Jamaal and Amber Williams

On today's show, Sojourn Network's executive director, Dave Harvey, is sitting down with Jamaal Williams, and his wife, Amber. Jamaal is the pastor of Sojourn Midtown in Louisville, Kentucky. On today's show, Jamaal and Amber share their stories. They talk about their roles in ministry, their first pastorate, the transition to pastoring at Sojourn, and their passion for racial reconciliation and multicultural church. We hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening.

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Transcript

Melissa Martin: Hey, this is Melissa Martin from Substance Church in Ashland, Ohio. This is Sojourn Network. ... 

Mike Cosper: Hey, welcome to the podcast. My name is Mike Cosper, and I'm one of the board members of Sojourn Network; for we exist to plant, grow, and multiple healthy churches that last. Each week on our show, pastors and leaders from Sojourn Network sit down and talk about church planting and ministry, what they've learned, how they've grown, and what they might be able to pass along to others. 

This is actually the last episode of this season. On today's show, Sojourn Network's executive director, Dave Harvey, is sitting down with Jamaal Williams, and his wife, Amber. Jamaal is the pastor of Sojourn Midtown in Louisville, Kentucky. On today's show, Jamaal and Amber share their stories. They talk about their roles in ministry, their first pastorate, the transition to pastoring at Sojourn, and their passion for racial reconciliation and multicultural church. We hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening. ...

Dave Harvey: Well Jamaal, I've had the privilege of interviewing you before, but today we have the honor of you being joined by your wife, Amber. Amber, I'm so glad you could be a part of this interview. 

Amber Williams: Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. 

Dave Harvey: Now, Jamaal, probably helpful just to get some bio on you and Amber, married how long? 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah, we've been married nine years. Yup. Been married nine years. We've got five kids, three boys and two girls; ranging from the age of seven to two. We met in college at Michigan State University. It's been a joy. It's been a fun ride. 

Dave Harvey: Wow, five kids. That's what we used to call a quiver full. 

Jamaal Williams: That's right. 

Dave Harvey: Back in the day; but that phrase probably isn't used anymore. That's kind of went the way of disco or something. So Jamaal, born and raised where? 

Jamaal Williams: Yup, I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in Chicago in the Chicagoland area. I spent part of my time actually in the city in Chicago. My dad was a church planter; planted a church in the inner city of Chicago. But I went to high school in the south suburbs of Chicago. 

Dave Harvey: Okay, but you were basically raised in the church. 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah, pretty much. Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

Dave Harvey: Now, was there a discernible point of conversion for you? 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah, I believe I genuinely gave my life to the Lord when I was around 10 years old. My father came to faith and it was a pretty dramatic conversion. He knew the Bible really well. He was raised in a Christian home, but would have probably said that he was just a moralist. One day, he had a dream, actually, that just scared him to death. He came home from work that day and told us as a family about that dream. He felt that the Lord was telling him to truly turn to Him and to trust Him, and to give his life to Him. My father was a different man after that. 

I saw how the gospel can change someone from the inside out. Him and my mom had a pretty, at times, vocally violent relationship. They could kind of just explode, and blow up on each other. It was really hectic growing up in that household; but both of them surrendered their life to Christ. I was probably around the age of nine when that happened. By seeing how the gospel changed them from the inside out, it impacted me, and eventually I just surrendered my life to the Lord. I was discipled by my dad. 

Dave Harvey: Wow. Amber, I want to ask you the same question, but Jamaal, I mean just take us back to the moment where your dad walks in the door and he's had this dream. You're doing what? Then, how does he announce what's happened? 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah. I'm at home with my sister. He comes in, in the door, closes the door. I still remember the door just shutting. I remember the creak of the sound. He begins to tell us about this dream. 

He gets trash bags and begins to go through the house and throw away all the secular music and videos that we had, just regular movies, videos, and saying, "We're cleaning house today. We want to start from scratch. The Lord in a dream revealed to me that Satan has a stronghold in our house, and as for me and my house, we're going to serve the Lord." I remember thinking he was crazy. I ran to the phone and I called my mom. 

I said, "Dad has lost his mind. He's throwing away all our Michael Jackson albums, Prince." He was having fun with it, too. 

He was like, "Jamaal, look at this one," and then just threw it away. 

I'm like, "What are you doing?"

He's like, "Today's a new day." He literally cleaned our house. We had kind of a bootleg Blockbuster Video going on in our house, where he would bootleg videos and people from the neighborhood would come and rent videos. We had them in the alphabetical order. Everything was ordered, and dad, he came in and just cleaned house. After that, we began to read through the Bible together, read through Proverbs, and the Psalms. [crosstalk 00:05:12] was just shaping my heart because of the way that he was radically loving my mom, and the way in turn that my mom was radically loving him. It was absolutely incredible. 

Dave Harvey: That's a remarkable conversion. 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah. 

Dave Harvey: Wow. I mean that's not one you just kind of move away from quickly. 

Jamaal Williams: That's right. ... 

Dave Harvey: I'm just so glad that God breaks in like that. My conversion story is, yeah, I don't quite remember the day or the moment.

Jamaal Williams: Yeah. 

Dave Harvey: Then you have the ones like your dad, and your own, where God breaks in, in a definitive way, and just changes somebody. 

Jamaal Williams: He does. 

Dave Harvey: Amber, how about you? Born and raised where? 

Amber Williams: Yeah, I was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I'm one of six kids; five girls and one boy. I am the fourth and the fourth girl in the family. 

Dave Harvey: Were you raised in the church similar to Jamaal as well? 

Amber Williams: I was. Both of my grandparents were pastors, so we went to my dad's, dad's church, which was kind of like a family church. My dad had a big family, so it was kind of just full of aunts, and cousins, and all that good stuff. So yeah, I grew up in church. 

Dave Harvey: Was there a memorable moment of conversion for you? 

Amber Williams: Mine's probably similar to yours, Dave. For as long as I can remember, I remember having a heart for God. I don't know that I could say ... I believe the Lord saved me at a young age. I did kind of grow up with an understanding though, that you say the prayer, you confess your sins, and put your trust in Jesus, but if you sinned, then you kind of had to do it again. 

I always say, "I got saved every night." But it probably was after my seventh grade year, I went to a Bible camp. I had told my camp leader that yes, I was a Christian. We would have activities, and after every activity, they would share the gospel. After one of the activities, they shared the gospel. I raised my hand and said I wanted to be saved. They told my counselor, and she came and talked to me. 

She said, "You know, Amber, I thought you said that you were Christian." 

I was like, "Yeah, I am, but I just ... I just don't feel like I'm being as good a Christian as I should be, or as I can, so I wanted to do it again." 

That was the first time that I had heard where it actually resonated, that she said, "You know you don't have to keep getting saved." 

I was like, "Hmmm." So I kind of pondered through that. 

Dave Harvey: [crosstalk 00:07:31] ... a relief, huh? 

Amber Williams: Yeah, it was a relief. I don't think it really ... It really didn't take root probably that reality until high school, and then really, really until college, of just knowing that God is the one that saves, and that God keeps us. That was a huge weight, just that realization. 

Dave Harvey: [crosstalk 00:07:49] ... definitely stuck after that seventh grade experience. 

Amber Williams: It did. I think, and really after my ninth grade year of high school, I got involved in the youth ministry outside of school, and that connected with our church. Just seeing a lot of young people on fire for God. A lot of my friends would probably say, at that point, there was a big shift in me of just like, I'm going to pour my life out for God. That's probably when a big shift had happened. I mean I was always known as the church girl, but after my ninth grade year, then it was like a different game, different ball game. 

Dave Harvey: Amber, here's a question I have for you. Was there a specific moment where Jamaal said to you, 'You know what, Amber? I think I'm called to preach. I think I'm called to be a pastor,' or was that in assumption he brought into the relationship? 

Amber Williams: When Jamaal and I started talking, dating, I knew then ... kind of when we met, I knew that he was going into the ministry. I knew that, that was ... that he was probably going to do that. That wasn't really a shock. It was surprising because I had already made up my mind that pastors were on the list of people I did not want to marry. I had a long list of people, but they were on the list. But by the time we actually met, I had come to terms with that. 

Dave Harvey: How did God help you come to terms with that?

Amber Williams: Honestly, my rationale for that was fear driven. I mean I had police officers, anyone that had served in the Armed Forces, firefighters, ... Basically, anyone that could potentially die on their job, and anyone that I felt like would be gone for long periods of time. For some reason, I associated pastors with people that would not be home. I was like if I get married, I want to be with my husband. I think the Lord just kind of helped me to see that, that was a fear driven motivation and not a faith driven motivation. Then, after the Lord started to work through my heart, and like give it that hunger, more of that hunger for him, I actually saw it as a great opportunity. I was excited about it. 

Dave Harvey: Yeah, that's really interesting. That's a very reasonable place to land as a single woman. 

Amber Williams: Yeah. 

Dave Harvey: And probably an accurate assumption about pastoral ministry. In my experience, about 50% of the wives who hear that their husbands may feel called to ministry, at least instinctively, they don't feel that corresponding support. It's kind of how the husband leads and cares for her with that doubt that becomes an important part of his preparation for ministry, but you kind of came in having engaged God on that, and were ready to go. 

Amber Williams: Yeah, I was. I had a lot of support from my family. Jamaal did a really great job. Thus far into our marriage, I feel like he's got a good balance of home and church. Of course, there are seasons where it's busier than others, but it has not ... my fears about that have not been realized. 

Dave Harvey: So Jamaal, what was the pathway for you, then? Because it sounds like it was happening before you even met Amber. What did that look like? I'm talking specifically about the pathway from sensing a call to preach, to actually preaching, or sensing a call to preach to actually pastoring a church. Walk us down that road. 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah, that's great. So I'll just real quick, Dave, I had two grandparents, two grandmothers who even when I was younger, from the age of six, they used to let us really speak and prophesize to my life, and tell me that I had a call. So even before my conversion, I was really interested in the things of the ministry, and felt like that was the trajectory that the Lord was calling me on. Then when I saw my father come to faith, and he was a pastor, I knew that, that was coming. I say that because when I got to college, I just went through a deep season of loss. I lost friends to death, and suicide, to relationship that imploded that I thought was going to lead to marriage. When I went to college, even though I had this deep sense of call, loved the Bible, I think was a disciple of my father, I kind of intentionally rebelled against the Lord. 

Long story short, a pastor came into my life, met him like at a grocery store. He just kind of reached out to me and invited me to an on-campus Bible study, and got me in my rebellion while I was trying to intentionally just suppress the spirit and do my own thing. Man, he poured his life out to me, and just discipled me. Then eventually, just brought me on staff for his church that he had planted and started. 

He really invested in college students, and his church was mainly led by college students. He gave me opportunity after opportunity to serve, to preach. I eventually became the president his Bible study that meant on campus, that was just full of mostly black and brown people within a varsity. I found myself regularly as a college student preaching on Sunday, and teaching on Sunday, and kind of just learning as I went. 

That call to preach honestly was there, and I was really intrigued with preaching from the age of six or seven. I used to sit on the first row of the pew at church when a sermon would come. My dad used to sit up there, I sit up there with him and just take notes of the preachers. I kind of fell in love with just the art of preaching and delivering God's word. I really felt that burden after I went wayward, and the Lord came and got me to just proclaim this gospel, and to try to be as effective of a communicator as I can. 

Dave Harvey: So that sense of God rescuing you from that lifestyle or whatever was going on, God bringing you back also came with ... came with it this was this sense of call to preach the gospel. 

Jamaal Williams: Absolutely, it's that Romans 1:14 when Paul talks about how he's obligated to preach, right? To Jews, to Greeks, to barbarians, to everyone. He's obligated because of the debt that he owed. I really got a deeper sense of the debt that I owed, and I got that before when I was in high school. I mean they used to call me 'preacher.' I got to lead some friends to faith, and baptize them as a teenager; but there was even more of a sense of lossness, or debt that I recognized once I tried to go wayward. Didn't have peace, didn't have joy, knew that I was rebelling against God; but Him pursuing me in my back slid state and not allowing me to stay there just gave me a sense of deep obligation. 

Dave Harvey: Thank God for grace. 

Jamaal Williams: Amen. 

Amber Williams: Amen. ... 

Dave Harvey: Amber, often pastors' wives feel like they live with this sense of undefined role with the expectations from the church, there's more you should be doing, but you don't necessarily know what that is supposed to be. Is that something you've had to wrestle with as you've been a pastor's wife? 

Amber Williams: Yes and no. When we first got married, I felt some anxiety, because we went right from college graduating, to becoming a pastor's wife. There was no in between time there. 

I remember my mom started buying me church suits, and hats, and I was just kind of like, "Mom, I can't. I can't pull off the church suit. I can't pull it off." But I feel like Jamaal did a really good job at our first church of just guarding me in that regard. I felt no pressure to be or do anything. 

He had talked already to the congregation, and to the leader there and said hey, "My wife's ... You know, she's just not going to be doing, you know, this, and this, and that, just because you might think that, that she should." But also, the church was so loving, and great, and gracious that I really didn't feel that pressure. 

In addition to that, I do believe that God has called my husband, and as a pastor's wife, God has called me. So his ministry is my ministry. We won't be doing the same thing. It's not going to look the same way for everyone, but I see it as a great opportunity, too, to minister with him. I do enjoy being with women, and teaching, and having people in our home. I do see my call and my position as a pastor's wife, as a ministry. I want to steward that well. 

Dave Harvey: Yeah, and I think even as you look at the qualifications for a guy in ministry, or for a pastor, when it goes to issues like hospitality, I mean you can be single and do that, but it kind of assumes that the wife is pulled into play there. 

Amber Williams: Yeah. 

Dave Harvey: So while there isn't a job description for the wife, there is a sense where you're doing ministry together. That's supposed to be a joyful thing, and I'm delighted to hear that it is a joyful thing for you both. 

Amber Williams: Yeah. 

Dave Harvey: Now Jamaal, we've talked about this event before, but I think it's just a wonderful story. You were pastoring a storied church in Louisville, and you left there to pastor the Midtown Congregation with Sojourn Community Church. 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah. 

Dave Harvey: What was God doing in you that would open that door in your mind for that transition? What was God doing in your heart to take that kind of step? 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah. Yeah, I think God was doing a couple things, Dave. I went through a period, started pastoring at, I believe I was 24 years old. Wasn't anticipating or expecting to pastor at that young of an age, and we hit the place where I was lead pastor there for about eight years. The Lord had just worked amongst that congregation. It was our family. It was great. We felt like we finally hit that groove, and I was really pastoring. I just went through a season where I felt like, and I couldn't explain it. I was done, and the Lord had called me; like I had done what I was supposed to do. For months, I had just been praying, and seeking the Lord's face, and talking to mentors about that when the Lord just kind of providentially brought Sojourn Church before me. 

Also, [inaudible 00:18:02] has just been a huge part of my life and ministry, especially once I went to college with the college ministry I was part of; and even here in Louisville, the Lord used me to work in a number of circles to help people to have a biblical vision of what it looks like for people to be reconciled to each other across racial and ethnic lines. Sojourn was a great opportunity for that ministry we played out, and also just God's divine providence, and timing. 

Dave Harvey: That's really wonderful. Amber, I'm wondering what it was like for you to make that transition, because you're obviously in the same church. You're built in. You were talking about how accepted you were, how loved you were. You were there eight years. We probably have other women listening to this podcast that may have a transition coming because there's a church planting going on, or they're joining another church with their husband, or maybe their husband is taking on a ministry role. As you think back on that, what's one or two things that you would want them to know to bring sanity to this transition? 

Amber Williams: Yeah. Well, one I would say it's all right to grieve and for it to be hard. I remember when Jamaal first mentioned even the prospect of it. 

The first words that came out of my mouth were, "But what about Forest?" That was our church, Forest Baptist Church. Because like he said, they were our family. They were our mothers and grandmothers. We don't have any family here in the city, or we didn't at the time, so they were our family. We were so deeply ingrained there, just loved it. It was really hard to even consider that. We both thought that we would be there until we died, or until he retired. I would say it's all right to grieve, and for it to be hard. Don't be afraid of that. 

But second, I think the second step in that process for us was we really did pray and seek counsel on it. In doing that, it seemed clear from the Lord just through the counsel and in praying that, that was where the Lord was leading us. Even in my sadness, in our sadness, in our grieving, that did give both of us peace. We did really truly believe that it was the Lord leading. 

Dave Harvey: Yeah, I really appreciate that answer because I think that it's so easy to skip over the reality of the impact in order to kind of get on with the mission of what God has called us to do. 

Amber Williams: Yeah. 

Dave Harvey: One of the things you're talking about is that there is an impact, and it legitimizes the reality of that. We can't live in denial of that. You spend eight years in one congregation, and those relationships go deep. You build memories. There are things that you've shared together, families built together. There is an understandable grieving that has to take place, but what you said, Amber, of just how God then gave you vision as well. God doesn't just leave us lamenting, but he gives us vision for the future. I'm so grateful to God that that's the experience that most people have. 

Jamaal Williams: Dave, I'll add I think a big part of us making that transition, and being able to make it as a couple together was this godly counsel. We had also my mentors, we just asked, speak into our lives. Let us know if we should be here and plant, or if we should leave. To our surprise, every single mentor said 'Go,' and they were great supporters of us at Forest. We were really shocked that they, all of them felt like this was the Lord opening up a door. 

The Bible talks about how there's this wisdom in a multitude of counselors, and when they say 'Go,' that was kind of affirmation. As well as Forest elders, and the leaders at Forest. We told them six months in advance before actually leaving. We didn't want it to be a two week notice and then leave. Ephesians 4, 'Speak the truth and love.' We wanted to be honest upfront, and have those elders wrestle with us. They helped us kind of discern God's will and make the decision, and supported us along the way. 

Dave Harvey: Well, I'm really glad you added that point, Jamaal, because I do think that there is a lot of temptation for people that are considering transitions to just kind of take it upon themselves to broker their own calling, and to not recognize the reality of being built into a church, the reality of teams, the reality of pastoral care; even the reality of authority. Not that people have an authority to keep you there, but just an authority that you've sat under the word, that you've been with these people, that you have relationships. How good and wise it is to seek counsel and to recognize that those relationships should play an important part in a transition like this. I'm really glad that's part of the story for you two. 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah. 

Amber Williams: Yeah. 

Dave Harvey: Now Jamaal, you and Amber are involved in the church planting network that is predominantly white. Now, we're seeking to change that, but it's ... it is predominantly white. I'm curious, what challenges for you as a couple, maybe for Jamaal starting with you as an African American leader, just to walk that road? 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah. 

Dave Harvey: What makes it worth it? 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah, I think in terms of just challenges, any time you are not of the ethnic kind of majority, there's just a barrier of just, of course language, and comfort, especially when you first enter, and you just don't know people. It just feels like there's a distance, and there is kind of a hindrance of nearness and intimacy with people, just because naturally within cultures, certain cultures like certain things, and eat different things, and watch different television shows. It's not as easy to just kind of pull from cultural things to make connections. 

Especially when we first entered into the network, for me in particular, that was just harder. I felt like people were loving. People were welcoming. People were very friendly, but there was always that distance. But what I found, Dave, is that distance was overcome just by familiarity. One thing that I think the network does well is have multiple conferences, and opportunities throughout the year to connect with people. You become family with people, and those things, that gap becomes less impactful, so to speak. You find common things now to share and to talk about. I would say that was one of the kind of bigger challenges that we had in the beginning. 

Also, just the basic stuff of music, of even just the way within African American culture, just that we do church, or that we preach, or just the preaching moment, was things that we had to adjust to. The things that make it worth it is Sojourn Network really is a family. We have really built some great relationships. Just like we, at Sojourn Community Church where I pastor, we learn to put down our preferences and pick up our crosses. We also see brothers and sisters who are in leadership actively pursuing us, and pursuing reconciliation with all people within a network, and wanting to see the network to diversity, and not just to promote tokenism, or anything like that, but to genuinely have people at the table who are leading and who have a voice, and who are seeking to just grow and learn. That has been a blessing that's made it a lot easier. 

Dave Harvey: Amber, anything you want to add to that? 

Amber Williams: Yeah. I think that God has just given both Jamaal and I a heart for reconciliation, a heart to see that revelations picture of the church, of people from every nation, tribe, tongue. For me, that's a big burden, like just a multi-cultural perspective. I always see that as an opportunity. An opportunity to bridge the gap, an opportunity to start painting that picture. It gives me life. It's something that I enjoy, and I would not want to not be a part of. 

Dave Harvey: Well, this gives me just the opportunity to thank God for you, Jamaal, for both of you, but I know for Jamaal in particular. I feel like you have been very patient with me as I have been seeking to find my way as a network leader. I feel like I'm so glad you're there, because I feel like you've mentored me in some of the areas of ignorance that I've walked in. 

Then, just the point Amber was making, I'm so grateful that you both carry that vision for the future, and that vision for what's held out in revelation, and to try to see that happen on earth before it happens in heaven, so I thank God for you both. 

Jamaal Williams: Well, we appreciate it, man. It's a joy to journey with you, and we look forward to seeing what the Lord is going to do in the future. We are very hopeful for the church, and that we'll be a network, and that our churches will become churches where everyone feels welcome, and where the world can look in and say, 'Man, there's something. There's something unique happening here,' and we know that's the result of the Holy Spirit working. 

Dave Harvey: Let it happen, Lord. 

Jamaal Williams: Mm-hmm (affirmative). ... 

Dave Harvey: A question for both of you, because I'm thinking about your experiences you were talking about earlier of leaving your church, and then coming to Sojourn Community Church. I wanted to get you both thinking about others that might be undergoing the same kind of ... not just transition, but inheriting a new church, inheriting a pulpit. Jamaal, let's start with you. Talk to the pastor who's inheriting a new church. He's inheriting a new responsibility. What are the important things for him to keep in mind, and maybe what are some of the things for him to avoid? 

Jamaal Williams: That's right. Yeah, great question. I would say first, expect to suffer. Except to suffer. I think whenever we are making a major transition, we should just expect to suffer. Even in the Bible when we think about, and sometimes when we transition to church, to a different church, it's because we had to and we're coming from a situation of suffering. Other times, we're transitioning. We think, 'Okay, the Lord is leading us here, and maybe this will be a better situation for our family for a number of different reasons.' In both scenarios, just expect for spiritual warfare. 

When God gives Abram a vision to that through him, the nations, the world would be blessed, Abram goes through a season, a decade of testing and suffering. That can be said of every major Bible character, David, right? As he's getting ready for a new role. What happens? Suffering happens, right? 

That's just a part of it, and it may not be through the church. It may be through personal. It may be through health. We hear a lot about this even from missionaries who go on a mission field, as we talk to our sent ones who are around the country, and they talk about how they went through a season. Almost all of them, of just stripping, of just they're eager, on the field. They're glad to be there, and they're just like, 'Yo,' God just breaks them, and strips them. I think sometimes for us to receive the new season that we're in, the Lord continues to purge us. 

Second, I would say not only expect suffering, but preach the word. Preach the word. Make that your focus. I think going to Forest, and pastoring Forest for the first time, as well as coming to Sojourn, it's just like I just want to be faithful preaching. Anytime you make a transition to a new church, you need to give yourself time to adjust to that church, even with preaching. When I first came to Sojourn, it was really difficult because I had been preaching to the same people for 10 years, eight as the lead pastor. Now I'm preaching to a different set of people with a different set of assumptions, and a difficult culture. It took me probably a year anda half. I'm really just now getting comfortable with preaching and pastoring our people from the pulpit; but just stick with the word in season and out of season. Just read, study, apply, and illustrate the text to the best of your ability. 

Second, I would just say just come in and serve people. Look to be the servant, and don't come trying to make a point by making changes, and coming with a big vision. I think for the first year or two, the best thing you can do is just bless people. Meet them, ask questions, be genuinely curious about people and their story, and about the staff that you're working with. Get to know people. 

I just think that it's important that we don't enter into a situation saying, 'Okay, this is about me. Everybody gets to now experience who I am and my awesomeness.' For a pastor, it needs to be opposite like, man, we need a curiosity. I genuinely want to know these people. I want to know their stories. I want to- 

Dave Harvey: He's not just inheriting a job, [crosstalk 00:31:27] but he's inheriting a culture, and a history, and the person who leads without seeking to know that or understand that, or appreciate that is probably at the beginning of the end of that ministry. 

Jamaal Williams: That's right, yup. If you come in with a vision for the church from day one, it's probably not the right vision. You're probably trying to make something happen based upon what you want and desire, rather than seeking the face of the Lord. Vision should come from community. It's not just one pastor coming in saying, 'This is how it should be.' It's like contextualizing, knowing the people in that community, knowing the people that you're serving with. Then together, creating that vision so that they have ownership with it. It's not just you. That's one of the delights of being at Sojourn's. I feel like we have created values together. We are creating a vision together that's biblically based, and now everybody takes ownership rather than the lead pastor.

I would say if you're serving a more ... coming into a situation where there's more seasoned older senior saints, it's really important that you get to know them as well, and that you don't just kind of go for the demographic that you're used to serving, or that's your age. Make sure you're serving people who are different than you. Make sure that you're aware of those who are not in the majority, maybe cultural or ethnic majority there, that you're taking time to ask them questions, see what their experiences are, so that it could be a more robust and wholistic pursuit of pastoring. 

Dave Harvey: I'm going to make this my last question, but Amber, I want to begin with you. As you're thinking about some of the people that we're talking to, what is one thing, Amber, that you would want to convey to, let's call them your counterparts in ministry. Maybe it's women serving alongside of their husband as a pastor's wife, or if you want to go broader, just ladies who are in leadership within the church. What's one or two, if you prefer, just things that you would want that's on your heart to convey to these women in ministry? 

Amber Williams: Yeah, so two things. The first would be entrust yourself to the Lord. Part of our transition that probably was one of the second hardest things before we actually made it was I went through a season, kind of that whole period before we actually transitioned, of just extreme insecurity, and identity crisis; so self doubt. Going from a smaller church to Sojourn, I just had one like what is my place there? Is it there a need for me? Will the Lord use me? I'm not gifted enough. There's so many gifted people. I'm not gifted enough to do anything there. 

I just went through that wrestling period, but I think through that, the Lord was just impressing upon me just to entrust myself to Him, and to believe what the Bible says that the Lord has given all of us gifts, that we can just be fruitful.

Like my husband says, "Be fruitful where we're planted." Wherever we're planted, that we have an opportunity to be fruitful, so not to allow those fears, those insecurities, to overwhelm you, or to stifle you, but to just trust yourself to the Lord and believe that He's going to ... He's in control, and that He's going to use you. 

The second thing I would say would be to just love people. Seeing yourself as just we're called to love. To love people, and to be a picture of Christ's love for us. I think as women in leadership, or even as pastor's wives, I don't think we understand the impact of our loving people, of just being present in whatever way the Lord has gifted us. Just be present and love people, and trust that God will work through that. ... 

Dave Harvey: Jamaal, same question for you. What is one thing you would want to leave, or you would want to convey other pastors in ministry right now? 

Jamaal Williams: Yeah, I would say one, be yourself. Similar to what Amber is saying, just always be who God created you to be, whether it's in preaching or even in leading. It's okay if you're not strong in something, and something's not your strong suit, to admit that, and to put people around you, and to delegate to people who are strong enough. It's the body. That's something I'm just growing more accustomed to is just seeing my limitations as a blessing to the body, and that there's someone there in the body that God is gifting or going to raise up, or going to sin, to be able to do that. Know your strengths, and lean into that. 

Second, just be mindful of character. Speech is so important. People are going to trust you as their pastor and as their leader by what you say and what you don't say. Just make sure you're always growing in integrity with your speech, that you're trustworthy with your speech, that you're not gossiping and talking about people when they're not in the room in a way that you wouldn't speak about them if they were present. 

I think a lot of times, it's overlooked. That's just a major part of ministry. I think that's what James is getting at in James chapter 3:1, and that exhortation about the use of the tongues. It's actually written to leaders, and I think pastors, if we're going to preach the truth, we also have to speak the truth at all times, no matter who's in the room. 

Dave Harvey: Jamaal and Amber, thank you. Thank you for the way you serve Sojourn Community Church. Thank you for being a part of Sojourn Network, and thanks for joining us today. 

Jamaal Williams: Our joy. 

Amber Williams: Thank you for having us. [crosstalk 00:37:25] It's been a pleasure. ... 

Mike Cosper: That's our show. Thanks again for listening. You can learn more about Sojourn Network at SojournNetwork.com. You'll find our series of books, articles on the blog, and information about our upcoming leaders summit. Today's episode was recorded by Mark Owens. It was produced and edited by TJ [Hester 00:37:54]. It was mixed by TJ Hester. Our music is by Sojourn Music. Thanks for listening. We'll see you soon. 


This episode produced by Mike Cosper
Editing by Mike Cosper and TJ Hester
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