Passing the Torch by Robert R. Taylor, Jr.

The words of this title have been used with frequency by older preachers when being succeeded by younger men. It can be done gracefully or bitterly. The latter is not a compliment either to the older preacher or the younger one.

From 1939-1951 the late and lamented B.C. Goodpasture preached for the Hillsboro congregation in Nashville along with his duties as editor of the Gospel Advocate. In 1951 he resigned as local preacher to spend more time as the GA editor and to do more in way of gospel meetings. He would remain there for the next 26 years as a member and elder until his death in February of 1977. Batsell Barrett Baxter, a younger man, succeeded him.

The generous Goodpasture let the younger Baxter know that he (BCG) would be one of the best supporters the new preacher would have. Were brother Baxter still alive today, I am confident he would say that BCG lived up to that promise in fine fashion.

In Acts 13 we have Barnabas and Saul in that order in Acts 13:1ff. Before that chapter ends, Luke speaks of Paul and Barnabas in that order. Barnabas knew how to take second place gracefully.

John the Baptist had been so prominent in his early ministry. When Jesus came into the picture the limelight turned from John and lighted upon the new Galilean Prophet – Jesus Christ.  In John 3 we read of how upset some of John’s disciples were about this matter. They were jealous for John’s sake but there was no twinge of jealousy on John’s part. He stated in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John also knew how to take second place gratefully and gracefully.

I began to preach in 1949 and did appointment preaching while a student at Freed-Hardeman and David Lipscomb. In 1954 I began to do local work on a regular basis and continued until 2010.

From 1954 till 1961 I did local work for Center Chapel (near Mt. Juliet) and then for the congregation in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. From 1961-1968, I did local work at Sharon, Tennessee. From 1968 to 1974, I worked with the Ripley, Mississippi congregation.  From 1974 to 2010, I worked for 36 years as preacher for the Ripley, Tennessee congregation—by far my longest tenure.

I seldom missed a Sunday preaching, except when we would have gospel meetings. This I did for 56 years.

As I neared by 80th birthday it was time for me to retire from the heavy demands of local work along with gospel meetings, lectureships, and much in the way of writing. We did not want to leave Ripley for we loved this congregation so very much. The elders are allowing us to live in the home they own the rest of our lives. The elders and the entire congregation plus the new preacher have made us feel right at home. I have been allowed to keep my office at the building and did not have to move a single book! They give us a retirement check weekly, obviously much reduced, but still very helpful. We enjoy a splendid relationship with elders, deacons, the entire membership, and the new preacher and his lovely family.

During 2010 the elders searched for a man and invited Justin Paschall of Demopolis, Alabama to become the new preacher.  He is a native of West Tennessee. I remember his great grandparents and his grandparents as I was growing up in West Tennessee.

He comes from good stock morally and spiritually. He is married to the lovely Micah, also a native of West Tennessee. They are blessed with a beautiful daughter, Reagan, who has captured the hearts of all of us at Ripley. His choice to be Ripley’s new preacher had my full approval and still does.

I determined from his first sermon onward that he would have no better or more loyal supporter than I. I enjoy so much his sermons and Bible classes. He is an excellent student of the Bible and I marvel at his grasp of truth at his youthful age. He loves the Godhead, the Bible, the church, this congregation, and the souls of men and women, of boys and girls. The church has enjoyed good growth his first year here. At this writing he has been here 13 months. He has baptized a good many people and many have placed membership. He mixes and mingles well with young, old, and all in between.

I have my study at the north end of our building and he has his at the south end. We chat almost every day but I do not monopolize his time and he does not mine.  We both are busy when we are at the building.  We have an excellent working relationship.  There is no age gap between us though I am fifty years his senior.

Gracefully, he received the torch from me not allowing it to touch ground.

This allows me to preach more and more in gospel meetings and lectureships. In 2011 I preached in 11 different states and in 2012 I preached in 12 states for meetings and lectureships. Also, much to my liking, I am free to do more writing.

In this transition I wanted to be like brother Goodpasture was to brother Baxter, and be able to take second place gracefully as did John the Baptist and Barnabas.  Transitions, like this, can occur gracefully and peacefully when the two preachers love each other and there are elders, deacons and members who make the transition work smoothly.

It has worked wonderfully well here at Ripley. Irene and I are happy here and I believe Justin and Micah are also. Justin is now preaching for one of the finest congregations in the whole brotherhood. It is a Philippian congregation to both of us. (Philippians 1:3).

Justin is MY preacher and I love and respect him deeply. At almost every service the three of them and the two of us are last to vacate the building. We enjoy the company of each other and have so much in common.