Ebony Magazine published this article several years ago and I remember how it profoundly affected and excited me. I was glad to see some of the preachers I had grown up meeting and listening to with my father getting national and international mainstream recognition. In preparing some of the content for this site, I ran across the article again and started wondering... how would mainstream black christians of today rank these preachers and others who have vaulted onto the world scene. So let's talk about it. What do you think? "Who's in your Five?" lol.... or 15 should I say.

Here is the article:
The 15 greatest black preachers
Ebony, Nov, 1993

In the most extensive media poll of its kind, 15 ministers were named America's greatest Black preachers .

Selected by EBONY's 100+ Most Influential Black Americans, former winners of the Greatest Black Preacher designation and religious scholars, the 15 honorees represent "in the highest degree the great Black pulpit art of passion, eloquence and wisdom."

Leading the balloting was the perennial preaching favorite, Gardner C. Taylor, who was followed by a first-time entry, Jeremiah Wright, and three veterans, Samuel D. Proctor, Charles Adams and Otis Moss, and another first-time selection, H. Beecher Hicks. Although no woman received enough votes to crack the magic 15, several women were nominated. The leading woman nominee was the Rev. Prathia Hall Wynn, pastor of Philadelphia's Mt. Sharon Baptist Church.

Three of the 15 top preachers, including one from Harlem and one from Brooklyn, come from New York City. Two each are from Detroit, Dallas and Washington, D.C. Six other cities -- Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Oakland, Columbia, S.C., and Durham, N.C. -- contributed one each. Eleven ministers appeared on the 1984 list of Greatest Preachers. Cited for the first time, along with Wright and Hicks, are Wyatt Tee Walker and J. Alfred Smith. Since only a handful of votes separated some nominees, all nominees with substantial support are listed in the Roll of Great Preachers (Page 158).
Almost all respondents said in submitting their lists that there are so many great Black preachers that it is impossible to choose a mere 15. "As a matter of fact," one respondent said, "on any given Sunday, depending on the mood and the occasion, almost any great Black preacher--and there are thousands of great Black preachers--could preach a great 15 sermon."
It is with that understanding and in that context that we present on the following pages 15 ministers who are indisputably among the greatest preachers, Black or White, in this land.
Experts And Leading Blacks Name Select Group Of Ministers

The Rev. GARDNER CALVIN TAYLOR, 75, pastor emeritus of Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, "stands in a category unto himself" and sets "the modern standard for poetic homiletical eloquence," Dean Clarence Newsome of the Howard University Divinity School said. President James Costen of the Interdenominational Theological Center said Dr. Taylor "stands alone" as "the president, dean, provost and master artisan of Black preaching...Hearing him preach gives one the impression that he has a direct pipeline to God. If I could only hear one sermon, it would be a Taylor sermon, it would be a Taylor sermon."

The Rev. SAMUEL DEWITT PROCTOR, 72, pastor emeritus of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, and professor emeritus, Rutgers University, is a professor at United Theological Seminary and the Duke University Divinity School, Durham, N.C. "Brilliant, witty, engaging and a storyteller par excellence," he was cited for his "richness of experience and depth of insight into the human condition." Dr. Costen said "he handles a manuscript better than anyone known to me...He is to preaching what Bessie Smith was to the blues."

The Rev. JEREMIAH A. WRIGHT JR., 52, pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, "represents," one respondent said, "the first of a new generation of African-American preachers who blend a Pentecostal flavor with social concerns in their pulpit discourse." A fellow preacher said, "He gives a contemporary, African-American, Afrocentric flavor to the traditional Black shout." A religious scholar said, "A Wright sermon is a four-course meal: spiritual, biblical, cultural, prophetic."

The Rev. CHARLES G. ADAMS, 56, senior minister, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Detroit, is, one respondent said, "America's most unique preacher," an essayist who reads from a manuscript and makes people weep and shout. The Harvard-trained preacher has been called "the Harvard Whooper." He "reads from a manuscript," a fellow minister said, "but in a way that does not depreciate the art form." Another minister said he has an electrifying style and "the unusual gift of setting a manuscript on fire."

The Rev. OTIS MOSS JR., 58, senior minister, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Cleveland, is, a religious scholar said, "a preacher's preacher, eloquent, profound, mesmerizing and deeply spiritual." He added: "He peels away the layers of meaning that hide the central core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: love, liberation and justice." Another respondent said, "He engages in holistic preaching where there is no dichotomy between the so-called |sacred' and |secular.'"

The Rev. H. BEECHER HICKS JR., 49, senior minister, Metropolitan Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., was praised for "exhaustive preparation, striking vocabulary and social compassion that give him special skills as a preacher." One expert said he has "excellent command of the language, is highly alliterative and often uses popular sayings as the launching pads for his sermons." The third-generation preacher has occupied pulpits from Asia to South Africa and is the author of three books, including Preaching Through A Storm.

The Rev. JESSE L. JACKSON, 52, Washington, D.C., is, one respondent said, "a preacher with a national ministry that transcends and encloses his secular positions." A religious scholar said he is a "master of succinct and memorable expression with a unique ability to analyze the contemporary situation and to relate the mandates of the faith to the mandates of the day." In the last 12 months, he has preached in pulpits in America, Europe and Africa.

The Rev. CAESAR A.W. CLARK, 78, pastor of Good Street Baptist Church, Dallas, is, a fellow minister said, "the most sought-after revival preacher there is. In the arena of traditional preaching, his unique style--colorful language, witty anecdotes and a rare musical style in climaxing a sermon--places him in a class of one." Another preacher said, "His longevity and downhomeness in his declaration of the Gospel make him almost without peer."

The Rev. JAMES A. FORBES JR., 58, senior minister of The Riverside Church of New York City, is "possibly," a fellow preacher said, "the greatest scholar and preacher of our day." He was praised for "scholarly preaching, replete with passion and pathos, undergirded by Pentecostal fervor." One of his peers said, "He brings to his preaching the wedding of classical Pentecostal warmth with concentration on the Holy Spirit and the incisive mind of the academic."

The Rev. JOSEPH ECHOLS LOWERY, 69, who pastored United Methodist churches for 45 years, was cited for preaching that is "consistently well prepared, consistently probing, consistently biblical and consistently demanding of a response." A Lowery sermon, several respondents said, "makes you want to do something." One expert said he is "the consummate voice of biblical-social relevancy, a focused prophetic voice--speaking truth to power."

The Rev. WYATT TEE WALKER, 64, senior pastor, Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, Harlem, has, Dean Newsome said, "the tone and lyrical quality of the biblical prophets." A fellow minister said he "preaches in an authentic voice and does not try to outshout his fellow preachers." Dubbed "Harlem's Renaissance Man" by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dr. Walker has written 14 books and has preached on every continent except Australia.

The Rev. MANUEL L. SCOTT SR., 67, pastor, St. John Missionary Baptist Church, Dallas, was cited for "the poetic brilliance" of his sermons, his "masterful delivery" and "eloquent teaching." A religious scholar said, "His sermons reflect rich literary research...deep faith commitment and a strong conviction for justice." He is the author of two books and has served as evangelist and guest preacher for numerous citywide revivals and more than 40 interracial state conventions.

The Rt. Rev. JOHN HURST ADAMS, 64, senior bishop, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Columbia, S.C., was cited for "a brilliant application of the Gospel to the contemporary world" and for "his ability to apply age-old answers to current life situations." The leader of a national organization said he is "among the best poetic preachers I know." Dr. Kenneth Smith, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, said, "I like preachers who grab your attention. Bishop Adams grabs your attention. He is poignant, electrifying and vividly relevant."

The Rev. FREDERICK G. SAMPSON, 64, pastor, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, Detroit, was cited for his "depth of exegetical insight, brilliance of illustrations and captivating style of communication." One scholar said, "He laces his sermons with moving, real-life illustrations and is highly dramatic with respect to both language and gestures."

The Rev. J. ALFRED SMITH SR., 62, senior pastor, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland, Calif., was cited for preaching "the Gospel as empowerment for minority people." Dr. Smith, who speaks Spanish fluently and who is professor of Christian Ministry at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, is developing "a significant ministry to Hispanic people." He has written 14 books. "He wins my award," a preacher-scholar said, "as the best example of Black evangelicalism... Listening to him is a homiletical feast."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Johnson Publishing Co.

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Here are my top 10 and a few honorable mentions

1. Gardner Taylor (the greatest ever)
2. Charles Adams (Fire in the manuscript)
3. TD Jakes (Time Magazine's - Black Billy Graham)
4. Fredrick Haynes (Argues the text and brings da blackness... )
5. Jasper Williams (All time most well known whooper)
6. EK Bailey (Expository Preaching Anyone?)
7. H. Beecher Hicks (Biggest voice in preaching... Check out his sermon "Its Hard out Here for a Pimp")
8. J. Alfred Smith (Scholar - Activist - Soul Stirring Preacher)
9. Caesar Clark (Best five minute sermons in the history of history)
10. Ralph West (Preacher Without Walls)
11. Harry Wright (So Simple - So profound)
12. Wyatt Tee Walker (Just as much fun reading as listening to)
13. RA Williams (The only preacher who teaches greek while he's whoopin)
14. Tony Evans (Respected across the world and across the racial divide)
15. Charles Booth (OK, so maybe HE has the biggest voice...)

Lyrical and fun to listen to - Donald Parsons, Leroy Elliot, Jerry Black, Zachary Lee

Scholarly - Jeremiah Wright, James Forbes, Sam Proctor

This was fun!
Fun to listen to: Must adds include Rev. Norman E. Owens Sr., Rev. Freddy James Clark, and Rev. L.K. Curry.
Dont Forget Bishop Dr. I. V. Hilliard
Truly an annointed roster of preachers! Thanks for posting.If I had to add one...I'd say, Bishop Robert E. Blake and for some "old school" flavoring...Rev. C.L. Franklin. lol
If i could add to the list, it would be E. Dewey Smith, Jr., and Dr. Robert Smith, Jr. (Professor of Preaching at Beeson Divinity School). E. Dewey, in my opinion, is one of the Buster's top generation of preachers'. I just love sound preaching!!!
The face of black preaching has changed so much in the last 13 years, when we look at those listed pastors who have retired as well as those who sleep deaths eternal sleep. I treasure their legacy with an untiring joy. Many of them despair or would despair in what we call preaching today. I wonder if we bask in their contribution with integrity while we bask in the ministries of some of our contemporaries, whose ministries represent the antithesis of what these legends produced?
If passion, eloquence and wisdom are the leading indicators of great Black preaching in modern America, then along with the aforementioned, I offer Dr. Alvin Bernstine as one of the leading voices in the Black pulpit.

Dr. Alvin Christopher Bernstine pastors Bethlehem Baptist Church of Richmond, California. He is a protege of the late Dr. Manuel Scott, Sr. and Dr. Harry S. Wright. He has preached in the great Black pulpits of America. He is a "preacher's preacher". He is well read and writes daily. He preaches the manuscript sermon with a commanding cadence. He is one of the few left who know how to master the manuscript in the preaching moment.

His messages are always timely, theological, biblical and thoughtful. He wisely and effectively uses the rhythm of runs in conclusions and transitions. He does not waste words. The method of his exegesis is probing and is always challenging the conventional claims of the text.

I had the unique privilege of listening to him preach every Sunday at the Olivet Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee during his pastorate. He presented the most consistent weekly pulpit ministry, I have to date, ever witnessed. He did not have an "off" Sunday. His prayers, studies, writings, thoughts, passion and presentation in the sermon was always obvious and inspiring to a young seminary student like me. His preaching priority is still known and respected throughout his church and community.

He is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Bishop College. He knows Black preaching and its traditions. He will usually weave into his messages a context for the Black experience in the world and what it means in a theological construct. He is a fifth generation Baptist preacher. He is the foremost mentor and proponent of the dialectical preaching model. His doctorate from United Theological (Dayton,OH) was personally taught and tutored by Dr. Samuel Dewitt Proctor. He has written two sermon books, a "As For Me and My House" and "Ministry In A Disaster Zone". You will find in both of these works a clear and compelling case for the dialectical preaching model.

Bishop Sean Teal
That's a great consideration Sean. Alvin Bernstine certainly fits the criterion for this elite list. Those were the true greats of our craft. There is indeed a real void in our profession now that many of the men on that list are no longer with us. We are now a part of a preaching culture that acknowledges the sensational more than the truly great. Thanks for your words and insight on this subject my friend.

Quinton Chad Foster
Zan Holmes should be included in the list.
I have been preaching the gospel for only 5 years now and have been saved for 6. But in that time I must say that a few dynamic preacher I have heard are

1. Dr. Melvin Von Wade
2. Dr. R.A. Williams
3. Dr. Stephen Thurston

On an adittional note who are some of the best closers ever?

Alway remember that one must say something about the Title and the text before they closer with a whoop, the

closing is just the celebration of the Revelation of the Sermon

Is great to have these greatmen of God that you mentioned but i did not see Charles Finny and Archbishop Benson Idahosah,Charles Moody.Thanks and God bless you.


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