After seven years of pastoring one of Louisville’s oldest black churches, Jamaal Williams sensed the Lord telling him his appointed task there was complete. It was time to move on. But to confirm that sense, he first needed to get away. Taking only his Bible and a few books on a week-long retreat to a monastery that miraculously had a last-minute vacancy, Williams just happened to run into Sojourn Community Church founding pastor Daniel Montgomery, who was also desperately seeking solitude.
Instead of spending their respective, desired time alone, the two pastors who are both Southern Seminary alumni set out on an hour-long walk that turned into four. After a week of discussion, Williams and Montgomery said they sensed the Lord calling them to partner together in ministry.
After Sojourn’s elders and executive team overwhelmingly approved the transition, Williams was installed as campus pastor of Sojourn Midtown Jan. 13 in a special service featuring a message from Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
One of the fastest-growing churches in the United States, Sojourn’s largest congregation is located in Louisville’s Shelby Park, a majority black neighborhood. But prior to calling Williams, Sojourn had no African-American pastors. While recognizing his preaching style, interactions with others, and personality may present challenges to some white members, Williams says he is focused on leading in such a way that Sojourn can flourish as a multiethnic display of God’s kingdom.
“My goal moving to Sojourn is to pastor well and to persevere with joy,” Williams said. “It’s to pastor in a way that allows people to fall deeply in love with Jesus, so much so that their lives are marked by humility and counting other people as more significant than themselves.”
Williams has already led a congregation as it learned to value others more significantly. During his pastorate at Forest Baptist Church, Williams preached for several months through the doctrine of the Trinity, showing his people from God’s Word how they were to relate to God and to one another. His leadership helped the historically black church embrace community groups, which blossomed from a deeper understanding of Christian unity.
As Sojourn adapts its worship style, preaching, and outreach to engage more diverse groups, Williams says he hopes Midtown will also be “willing to put aside their preferences and their comfort for the sake of the gospel and for other people.”
“And then everything else will fall in place,” he added.
SBTS degrees: M.A. (2014); Ed.D. student, Black Church Leadership
Family: Jamaal Williams met his wife, Amber, during his senior year at Michigan State University. They wrote letters during a three-year courtship while he was at SBTS before marrying in 2009. The couple has three children: Nia, Josiah, and Kayla.
Life quote: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
— William Carey