pastor, Second Baptist Church, Springfield, said, “To many of us Gary Taylor was a gentle giant. He was tall, towering over a crowd, but had a humble heart. He was one of the most beloved and respected pastors in the history of the Missouri Baptist Convention.”
Wrote Hannibal-LaGrange University President Woodrow Burt in an e-mail reaction: “The Lord has welcomed one of His most faithful servants.”
As recently as a week ago, Taylor taught several pastors attending a conference at the Baptist Building – from a wheelchair.
Bott Radio Network personality Harold Hendrick of First Baptist Church, Ferguson, said Taylor was a dear friend for more than 30 years. “What a great, godly, and faithful man. He finished the course in victory,” he said.
Prior to serving with the MBC, Taylor was pastor of First Baptist Church, O’Fallon dating back to 1989. Under his leadership the church grew from 328 to 840 in average attendance with high attendance days running more than 2,000. During his tenure at First O’Fallon the church baptized more than 1,000 people.
Taylor began in the ministry in 1963 when Dresden Baptist Church called him as pastor. While there he helped the church grow from 15 to 40 in Sunday School attendance. Taylor also served as pastor of First Baptist Church, Lamont and at two other St. Louis-area churches, Tower Grove Baptist Church and Rock Hill Baptist Church.
Taylor was active in MBC life, serving in a variety of leadership positions besides the MBC presidency. He was also an original member of the MBC Legal Task Force, which for more than a decade, directed the convention’s efforts to retrieve the five breakaway agencies. While Taylor strongly supported the legal action by the MBC, he met with leaders from the breakaway agencies in an effort to avoid legal action, repeatedly urging them to submit to binding Christian arbitration, which they refused. Taylor, a staunch believer in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, was also a supporter of Project 1000, the theologically conservative movement that successfully saved the MBC from liberalism.
Taylor was a graduate of William Jewell College and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He is survived by his wife, Cindy, and three children from a previous marriage: Deborah Shinkle of Novelty, Mark Taylor of St. Louis and Gary Paul Taylor of Tampa, Fla. and also eight grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Joyce.
Visitation will be at First Baptist Church, O’Fallon June 1 beginning at 4:30 p.m. The funeral service will be at the church Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Baue Funeral home in St. Peters is handling arrangements. Anyone wishing to send a message to the family may do so via the funeral home’s website, www.baue.com.
The Missouri Baptist Convention has established the R. Gary Taylor Memorial Fund for Evangelism. Donations should be addressed to the R. Gary Taylor Memorial Fund for Evangelism, Missouri Baptist Convention, 400 E. High St., Jefferson City, MO 65101.