REFLECTIONS on Dr. James Hudson Taylor III

I received the following from the youth pastor at the church where I first met Dr. Taylor. He gave me permission to post it here.

I've attached some of my thoughts I wrote down about Dr. Taylor. I wrote this exactly 1 week before his passing. I was thinking about him a lot once the news of his decline in health hit home, and was inspired to write my thoughts down. I'm sure my brief descriptions are echoed by those who have encountered him and know him much more closely than me. And, I do hope reading the reflections is a blessing and reminder of the goodness of God's grace. Of course my point was not to exalt Dr. Taylor as the Bible clearly teaches that we are equal as brothers/sisters in Christ. But the Bible also teaches that we are to give honor when it is due (Romans 13:7). And, we should never take for granted the special people God places in our lives.

REFLECTIONS on Dr. James Hudson Taylor III
By Dan Tupps (March 13, 2009)

As many of you know, Dr. Taylor, the great-grandson of Hudson Taylor, is suffering from the late stages of liver cancer. We’ve been praying diligently for him and his family during this difficult time. Lately I have been reflecting on my brief experiences and encounters I have had with Dr. Taylor over the past few years. Here are my reflections below…

There are few people I have known in life who I can say with pure enthusiasm that he/she is a man/woman of God. There are many, many people I know who are strong Christians; who love God with all their heart and seek to do his will, and have influenced my life and spiritual journey. But few possess a unique quality that radiates something extraordinarily different; someone you know is so close with God that He is seen in and through that person. There are few people who, after being in his/her presence, you know you have been blessed because he/she radiates the glory of the Lord (just like Moses in Exodus 34:29). Dr. Taylor is one of those people.

Dr. Taylor is one of the most unassuming men you’ll ever meet. He is not a man of great stature or size. He’s not loud, super outgoing, and doesn’t have much charisma. In a crowd he is not the life of the party and certainly would not want to be the center of attention. He is quiet (as in not loud or boisterous), gentle, and always has a smile. From a worldly perspective there’s not much about him that would strike you as possessing a tremendous leadership skill or trait. However, 2 Corinthians 6:6 describes Dr. Taylor perfectly. He is a man full of “purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love.” He is such a pure man that just being in his presence inspires you to want to be a better person, a holy person, a righteous person, someone who always seeks to do good. He is also full of understanding. He is never critical even when there may be something legitimate to criticize. He is so patient and kind. I’m sure he’s been angry, but if those who know him the most were to tell me that they honestly have never seen him angry, I would believe them! He is also a man who is clearly full of the Holy Spirit, not in a particularly extroverted way, but in a subtle and gentle way with a quiet and loving spirit and with godly wisdom. And to sum it all up, he is a man full of sincere love; he is a man who just loves people, faults and all. This is the defining characteristic that sets him above the rest: a genuine ability to love fallen, sinful, deceiving, disobedient, rebellious, obnoxious, ungodly, stubborn, impatient, ignorant, arrogant, you name it people. He truly loves others in the way God loves us.

I guess another trait to describe Dr. Taylor and why he is a man of God is that he is extraordinarily humble. He is the definition of what it means to be a humble servant. His humbleness was evident to me in a few different ways. First, he was present on a few occasions when I preached in the adult/Chinese congregation at our church. And, to hear him reinforce the points of my sermon and thank God for a message I gave was so humbling for me, to say the least. It should be ME who should be saying, “Praise God for Dr. Taylor’s message today!” He’s spent so many years in ministry and has wisdom beyond what I may ever grasp. But for him to say that for me is a type of humility I will possibly never know.

Secondly, when I first moved to Hong Kong I met with Dr. Taylor’s son, Pastor Jamie, about once every other month for mentoring. After Jamie moved to Taiwan, Dr. Taylor agreed to meet with me. However, we only had the opportunity to meet on a few occasions. I was always full of questions and wanted to learn from this godly man and soak in some of his wisdom. But it turned out he was the one asking ME questions! Asking me my thoughts on ministry and how to reach the younger generation for Christ. At the time I felt I should be learning from him, not the other way around! But looking back, I learned something from those few brief meetings that means so much to me today: what it means to be a humble servant; someone who is always learning, growing, and encouraging others and coming alongside them and gently guiding them along.

Finally, whenever I would email Dr. Taylor I would of course address him as such. However, he would always end his replies simply with “Jim.” Now, to some of you that may not mean anything. But for me, it speaks volumes. Knowing that he grew up in a culture where status, name, and rank as elder requires respect, the natural way to address him would be “Dr. Taylor” or “Pastor Taylor” or at the very LEAST “Uncle James”. These are titles that he not only deserved, but were certainly earned through years of study, hard work, and experience in life. And, in my culture for someone who has such a position or title of respect to say, “Please, call me ___ …” means that person respects you back and is a sign of humility. It would have been one thing for him to reply with “James”, but “Jim” is even more informal; it’s a nickname! So, piecing all this together, for him to end his emails with his nickname, Jim, is in a way saying, “I’m not requiring you to address me by my rightfully respectful title. Instead, I respect YOU enough to say that we are on an equal level as two brothers in Christ.” I can’t explain enough how a simple phrase at the end of an email like “Your brother in His service, Jim” speaks volumes of this man’s humbleness.

On a final note, I’ll never forget two things in my encounters with Dr. Taylor. First, my wife, Geeta, and I had the privilege to have Dr. Taylor pray a blessing for us when we first started serving at HKMBC. To have such a man of God pray for us as we were initiated into ministry in Hong Kong is such a blessing and moment both Geeta and I will never forget. Secondly, I found out this past year that Dr. Taylor and I share the same birthday – August 12. From here on out as I celebrate my birthdays, I hope to always remember that exactly 50 years before I was born a man of God, who I had the privilege and honor to meet, was born and served God faithfully “in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love.”
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