My story begins on the Westside of Chicago. I am the second child to Silas and Beatrice Williams. I had a fairly normal childhood – summer breezes, little league games, hide and seek, fishing trips, riding bikes, sitting on the stoop, talking about what we were going to get for Christmas, catch a girl kiss a girl, Saturday morning bowling and martial arts movies, sleepovers, Friday Night hamburgers, watching Creature Feature and Night Gallery beneath blankets and eating stove top popcorn. Man, those were the days. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but my parents loved us very much and proved it by providing for all our needs. They sacrificed year after year to make sure we had the best education and all the essentials. Lord, I thank you for loving us through loving parents.
Though my mother attended and was active in church, I grew up not liking church at all. I thought it was boring and scary, and I would hide my shoes on Sunday morning, making my mother late for worship and thus leaving me at home. Most Sundays it worked. However, the older I became, the more I thought about spiritual things.My journey toward Jesus began when I came in the house for a drink of water on a warm spring day after a softball game. That April afternoon my mother and her twin sister shared the gospel with me. That conversation disturbed me, but it wasn’t until November 1977 when I gave my life to Jesus Christ at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, under the leadership of L.H. Davidson. It was under Pastor Davidson that I began to develop an appetite for reading and understanding the Bible. Several years after starting my walk with Jesus, Pastor Davidson died, and Mt. Sinai called a passionate pastor and preacher – William Lott. Pastor Lott saw something in me and began shaping my soul by developing the teaching and leadership gift me. Pastor Lott began giving me responsibilities and opportunities to see if I had a bias toward action. These early responsibilities led me to ask questions about purpose and ministry.
At sixteen years old I realized that God had a call on my life. But, I did not fully acknowledge and accept God’s plan for my life until I was twenty years old. Most pastors call this process “running from God” and they consider it something spiritual. Well, the Bible calls it disobedience. Man, I can’t believe I was disobedient for four years and God gave me an abundant measure of grace.
After spending a year and a half at Northeastern Illinois University, I transferred to Bishop College (HBCU), in Dallas, Texas, where I took a Bachelor of Arts in English. While at Bishop College I attended Concord Baptist Church and was mentored by E. K. Bailey. It was under his mentorship that God began to develop in me a love for expository preaching and the need to go to seminary.
Upon completing my undergraduate work, I came back to Chicago to attend Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. In 1993 I received a Master’s of Arts in Christian Education. God used Trinity to shape my mind theologically and ministerially.
Interesting stories in general and love stories in particular, always seem to have a leading man with a leading lady. In 1994 God brought me a leading lady, the former Tonia Johnson. At intermission during the critically acclaimed The Phantom of the Opera, I proposed to Tonia, and thankfully, she accepted my proposal of marriage. On a beautiful July afternoon in 1994, I vowed to her and a congregation of 300 witnesses to be a 525man. God has blessed us with three beautiful, thoughtful and intelligent children - Marvin, Micah and Mikayla.
Upon completing my training at Trinity and getting married, God called me (with Tonia’s blessing of course) to Grand Rapids, Michigan to serve at New Hope Baptist Church, alongside the late Donnell Smith. I served as the Associate Pastor of Youth and Education for five years. During this time I saw God movement and transformative work in the lives of students and children. After five years, God, the great novelist, began to write the next chapter in shaping my soul. And, what a chapter it would be, filled with an unexpected turn.
In 1999, I sensed God calling me leave New Hope to serve as an Assistant Preaching/Teaching Pastor, alongside my mentor and good friend Ed Dobson, at Calvary Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan (a predominantly white church). I served at Calvary for 3 years, where I was the main communicator for the popular Saturday Night, a non-traditional worship service for the unchurched and dechurched. During this chapter of my life, I witnessed hundreds of people begin their walk with Jesus.
For the last seven years, I have been one of the lead pastors, along with my partners, Artie Lindsay and Kizombo Kalumbua, of Tabernacle Community Church, a church that we planted in September 2002. Since its inception, the church has been instrumental in helping many people begin their walk with Jesus and renew their commitment to Jesus. Tabernacle is truly a diverse community where different cultures lead, serve, worship, and do life together. I always assumed that God would be writing this story for the rest of my life. I was wrong. Early 2009 God began writing another chapter in my life. It would be a chapter of mixed emotions – bitter and sweet.
In April of 2009, the elders of Trinity Church (Lansing, Michigan), a church I had a brief encounter with over 10 years earlier, asked me to pray about entering into the process of interviewing for the position of Senior Teaching Pastor. With our elders’ blessing, much prayer, counsel and sensing God’s leading, my family and I decided to submit to the candidacy process. After many conversations, interviews, meetings and a lengthy vetting process, on December 12/13, the elders and congregation of Trinity Church voted overwhelmingly to extend the call to me as their next Senior Teaching Pastor. Believing that God was involved in this process from the beginning, I accepted the call. On January 10, 2010, I will preach my farewell message at Tabernacle Community Church, closing a very special chapter in our lives. On February 27, 2010, God begins writing a new chapter in my life and ministry.
The Soul Story continues.
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