one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids
by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
The Legacy of a Word Fitly Spoken
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).
A word can be a powerful thing. I’ve personally known few people who could use words more skillfully or precisely than Jack Williams. Long before I became executive secretary, I was a fan of practically anything that flowed from his pen. Anyone who read his work agreed he had a way with words.
Brother Jack was an eloquent speaker. When speaking in a public forum he had the uncanny ability to hold audiences mesmerized by painting colorful word pictures while using plain, easily understood language. He could effectively communicate with folks on both ends of the intellectual spectrum.
Privately, he earned the reputation for being an encourager. He had a knack for building people up rather than tearing them down. His words instilled confidence and a sense of self-worth in individuals who lacked those important qualities. Until we get to Heaven, we will never know how many people stayed in the race because Jack Williams was on the sideline cheering them on to the finish line.
He was a prolific writer. Few Free Will Baptists have been published more than Jack. He served as editor of Contact magazine for almost 30 years. Subscribers eagerly flipped to his legendary Briefcase column and the Currently section in each issue. He made significant written contributions to the work of the Historical Commission.
On one particular occasion, I found his printed words especially comforting. A couple of days after my father’s death, I received a letter from Brother Jack. I was amazed at his insight and how accurately he described my relationship to my father. His words gave me the courage, strength, and confidence I needed to preach my dad’s funeral a few days later.
Jack Williams was a peacemaker. Finding myself on the “hot seat” in a controversial situation, I tapped into Jack’s vast experience and wisdom to create a written statement that would be closely scrutinized. He saved grief and criticism by helping me choose the appropriate words.
Another time he assisted me as I chaired a meeting and tried to facilitate conflict resolution. Thanks to his historical perspective, humble spirit, and tearful appeal, we managed to reach an understanding and avert an outcome that otherwise might have had tragic consequences for one of our national ministries.
Jack had a servant’s heart. Prior to my election as executive secretary in 2002, I asked him if he had ever considered applying for the position. I’ll never forget his response: “My job is to wash the hands of Elijah.” During the time we worked together, I never questioned his loyalty.
Jack Williams was vertically challenged, but few people stood taller or had a greater impact on our denomination. May God raise others to fill the vacancy he leaves and carry on his legacy of words fitly spoken.
About the Column
One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.