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big words from a small cowboy

A tribute to Jack Williams

by Eric Thomsen, Managing Editor, ONE Magazine

Cowboy Jack is a small man in one sense. He would probably be the first to admit he barely stands eye-level with long stirrups on a short horse. But in other ways, Jack Williams is the biggest man I know. He is a preachin’ cowboy who rode across several decades of Free Will Baptist history on a trusted horse called Contact Magazine.

He navigated the rough terrain of denominational politics and prickly issues armed only with integrity, the Word of God, the ability to communicate . . . and gallons of strong, black coffee. And when Jack rode off into the sunset in search of his next adventure, he left big tracks across this denomination. He slipped off down the trail quietly, without pomp or fanfare, but the impact of his timeless words will resonate for years to come.

We’ve corralled a few of his best moments. It’s the least we could do for the quiet cowboy who left his brand on all of us.



The best of us are difficult sometime; the rest of us are difficult more frequently.

A trust betrayed can be forgiven, but even forgiveness cannot restore abandoned integrity.

Nobody’s born whining. It’s an acquired tastelessness.

Biblical success is a master of disguise, robed not in superlatives but in everyday circumstances and ordinary individuals.

What’s the going rate for a man’s character? The principle is the same regardless of the price.

Playing second fiddle takes more talent than most people think. In fact, second fiddle may be the most important instrument in the band.

No man ever gets above being accountable, especially the man who holds a pen in one hand and a Bible in the other.

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to spot the difference between constructive criticism, which is always appropriate, and malicious criticism, which is never appropriate.

The next time you feel taken for granted, rejoice because someone has that much confidence in you.



When you’re a preacher, exams come twice each Sunday.

Remember that you’re a shepherd, not a CEO. The CEO may be the man in charge, but the shepherd is the one they call when life hurts.

Somewhere there may be an overpaid pastor, but I don’t know any.

In my opinion, if the typical preacher were a dog, he’d be a beagle. You know the type—hard worker, loyal, warm nose, floppy ears, eats anything he can find, wouldn’t bite you on a bet, kind of clumsy in matters of social grace but all class in matters of character.

If your pastor is not overworked yet, there’s a good chance he soon will be unless you do something to prevent it.

The pastor may get his orders from God, but he has to work with us.

Marriages are built on trust. So are local churches. A marriage with no trust is a prison. A local church with no trust is a barbed wire fellowship.



I’m not noble enough to say I enjoy tough times, yet I’m realistic enough to admit I need them.

My advice to you the next time you get caught between the bull and the buffalo—be real courteous to the guy holding the rope.

Take charge of your own life. If you don’t, somebody else will.

Don’t worry. Making mistakes won’t kill you. It might be expensive and embarrassing, and you’ll probably wish you’d never done it or said it or bought it—but you will survive!

Perhaps the greatest success in Christ is the man who knows he’s a failure outside of Christ.

I like the way God writes obituaries for His people. They all end, not with a period, but with a comma.

Relax. One of God’s unexpected detours may turn out to be the ride of your life.

Thank God for the right to make mistakes and the strength to rise above them.

If a man never lies, he won’t have to worry about what he said last time.

That woman is a great woman who walks through life, head erect, whispering encouragement to the man whose dreams rest on her confidence in him.

Nobody tells the story of redemption like the man who has been redeemed.



If you have nothing to say, please don’t.

Putting error into print does not make it true.

Exclamation points? Hunt them down and kill them.

What I feared most was that I would be unfair in print.

Those who wield the journalistic sword must be careful where they lay the edge of the blade lest they harm the innocent while probing for truth.

There’s no gentle way to say this—writing is hard work.

The present may belong to you, the future to your children. But the past becomes what writers say about it.



While my critics keep me honest, my friends keep me interrupted.

No hurt sears deeper than when friends betray each other.

I now realize that my critics are often my best friends.



The Church doesn’t change the nation on election day but on the Lord’s day.

One of the paradoxes of Christian citizens is that we want the best, but we tolerate the worst.


Free Will Baptists

Somehow, in 1935, our fathers found the maturity and the tolerance to put aside personal preferences, and the foresight to recognize that the only way they could reach their goals was by sacrificially cooperating together.

The Free Will Baptist denomination owes a towering debt to a generation of gentle giants who cast long shadows across the 20th century.

That’s Home Missions work—empty seats, few people, and a long, long road. Only the God-called better try it.

Perhaps it’s time we consider electing more stable businessmen and educators to our boards. If they’re sharp enough to beat inflation Monday through Friday and dedicated enough to bow before God on Sunday, they’re smart enough to serve on our national boards.

Even blind statistics will tell us that there’s bound to be more untapped talent in 230,000 laymen than in 2,400 overworked pastors.

If it’s in the Bible, Free Will Baptists believe it book, chapter, and verse.

The fragile flower of unity demands constant vigilance and diplomacy, especially in a denomination as diverse as ours.

We cannot allow self-styled guardians, no matter how well intentioned, to force absolute conformity in areas where the denomination has not spoken and may not care to speak.

We’re no longer an adolescent denomination stalking the frontier searching for our destiny. It’s time we started giving God a higher return on His investment.

Free Will Baptists have driven to the one-yard line more often than any other religious group in American history. And we’ve fumbled so often that we resemble a quarterback with grease on his fingers.

I feel better about my denomination than the farmer who sent his wife an anniversary card with the bittersweet message: “I’ve never met a woman who would make a better wife than you. But I’m still looking.”


©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists