The following is an inspiring story describing what our church might be like in the next ten years. It is written from a perspective of faith and is based on the blessings and leadings of God as well as our congregation’s desire to carry out the necessary actions to live into our vision story. The vision story is a goal that helps guide us as we move into the future.
Life is good for people at the First Baptist Church of Williams. The church is located at 5579 Nisbet Lake Road just five and a half miles northwest of the Jacksonville State University campus. Williams, a prominent local church, is known for its personal relationships with one another and with God.
Williams has remained true to its heritage. They are not reactive, but consistent in following God’s leadership. In 1988, the first women deacons, Hilda Dean Norton and Peggy Hamby, were elected by the church. Many Baptist churches believe women are not qualified to be deacons and they disagreed with Williams. When the church took this progressive step, the congregation not only turned the other cheek to accusations, but also turned proactively to an even closer walk with God. Under the lordship of Jesus Christ, this is a multi-generational church for all people.
Williams has long been known as a community church involved in the very fabric of lives of people who live in the shadow of its steeple. Hospitality is a good word to use when thinking about Williams. A saying here is that the church “serves without selfish motive, expecting nothing in return.” A Christian Ministry Center, built nearly ten years ago, continues to give flexibility to the ways the church can serve its community. The church likes to be the center of its community, whether as a gathering place for the women to participate in an aerobics class, the men to play dominoes and talk in the morning around a pot of coffee, or youth and children to enjoy activities like fifth quarter fellowships after football games. In the past ten years, however, they have become a regional church. Like the mustard seed of Jesus’ parable, Williams has become a home for many kinds of birds by stretching out its branches to serve others near and far.
What many people report about Williams is the sense of dynamic worship they experience. Employing a blended style of worship, people are inspired to a deeper devotion to God and stronger kinship within the church body. In fact, you can sense a fierce loyalty to one another demonstrated by practical acts of caring. One member said, “It’s like the song says, ‘There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place.’” Another said, “When I have a need, I know the church will help me.”
Ten years ago, the church vision team pointed to generosity as one of the core values or characteristics of the people here. The church is still generous. In partnership with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, they support missionaries around the world who work with the neediest people groups. They also share with others in their own backyard, reaching out to those in the subdivision down the road and at the nursing home in Jacksonville. These church members seek to be the presence of Christ.
Williams has a diverse and dedicated staff. Ministerial staff members traditionally have a history of long-term service at Williams. They, like so many others, put down roots in this church. However, this is a church led by its membership. Williams has a large number of dedicated lay leaders who serve on ministry teams where their passion and calling meet real life needs. A high percentage of the members at Williams are involved in meaningful ministry.
Many people say what they value most about Williams is the attention given to people. One member said, “From the moment you walk in you feel like you are somebody.” People matter here. The church helps people recognize and develop their God-given gifts. At Williams, you know people care. When you have a need, they offer help. If you need to talk, they listen. One member said, “It feels like a family reunion.” In fact, one of the things you notice most about Williams is how much the people enjoy each other’s company. The fellowship is more than on the surface. One member said, “This is a place of true, genuine friendships where you can truly let your hair down.”
This is a God-church seeking to follow the Lord’s leadership. Steady progression of faith instead of flash-in-the-pan ministry has marked this church. They have an on-going commitment to follow Christ and strive to develop the most important of all relationships, their walk with God. This is a church known for its steps of faith including building projects, calling full time ministers, and expanding service opportunities. They are not afraid to take risks for God’s kingdom work. One member said Williams is “always looking to the horizon for God’s next plan.” Over time, men’s and women’s ministries working together have helped families and individuals discover Christian fellowship and purpose. Small groups gather weekly to offer support, study the Bible, and develop closeness.
Believing that every member is a minister, Williams provides training and opportunities to exercise gifts God has given each person. In fact, this church puts much emphasis on missions involvement. Equipped, called, and ready, missions teams use a disaster response trailer for all kinds of needs. College students involved in on-going discipleship and fellowship ministries serve as summer missionaries through a partnership with the CBF. From annual mission trips where families join together to short-term projects closer to home, Williams is a church engaged in seeking its full kingdom potential.
The First Baptist Church of Williams has “open doors and open hearts”. Anyone is welcome, and once you attend Williams, you will understand how this is true.