Roy H. Lanier, Jr. was born in Abilene, Texas, on July 28, 1930, and spent his early years in Fort Worth. After graduating from Abilene Christian High School he went on for his higher education at Freed-Hardeman College, Florida Christian College and Abilene Christian College. Brother Lanier did local work for congregations in Iowa, Florida, Oklahoma, and Colorado during the years 1951-1976.
In 1976 he entered full time gospel meeting work, and since 1988 has been under the oversight of the Broadway church of Christ in Garland, Texas. Along with churches and individuals, the Broadway church is furnishing support for mission meetings and evangelism in new and difficult fields. Each year about half of the meetings he holds are in mission areas and with small congregations. His average appointments per year (1977-1990) have been upwards of forty, but now with more of his time being spent in writing, he will accept thirty appointments annually.
Lanier ended his work with the Garland church in 1998, moved to Lakeland, Florida, due to his wife’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1995, but continued downsized meeting and lecture appointments. He had also begun work in 1989 with Winfred Clark of the W. Hobbs St. church in Athens, Alabama, in the School of Bible Emphasis, which had nineteen special monthly classes for preachers from South Carolina to California before Clark died in 1997. He spent the third week of every month for nine years in assignments for these classes. Upon Clark’s death Lanier was asked to oversee the classes west of the Mississippi River, which included classes in Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and California. Due to the personal care of his wife Patricia, in 2001 Lanier cancelled his work in all classes and other appointments, and Jeff Jenkins took over the SBE work. Patricia passed away September 6, 2009, ending a fifty-eight-year union, and Lanier returned to some meeting appointments after a ten-year hiatus until 2014.
Currently Lanier is living with his daughter Lee, Mrs. Mark Hanstein, in Knoxville, Tennessee, where her husband, Mark, is the Dean and her son Will is the Director of the Southeast Institute of Bible (formerly the East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions) conducted by the Karns church. Upon moving to Knoxville, he was asked to take the Wednesday night auditorium class at the Karns congregation. Having been a preacher for seventy-two years, it was an honor to be still at work!
Lanier has a granddaughter, Laura, sister to Will, who is married to Bart Warren, son of Lindsey Warren, and grandson of Thomas B. Warren. Bart preaches for the Green St. church in Glasgow, Kentucky, and they have three sons. Will and Jeni Hanstein have a daughter and son, making two grandchildren and five great grandchildren for Lanier.
Roy Lanier, Jr. has been very active in teaching and in media work. He served on the staff of the Bear Valley School of Preaching for eight years, until 1981. He conducts seminars at other preacher training schools, and has conducted Teacher Training and Personal Work Campaign Clinics in fifteen states, and in connection with various college lectureships, since 1956. He conducted daily radio programs for five years and has appeared in numerous television productions. He recorded a series for International Video Bible Lessons on the book of Acts of the Apostles, a series of twenty-six, thirty-minute lessons, covering the book. This series has been shown around the world on the Armed Forces Network. He has also recorded a thirteen-part series of “Great Bible Themes” for the TV program, The Truth in Love, on station KTVT, Fort Worth, Texas.
Brother Lanier founded the Rocky Mountain Christian newspaper in 1972 while in Denver, Colorado, and published it for ten years. Two books include The Bible Is God’s Word, and Jesus Is The Way. He edited a two volume set entitled Twenty Years of the Problem Page, a digest of his Father’s work for twenty years in the “Problem Page” of the Firm Foundation. He has written tracts, VBS materials and campaign literature for various publishers, and is a regular contributor to several publications, including the Gospel Advocate, Latin-American Crier, International Christian Monthly, and The Restorer.
Brother Lanier brings a combination of dedication and scholarship to the Lord’s work. His good work in the Kingdom of God is an inspiration to us all. Please give careful consideration to his insightful answers to the following questions.
DENNIS GULLEDGE: How long have you been preaching the gospel?
ROY H. Lanier, Jr.: I began preaching while in high school (1945), then arranged a few appointments my freshman year at Freed-Hardeman (1947), and began full time work in 1951, upon graduation from Abilene Christian College.
DG: Can you recall the circumstance of your first sermon?
RHL: The circumstances of my first sermon are easy to recall. I visited Iowa Park, Texas, with a roommate in 1945 where Boyd Taylor was preaching. He announced I was there and would preach that night, even though he had not checked with me. He knew my father, knew I was already making talks, and just put me on the spot.
DG: How do you think the emphasis in preaching has changed since you began? Has the change been for better or worse?
RHL: Emphasis in preaching has changed particularly since the mid-sixties. It is much more on communication skills, expertise of speech and homiletics and less on doctrinal teaching. I feel this change has not been for the good and has led to a dearth of doctrinal accuracy and practice that is now seen in our congregations. We do not know the Bible as we used to. We have the “best educated pulpit and the most ignorant pew” that I can recall in my lifetime, perhaps even in the history of the Lord’s church! Thus we are having to fight again the issues about women, music, inerrancy, hermeneutics, etc.
DG: Name three preachers of the past or present and tell how they influenced you the most in your preaching.
RHL: My father, Roy H. Lanier Sr., was the greatest influence on me, of course. Several outstanding things about him and his preaching still stick in my mind vividly, (1) His general knowledge of the Bible; (2) His precise accuracy of using Scriptures in context; (3) His depth of doctrinal instruction in his lessons; and (4) His fairness in controversy.
I remember many classes where he would entertain any question from the class, quote the Scripture about which there was a question, usually quote much of the context, and then give an answer. His accuracy of context often showed me where brethren misused passages though their arguments might be right (such as Matthew 5:20; Romans 14:23; Ephesians 3:10, etc.) He would fill his sermons with Scripture and with simple but profound points, much deeper than most other preachers. And I often heard him give credit to the positive side of things when many cynics were only negative. In debate he would credit good arguments hard to answer from his opponents, and would always treat them with respect.
N.B. Hardeman was my teacher at Freed-Hardeman College and I thrilled to hear his oratory. He would often give us boys confidence when he would say, “Boys, all you need to defeat any denominational preacher in any argument is what is right here in your New Testaments.” He was an inspiring preacher and teacher, and perhaps gave me as much confidence in the Word itself as any other man. His lessons showed a simplicity that could appeal to the common folks as well as to the highly educated and sophisticated. We just knew we could whip the devil anywhere and anytime when we emerged from his classes or sermons (that is, if we knew our Bibles well enough!)
Norman Gipson only finished high school in Turkey, Texas, but is one of the greatest living scholars among us today! He is self-educated, having had opportunities to attend Harvard and Yale, but he passed them up in favor of being a soul-winner in the Northeast while there rather than a student. He is fluent in a least five languages, knows the Classics, writes poetry and music, and can play nearly any musical instrument he can get his hands on. Any question you ask him about the Bible will get an answer plus he will tell you where it is found, who said it, who was involved, what the situation was, and what went before and after! I have also seen him under intense persecution and have thrilled at his behavior under fire. He is a master teacher, a simple soul-winner, a servant of his fellowman, a disciplined student, and a gentleman.
These men and others like them have had great impact on me. I have tried to follow in some of their footsteps but have never felt competitive with any of them. The Lord gives each of us our abilities and our opportunities, and their lives have helped me to try harder in my life to do what the Lord expects of me.
DG: You have held a number of debates over the years. Which is your most memorable, and why?
RHL: Perhaps the most memorable debate was with Lewis Hale of Oklahoma City, in 1973. It was a one-day debate on campus at Oklahoma Christian College and discussed the subject of “The Guilty Fornicator.” Lewis and I had been good friends for years, in school together, had debated together, worked together and respected each other highly. The Oklahoma Christian College president was using him as a part-time teacher and when the issue arose in the brotherhood he wanted it discussed on campus at their annual preachers meeting. Lewis said he would like for me to oppose him as we could do it in love. So we had the discussion, and what was so memorable to me was the lack of keen and tough arguments that I expected. Lewis is one of the sharpest minds in our generation, but he had little with which to work on that subject.
Interestingly, another memorable debate was at Oklahoma Christian College with Clyde Muse, a black preacher in Oklahoma City, now on faculty at OCC, over the subject of “Civil Disobedience.” It was for two days in an elongated chapel period for the benefit of the students during the height of demonstrations across our nation (1969). Clyde defended civil disobedience of his black brothers as being the godly thing to do. He was very articulate and brought out many emotional things as he showed the victimization of blacks in America. It was memorable in that when questions from the audience were entertained, most of the questions went to Clyde. This showed general disagreement with his position, and that was somewhat surprising to me for students to do.
DG: It seems that our brotherhood has seen a decline in debating over the past thirty years or so. Do you agree that this is true, and if so, to what would you attribute the decrease in the number of public discussions?
RHL: Yes, debating has declined in recent years, perhaps for (1) It has generally fallen out of favor as a way to study issues in religion; and (2) Many religious debates had degenerated into performances of clever repartee and pungent ripostes. I have been uneasy with some of my brethren for their evident desires to win the witty sarcasm contests rather that to be kind, considerate, and stay with the studies involved. If one notices the political debates, one does not find nearly so much that cuts and hurts speakers personally. If our brethren would use debate as a form of sincere, mutual study of the Bible with denominational men, perhaps we could return to that style of study. No denominational preacher likes to be “whipped upon” with the Scriptures.
DG: What special word of advice would you like to pass on to young preachers who may read this interview?
RHL: Special words of advice to young preachers would include (1) Study harder and longer than your fellow preachers; (2) Preach under conviction that you are carrying a vital message to sinners who need to know the Lord’s instructions; (3) Preach to yourselves each time also so that you will be kind and loving with needful truth; and (4) Remember how good God has been to us pitiful sinners.
by Dennis Gulledge