Faithful to God’s Calling, Qualified to Offer Advice

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

johnwilliams235Bishop John Williams holds a page of his handwritten memoir.Tucked inside a worn leather briefcase is the handwritten autobiography Bishop John H. Williams started when he was 35 years old with the uncomplicated title, "My Life." He turns 81 June 2.

A key reason his memoirs remain a work in progress is because Williams keeps chugging along fulfilling pastoral duties.

"I'm going to be faithful to the command God has given me," Williams said, who is the father of eight children, grandfather to 15 grandchildren and most recently a great-grandfather. His wife of 31 years, Catherine, died a year ago.

Destiny calling

Williams said he was 10 years old living his hometown of Coahoma, Miss., when he received the call to ministry.

"You just know it's your destiny," Williams said. "You just know it when the Holy Spirit reveals it to you."

His family relocated to Detroit in 1945 two weeks after President Franklin D. Roosevelt died and eventually became members of the New Bethel Baptist Church pastored by singer Aretha Franklin's father, the Rev. Clarence LaVaughn, or C.L., Franklin.

C.L. Franklin was shot twice at point-blank range in June 1979 during what was said to be an attempted robbery at his Detroit West Side home. He remained in a coma for five years until his death in July 1984.

Although a youngster when he received his calling to ministry, Williams said it wasn't until he was 19 when he accepted Christ as his Savior while in the U.S. Navy stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. He still remembers kneeling in prayer in the dead of night with a light bathing him even though there were no windows in the Navy bunker.

Not called to be a boxer

Good at throwing a punch, Williams said he was offered a $25,000 signing bonus in 1954 as a professional middleweight boxer. He turned it down.

"I knew I've been called to preach," he said.

From there he earned in three years his four-year bachelors degree in sociology/integrated social sciences at the historical black college Bishop College, which was founded in Marshall, Texas in 1881 to serve students in east Texas. In 1961 it moved to Dallas and operated until 1988. He then studied the master of Christian studies program at Calvin College in 1984 and 1985.

A legacy of pastorates

Williams' pastorates include the King Solomon Baptist Church in Corona, Calif. from 1961 to 1966 and Saint Matthew's Baptist Church in San Bernardino, Calif. from 1996 to 1970; as well as Saint Mark Baptist Church in McKinney, Texas from 1974 to 1976.

johnwilliams335A page to Williams’ autobiography.In 1982 he was appointed by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church under the Methodist Missionary rules in Muskegon to pastor John Wesley AME Zion Church in Muskegon. AME is the oldest independent denomination founded by blacks in the world.

He's also owned and operated adult foster care homes and worked as director and partner with River Valley Foods which specialized in growing, harvesting and exporting cashew nuts from Tanzania, East Africa to the United States.

From there he was appointed by Bishop Paul S. Morton as general overseer of Global Missions for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International.

In 1981, Williams founded Central Bible Ministries International (CBMI), a nonprofit ministry based in Grand Rapids. CBMI's ministry focus includes missions, building churches, schools and orphanages and providing sanitation and vocational training in West and East Africa, in particular, Tanzania, Liberia and Kenya. Williams is the CBMI's president and CEO.

Specifically CBMI operates the John Williams Christian Academy in Monrovia, Liberia; an orphanage in Kisii, Kenya; and a church and office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Williams resides in Africa an average of three to six months of the year.

With his span of years in the ministry, Williams is qualified to offer insights and advice on life, the ministry and the condition of the nation.

Joyful aspects of the ministry

"Helping and encouraging people, especially poor people," Williams said. "Jesus had a passion for poor people. In this land of America, this land of plenty, so many people, especially children, go to bed hungry. It's disturbing to me to see so many families that are homeless."

Advice to new ministers

"Make sure you are professionally trained," advised Williams. "Know your Bible. It's important to properly exegeses (explain) the Scriptures."

Words of caution to ministers

Be aware of temptation. "Be very careful how you deal with the opposite sex and money," Williams said. "Those two have been some of the greatest downfalls in the ministry."

Why he remains active in the ministry

"I've seen older people with knowledge and experience die in nursing homes or in hospice. That's not for me. All my years of experience in the ministry, I want to give it all to another generation and die empty."

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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