LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Heather King thought God had called her to overcome her “fear factor” long before the concept of reality television was ever conceived.
As a high schooler in Dallas, the now-32-year-old King knew she was called by God to minister for his Kingdom. Her assumption, however, was that God would require her to relocate to a land far away from civilization.
“I thought God was going to send me to a foreign country as a nurse where I would be required to utilize nursing skills on myself because I would be forced to eat goat eyeballs or some odd concoction I previously would have considered incredible,” she said.
That day may come, but King’s ministry currently is at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as the new director of women’s programs. King began the job on Nov. 1 after replacing former director Sharon Beougher.
She came to Southern Seminary after serving as WMU/women’s ministry director for the State Baptist Convention of Indiana for the past six years.
As the seminary’s women’s director, she plans to create two programs to equip women to minister to other women in the local church. She plans to begin a degree program as well as a certificate program.
The degree program will be a master of arts or master of divinity in Christian education with a 15-credit-hour focus in women’s ministry. The second program will be a women’s certificate program and will consist of eight non-accredited courses geared toward staff and lay women within the local church.
Above all, King hopes to provide encouragement for female students.
“By virtue of this position going fulltime, it communicates to students that the administration and faculty want to encourage and affirm female students in their studies and ministries,” King said. “I, too, desire to be an encouragement to students.”
King earned her bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Criswell College in Dallas. She then earned a master’s degree in counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. She has applied for the doctoral program at Southern Seminary and plans to begin working toward a doctor of education in leadership degree (Ed.D.) upon acceptance.
She became a Christian while in the third grade after becoming cognizant of her need for salvation while reading and memorizing Scripture verses in Vacation Bible School.
“I can vividly remember several elderly women teaching my Sunday School class,” she said. “They taught stories about who Jesus was and what he did for me. I understood my need for salvation due to the memorization of the famous VBS verse John 3:16. And most importantly, I remember seeing my father make his profession of faith public.”
After sensing the call to ministry while in high school, King decided she would attend seminary someday, still uncertain of the specific area of ministry to which she was called. Since then, God’s guidance has continued to unfold.
“In the area of women’s work,” King said, “the opportunities are almost limitless. Work within the local church provides [numerous] opportunities. There are many more opportunities [for women] in the area of state work, denominational work and mission fields, along with writing and speaking ministries and para-church organizations.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--For decades Moscow was the capital of communism, the heart of atheism.
Public worship was prohibited. The proclamation of the gospel was forbidden. Christians surely gathered -- but only in private.
The fall of the Soviet Union now has made communist Moscow a relic of the past. However, from an evangelical standpoint, it’s hard to tell. Of the city’s 12 million citizens, roughly 10,000 are Christian.
Southern Baptist missionary Troy Bush believes Muscovites are open to the gospel, and he senses a responsibility to spread Christ’s message.
“Moscow is so large and so diverse,” Bush said recently in a telephone interview with Southern Seminary magazine, a publication of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “We as Southern Baptists are still in the early stages of our implementation of ministry and church planting in this area.”
When the Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s, Christians had high hopes; the fall of communism had resulted in an openness to the gospel previously unseen.
But for various reasons, it was slow to take hold in the Russian capital. Some Christian organizations set up shop in Moscow but did the brunt of their work in the countryside. They assumed that Muscovites wouldn’t be open.
Others looked at past Christian gatherings -- such as the 1992 Billy Graham crusade -- and decided that other Russian areas needed more attention.
The result was a Moscow on the back burner of many Christian organizations’ plans.
“Hence, what you had was a situation where Moscow was largely forgotten in terms of focused missions,” said Bush, who has been in the country since December 1999. “Not until about the last two years have any major evangelical missions organizations clearly defined church planting and evangelistic ministries in the city.”
Bush, a 1999 Ph.D. graduate of Southern Seminary, works with members of his missions team to design strategies that will be implemented to reach the city’s ethnic Russians. Part of his job involves equipping and mobilizing church-planting teams. Another part involves serving as a facilitator between Christians in Moscow and those around the world.
Bush’s team has a goal of seeing 140 Baptist churches in Moscow within five years -- a number that would equal about one church for each city district. Currently, there are 23 churches. The team also has a website -- reachmoscow.org.
To reach Muscovites with the gospel, Bush said, “we do have to define what that means.” He noted that Russians as a whole tend to be very philosophical. Because they enjoy philosophical discussions, they are quite open to discussing religious issues. “The idea that most Muscovites were once atheists I don’t think ever was true,” Bush said. “I think the academia and the intelligentsia largely were atheists, but most Muscovites are religious and have some type of religious practices. The majority of the people today would still say they are [Russian] Orthodox, but the majority of them have no active participation in the Orthodox Church.”
A city once void of public worship now finds itself at the heart of pluralism. Three million citizens are Muslim. The city has 16 registered Buddhist groups and five Jewish synagogues.
One study, Bush said, found more than 5,000 religious groups within the city.
“You have tremendous plurality in the city that is equal to most any major urban center in the world,” he said. “At the same time, because of all the changes Russians have been through, you find that most Muscovites have very syncretistic worldviews. It’s not uncommon to find someone who would be Orthodox and acknowledging that there is one supreme God and at the same time they may hold very, very strong elements of naturalism and rationalism. They also believe in reincarnation and see no contradiction at all.”
The city’s diversity, as well as its size, has been quite eye-opening for Bush.
“The complexity of Moscow and the size of Moscow has been a very humbling experience. We realize that we can’t mobilize [solely] as Southern Baptists to come here and work,” he said. “We’ll never be able to bring enough missionaries to do everything that the Lord desires to be done.”
Bush has discovered both barriers and bridges to the gospel. One barrier, he said, stems from many Muscovites’ belief that God is impersonal and distant.
“For many of them, they would view him as so distant and so impersonal that a personal relationship with him is not something that’s really achievable,” Bush said. “It’s not even something that many of them pursue. Generally, they feel that their life is controlled by fate, an impersonal force.”
But there are bridges to the gospel.
“Russian Orthodoxy has retained some key elements of the gospel, and those are elements on which we can build,” Bush said. “Muscovites today would say that the moral state of Moscow has declined dramatically. What that does is that it creates a stark background on which to proclaim the light and the truth of the gospel. I think that is a real bridge.”
Russian law forbids Bush -- or any foreigner -- from starting or pastoring a church. Consequently, Bush works closely with the Russian Baptist Union, discipling and teaching its members.
“None of our missionaries are going out and starting Southern Baptist churches,” he said. “We are leading folks to Christ and discipling them and discipling existing believers so that they can do the church planting themselves.”
So far, the Russian Baptist churches are small.
“Pray for the pastors and the leaders in the Russian Baptist churches here in the city of Moscow,” Bush said when asked how Christians could pray for his work. “Just 10 years ago there was only one registered Baptist church in the entire city of Moscow. Today there are 23 in the Moscow Baptist Association. Most of these churches are small, most of them are struggling.”
Of course, Christians also can pray for Bush and his family. He and his wife, Tina, have three children: JD, 10; Caleb, 9; and Sarah, 7.
“Pray that the Lord would lay upon peoples’ hearts a burden for the city of the Moscow,” Bush said. “[Pray] that the Lord would send workers for the harvest. We need workers.”
Abortion’s effects on women kindles seminarian’s compassion January 22, 2003
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Tammy Tillman’s desire to see women counseled through the gospel of Christ dates back to her teenage years.
She was a rising high school junior in Tallahassee, Fla., where she had lived all her life. Thanks to her father’s job promotion, Tillman’s family abruptly moved to Lake City, about an hour east of Tallahassee. Though the miles from her hometown were few, to the 16-year-old Tillman it felt at first as if her family were moving to Mars.
Though blindsided by the move, God opened Tillman’s eyes to both her spiritual darkness and the need for Christian counseling.
Although she had grown up in a warm Christian home, Tillman was not converted to Christ until her senior year while in Lake City. God also began another good work in her through a set of circumstances that bordered on tragic.
“One of my close friends tried to commit suicide,” she said. “That had a huge impact on me, and while I was in college God began to use that to open my eyes to the need for Christian counseling. God used me to help her through it.”
The Tillman family spent only a year in Lake City before returning to Tallahassee, but it was a year that transformed Tillman’s life. Today she is earning a master of divinity degree in pastoral counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Tillman’s passion is to offer biblical counsel to other women, which she hopes to do fulltime upon graduation from Southern Seminary.
Last summer she gained profound insight into counseling by working as a post-abortion counselor at A Woman’s Choice Resource Center, a ministry of Southeast Christian Church in downtown Louisville. Southern Seminary professor William Cutrer also ministers at the center.
The desecration left in the wake of abortion was part of the insight Tillman gained.
“There are so many issues and so many problems that arise in the woman’s life following abortion,” she said. “Abortion affects them in mental, physical, emotional and spiritual ways. Some women are made sterile by this because it is a medical procedure.
“There are a lot of things that women don’t know until they [have been] through the abortion because they aren’t told these things.
“Some women suffer from a ‘sleeper’ effect in that they have dreams about killing babies and can’t get it out of their mind, [sometimes for] 25 or 30 years after the abortion. This could be triggered by a sound or a smell that reminds them of it. A lot of women go into promiscuity. Sometimes there is a lot of anger and guilt. There are just dozens of problems caused by abortion.”
Tillman said the greatest delight she and other counselors at the center find is offering the only counsel which will truly heal their souls -- telling them about a better way, of life in Christ.
The gospel provides a healing balm for women who see God as ready to punish their transgressions but not ready to extend forgiveness.
“So many of the women would ask us, ‘How could God forgive me after I have killed my own child?’” Tillman said. “Many of them see God only as one who punishes and not as one who is also full of grace and truth. It is hard for them to accept the fact that there is forgiveness for sinners through the cross.”
Prior to beginning at the counseling center, Tillman said she was concerned that women who were hurting after having fallen into the trap of abortion might be reticent to discuss it with one who has never been through such an experience.
“I would tell them, ‘Maybe I haven’t walked in your shoes, but I have been in your shoes because I am a sinner,’” she said. “But God has had mercy upon me. It was an incredible opportunity to shine light in darkness and expose some of the false beliefs these women had, false beliefs about God, sin and grace.
“I am humbled that God would choose me to work with these precious women, who so need the healing that only the gospel can bring. Watching God work in the lives of these women was an incredible experience.”
The center is located across the street from an abortion clinic. Often women who intended to seek an abortion would stop in at the center thinking it was the clinic, Tillman said. Many times this would be frustrating because the woman would leave and go across the street, she said.
Tillman remembers one 18-year-old girl who was pregnant and came to the center, thinking she was entering the abortion clinic. The girl came with her mother in tow. Both mother and daughter were determined to have the teen’s pregnancy aborted.
“We talked to them about the different stages and all that a woman goes through even after an abortion,” Tillman said. “But the girl didn’t care and her mother felt having an abortion was a good choice. It is not at all rare for mothers to bring their daughters in for an abortion because they think it is the best way.
“We had another girl who said she [wished she] had had somebody like us to counsel with her beforehand because she wouldn’t have gone through with it. When we would hear that, it would make us that much more determined to minister to the needs of these women. A lot of them come back and trust Christ and then live lives that are obviously transformed. God is doing a great work at the women’s center.”
Tillman, who received a bachelor’s degree in human science from Florida State University in 1998, hopes to continue ministering to women after seminary. She is attending Southern Seminary with the goal of becoming a staff counselor for women within a local church.
She sees this as a glaring need within evangelical churches and hopes to see the seed God planted in her as a result of that tenuous high school year grow into a ministry that helps heal hurting women.
“We have a lot of women who are hurting in our churches,” she said. “We have to meet their needs and above all bring those to Christ who do not know him. We have a lot of felt needs, but that is their deepest need.
“Then they will realize that God fixes people who are wounded and hurting. There are women who have had abortions who are within our churches but are ashamed for anybody to know. There are a lot of needs, and my passion is to minister to them.”
Professor doubles as life-saver in crisis pregnancy center January 16, 2003
LOUSVILLE, Ky. (BP)--For more than 20 years seminary professor William Cutrer has taught about abortion, written about it as an author and counseled women against it as a medical doctor.
Still, one thing mystifies him -- why so many local churches seem reluctant to address the issue.
Cutrer is associate professor of Christian ministry and director of the Gheens Center for Christian Family Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Cutrer is also the co-author of “False Positive,” a novel focusing on the sanctity of human life theme set in a crisis pregnancy center, “Deadly Cure,” “Lethal Harvest” and “When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden.”
“The annual Roe vs. Wade observances do bring attention to the horror of abortion,” he said. “Sadly, many churches don’t discuss the issue at all, or simply pass the week by and become calloused to the real genuine human tragedy. The loss of precious life is enormous and the impact on the lives of the women that have had abortions is incredible.
“The church should step forward and speak up on behalf of the babies. (They should) make an impact for the babies and for the generation of women who suffer, often silently, because no one told them the truth before they made their decisions. Grace abounds toward them. May we faithfully get the message out.”
Cutrer is neither a passive observer nor a detached commentator.
He serves as the medical director for “A Woman’s Choice,” a pro-life crisis pregnancy center in downtown Louisville. The center, located across the street from an abortion clinic, is sponsored by Southeast Christian Church -- Louisville’s largest evangelical church -- and supported by other concerned churches in our area.
The clinic offers counseling and medical services for pregnant women. Above all, the clinic seeks to educate women on the truth of pregnancy and abortion.
“Many of our clients come in to our clinic by mistake,” Cutrer said. “They have their appointments for abortion but God’s Spirit directs them to us. We give them the best of care without deception. We tell them we don’t do abortions and we don’t refer for abortions.
“But what we do is offer them the love of God in Christ, free counseling and support, and a free ultrasound if they would like.”
To the contrary, abortion clinics charge at least $200 for a sonogram, Cutrer said, on top of a fee for the procedure that ends the life of the fetus. The further along a woman is in her pregnancy, the higher the fees, he said.
“Women who have been there (the abortion clinic) and come to see us have commented on how clean and friendly our clinic is,” Cutrer said. “They feel safe.”
Last year alone, the clinic was instrumental in turning 350 women away from abortion, convincing them to carry their pregnancies to term. Some put the children up for adoption, while others raised them with assistance from family, friends and even the clinic itself, he said.
One recent technological development has greatly increased the effectiveness of the clinic’s task, giving it a formidable weapon against those that view the fetus as a mere ‘blob of tissue’ -- the 4-D ultrasound.
The new ultrasound allows expectant mothers to see a three-dimensional view of their baby as it moves within the womb.
“The client will see lips, ears, the baby’s mouth opening and closing, fingers and toes,” he said. “It is very dramatic. No one leaves the clinic believing the baby is a ‘blob of tissue’ or a ‘cluster of cells.’
“These terms like ‘products of gestation’ depersonalize the baby, making abortion look like the solution to a problem (and) not the destruction of human life. So, we at the clinic call ‘em like we see ‘em -- these are babies. And it becomes very evident when the client watches the large TV screen that shows the very images I‘m watching on the machine.”
While “A Woman’s Choice” employs this new machine so clients may see their child in flesh tone color, abortion clinics do not allow expectant mothers to see such detail, Cutrer said.
“The abortion clinic doesn’t permit the clients to see what they are seeing,” he said. “It would hurt their business. So the new machine is making an impact. I think most clinics can do a very fine job with the 2-D machine but it would be nice for them to have a center to refer clients to that uses the 4-D.”
Cutrer is a board certified obstetrician/gynecologist and has been involved with women’s health care since the late 1970s. Prior to coming to Southern Seminary in 1999, Cutrer spent 15 years in a private medical practice during which time he attended Dallas Theological Seminary. He also served as senior pastor at Wildwood Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, from 1994-97.
He volunteered at crisis pregnancy centers in the 1980s and served as the medical director of a pregnancy resource center in Dallas, where he supervised the medical portion of the ministry.
Cutrer wants local churches to be aware of and support similar pro-life crisis pregnancy centers.
“If more of the churches knew of the availability of counseling, support, even legal assistance with adoption, benevolence aid and the medical capabilities, it would help them minister to women,” he said. “I’d like to invite believers to pray for us and the ministry at the clinic.”
Open theism ‘damaging’ to faith, prof says in radio interview January 13, 2003
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Those who say God’s knowledge of the future is limited are proposing a dangerous view that counters 2,000 years of Christian belief, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Bruce Ware said recently on a Boston radio program.
Ware appeared on the Chuck Morse Radio Show on WROL-AM Dec. 18 to discuss open theism -- the belief that God does not and cannot know the future free choices people will make. Open theists propose that God, in seeking free responses from people, neither determines nor “foreknows” what they will do.
A vocal critic of open theism, Ware has written a book titled, “God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism.”
Open theism was the subject of much debate at the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in November when members voted to challenge the membership of open theists Clark Pinnock and John Sanders. The vote at the Toronto meeting was 171-131 against Pinnock, 166-143 against Sanders. An ETS committee will review the motion and present its report at next year’s meeting -- possibly recommending their expulsion.
The Evangelical Theological Society is composed of theologians who affirm biblical inerrancy, and Ware is a member.
“They [open theists] are very aware of the criticisms that people like me have raised, but they don’t accept them,” Ware told Morse. “... I view the implications of the open view to be very damaging to the faith of Christian believers -- to be told that the God in whom they trust can make mistakes, and [that he] looks back on his own actions and says, ‘I’m not sure I would have done that if I knew then what I know now.’ It’s a very man-like God to me.”
Christians throughout the centuries have embraced the view that God has exhaustive knowledge of the future, Ware asserted.
“This is the classical tradition of the church, and of course this predates all the way back to the early church theologians,” he said. “... The view has been that, yes, God created people with freedom and, yes, God knows every detail of what the future holds before he creates the world. So there’s no surprise to God in terms of how it all comes out in the end.”
Ware said the Bible is full of passages attesting to God’s complete omniscience (or, his knowledge of all things). Ware read Isaiah 46:10, in which God says he declares “the end from the beginning.”
“When God tells us that he wins, that good wins over evil and his Kingdom will triumph, that’s not guesswork, that’s not probability, that’s not hopefulness -- that is God’s knowledge of what will be,” Ware said. “Scripture is filled with examples of and direct teachings about God’s knowledge of and direction of all of history.”
In explaining the balance between God’s direction of human history and human freedom, Ware discussed the Genesis story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers.
“No one would question the fact that they chose to sell their brother in Egypt,” he said. “And they did so in a jealous manner and they were held morally accountable for that. But then we find ... Joseph [saying], ‘It was not you who sent them here, but God sent me.’
“The language is not, ‘God made good out of what evil you did,’ [it is instead,] ‘It was God who sent me here.’”
Ware said open theism is a belief system that evangelicals of all stripes reject.
“It’s not like the Arminian view or the Calvinist view or other views that have been held within evangelicalism,” he said. “This is one that most would say is not acceptable.”
Ware discussed several passages open theists often quote. One involves the story of Jonah, another the story of Hezekiah.
In the first example, Jonah tells the people of Nineveh their city will be destroyed in 40 days. But they repent, and Jonah 3:10 says that “God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them.” In the second example, found in Isaiah 38, God tells Hezekiah, “Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.” Hezekiah prays to God, and the Lord adds 15 years to his life.
“The whole point is to elicit a response,” Ware said of the two passages. “Isn’t God telling them what he does for the purpose of the response so that then he can do what he intended all along to do, and that is, in the case of Nineveh, bring forgiveness to them, and in the case of Hezekiah, extend his life?”
Even Jonah himself believed that God would have mercy on Nineveh, Ware said.
“The whole point of the story was Jonah’s reluctance to go there in the first place [and that is] exactly what he said at the end of the book,” Ware said. “Jonah said, ‘I knew that you were a gracious God, compassionate, slow to anger....’ Jonah knew that from the very beginning. That’s why he didn’t want to go. Are we to think that God didn’t know what Jonah knew?
“I think it’s just a superficial reading of those repentance passages to think that God learned something new and changed his mind because of it.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade underscores the need for the Christian church to shine light in a culture of death, writers in the latest issue of Southern Seminary Magazine conclude.
The magazine tackles such life-and-death issues as abortion, euthanasia and cloning in view of the Jan. 22 anniversary of the controversial 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in all 50 states.
A publication of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the magazine includes feature articles by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the seminary; Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and William Cutrer, a Southern Seminary professor who is also a practicing medical doctor.
Sadly, abortion has become an accepted part of the American culture, Mohler writes.
“The nation’s conscience is no longer seared by the scandal of abortion, and abortion on demand has become a routine part of everyday life,” he writes. “... Thirty years later, can we rebuild and recover? The signs are not hopeful. Three decades of post-Roe v. Wade experience reveal a downward spiral from abortion to euthanasia, from embryo research to human cloning, from assisted suicide to advocated infanticide.”
The church, he asserts, must promote a pro-life message.
“The believing church is now perhaps the last outpost of moral sanity in the culture of death,” Mohler writes. “If recovery is to come, it must arise in a new generation who sees through the moral insanity and possesses the courage to reverse course before all moral knowledge is lost. Let us pray that God will give us that generation -- before it is too late.”
“Christians, in particular, have an obligation to confront these critical moral and ethical issues with a scriptural response,” he writes. “These are hard questions, but God’s Word gives the simple but indisputable answer: Human life from conception onward should be protected, not endangered.”
Land tells the story of how, as a high school student, he was confronted with the realities of abortion in biology class. A classmate brought in a 12-week-old fetus, displayed in formaldehyde. Land protested to an administrator and it was eventually removed.
“The little baby was so undeniably human that I was deeply disturbed to see him displayed in such a casual, callous, disrespectful way,” Land writes.
Cutrer, professor of Christian ministry and a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, serves as medical director of a pro-life crisis pregnancy center in Louisville. He notes that while the unborn child is an obvious victim of abortion, others also suffer, including the mother.
He describes “post abortion syndrome” (PAS), which affects women with symptoms of anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and even suicide.
“For those like me who have invested our lives as caregivers into the broken realities of these women and their partners, we see PAS as a dangerous, sometimes subtle and confusing collection of problems,” he writes. “PAS may remain repressed with women in denial for years or even decades as they cope with apparent ease. Then, for perhaps 20 percent or more of abortion survivors, various symptoms appear.”
The church, Cutrer argues, should reach out to such women.
“[T]here is hope in Christ,” he writes. “These women, and the men who have fathered their children, can benefit from sound spiritual counsel. The pain is profound but forgiveness is real. Their understanding of ‘self’ -- often expressed in phrases such as ‘I killed my baby’ or ‘I am a murderer’ -- can be rebuilt by the power of the Holy Spirit. Healing comes in community. Thus, the church, while speaking boldly and clearly against abortion, should become a safe place for those who have chosen abortion.”
Land says he sees “shimmering rays of hope” for pro-lifers.
“Today’s pro-life movement is without precedent in American history,” he writes. “Never before has a grassroots movement grown to such proportions without the sponsorship and support of any of society’s elites. We have succeeded in making abortion a frowned-upon procedure by most Americans, even if they are not yet prepared to make it illegal in most cases.”
The church, Mohler asserts, must not remain neutral in sanctity of life debates.
“We must let light shine in darkness,” he writes. “This means, in part, that the church must be a culture of life, in the midst of the culture of death and the death of the culture. The church must contend for life -- life in the biblical sense -- at every level. This means contending for life in the womb and in the nursing home, in the hospital ward and on the streets. Everywhere, we must be those who stand for the culture and sanctity of life, for we know that the culture of life can never be predicated upon the authority of man, but only on the authority of God.”
73-year-old earns doctorate, intent on continuing ministry January 3, 2003
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Seventy-three-year-old Charles Williams is the embodiment of the famous “never surrender” speech which Winston Churchill delivered during the darkest hours of World War II.
Williams’ commitment to those well-known words bore fruit yet again in December. The Monticello, Fla., native graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, receiving a doctor of ministry (D.Min.) degree in church consultation. He now holds seven degrees alongside more than 40 years of experience in ministry.
“I adopted Churchill’s advice a long time ago,” said Williams, who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict. “And that is to never give up. I think the secret to success is not necessarily intelligence but perseverance.”
Williams’ story is one of perseverance and accomplishment. In his seven-plus decades of life, Williams has served as pastor for eight churches in Kentucky, Georgia and Florida, attended six different colleges, receiving degrees from five of them, and held seven different positions within Christian education.
The veteran minister now holds the honor of being the oldest person to receive a degree through Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.
“When I first asked [an official] at the Graham School if I was too old to enroll in the program, their reply was the only way that my enrollment would be a problem is if I were too young and inexperienced,” Williams said. “So I went into the program with 40-plus years experience.”
Williams’ list of degrees reads like the synopsis of an academic catalog. It includes bachelor, master of theology and doctor of theology degrees from Luther Rice Seminary, a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern College, a master of arts degree from Pepperdine University and a doctor of education degree from Nova Southeastern University.
Williams began his educational pilgrimage in 1961 and by 1978 had earned six degrees. His decision to add a seventh from Southern Seminary came as a result of a new direction in ministry.
After serving as a pastor and Christian educator for many years, Williams is now putting his vast pool of knowledge to use for local churches, offering consulting services for congregations that are in decline both spiritually and numerically.
Williams is presently working with eight small rural churches that are in decline. He does not charge small churches for his counsel. He recently bought a motor home that he and his wife use to travel for consultation visits to these small churches.
“Since I have this motor home we are able to park at the church, so the churches do not have to pay for a place for us to stay,” he said. “Many of these areas are somewhat remote and don’t have hotels or motels.”
Williams and his wife, Georgia, have two children, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
At the outset of his ministry, Williams’ only goal was to spend the remainder of his life as pastor of a rural church. But while attending Luther Rice Seminary, then located in Jacksonville, Fla., in the mid-1960s and pastoring a church there, Williams realized God had also called him to work in Christian education.
In the years since, he has served as a teacher, dean and executive vice president for Luther Rice. In 1981 he organized the Southern Baptist School for Biblical Studies in Jacksonville, of which he remains president. The school offers theological education for ministers who desire to remain in the fulltime pastorate.
Williams hopes his decision to work for an additional degree later in life will serve as encouragement and inspiration for fellow ministers.
“If I can use this to encourage and inspire others, that will be great,” he said.
Thom Rainer, dean of Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School, said Williams’ vast knowledge will be of great use to local churches.
“Charles has vast experience in the local church,” Rainer said. “He is the first to complete the consultation emphasis in the doctor of ministry in evangelism and church growth. He will be able to apply his experience and training to help churches all over America.
“I am impressed with his work and tenacity. I really think he can be an invaluable asset to many churches.”
Williams does not have any plans for retirement. Genealogy says he may have many years left in ministry, with Williams noting that his mother is 93 and still strong and healthy.
“I feel that I have 15 to 20 years of active ministry left in me,” he said. “I am starting my third career within ministry now and don’t plan to retire anytime soon.”