Dr. J. L. Williams was an evangelist and teacher who traveled around the world in apostolic ministry as God led and enabled him. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, he mentored key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures. He was relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships. J. L. went home to be with the Lord on December 28, 2016.
“…the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood.” (Heb. 13:11-12)
Dear NDI Partner,
Easter is a time to be “outside the gate” of religion and society. For me personally, it is not a time to be “in church.” While that is certainly a very appropriate way to celebrate Easter, it is not the primary place God has called me to. That’s because the first Easter events did not take place within the boundaries of social society. Nor did it take place within the gilded walls of religion. As the verse above clearly reveals, Good Friday and Easter took place “…outside the city gate.”
A close study of the Gospels clearly reveal that both Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection did not take place inside the precincts of the “Holy City” of Jerusalem. They took place in the unholy social and religious precincts “outside the camp…outside the city gate.” Both these events took place at a rugged and ugly place called “The Skull.” It doesn’t get more socially or religiously unacceptable than that! You were only taken there if you were a real outsider.
The geographical location of these first Easter events was a very specific fulfillment of prophecy and practice. With great specificity, God had instructed His people that the “sin offering” must be burned “... outside the camp” (EX. 29:14; Lev. 4:12; 9:11; 16:27). While the blood was to be sprinkled on the horns of the altar inside the Temple precincts, the body had a different destination. We read: “…the hide of the bull and all its flesh, as well as the head and legs, the inner parts…that is, all the rest of the bull…must be taken outside the camp…and burned” (Lev. 4:12). In perfect fulfillment of this Old Testament foreshadow, we are told that: “Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood.”
Note carefully also that the purpose for Christ suffering “outside the city gate” was so that He could “…make the people holy through His own blood.” So the total purpose for Christ’s death and resurrection was relational. It was so He could redeem a people for Himself and make them “holy.” The word “holy” means to “sanctify, set apart.” His death was so that He could open a way for a personal relationship with “outsiders” with the living God. The message of Easter is Good News precisely because through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus we “outsiders” were made “insiders” with God! That’s the kind of intimacy that Jesus provided for us with His Abba Father.
Later Peter would write that we are a “…chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (I Pet. 2:9). John saw a similar vision in his Revelation when he wrote that Jesus “…was slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…to be a kingdom of priests to serve our God” (Rev. 5:9-10). Talk about becoming a real “insider!” It doesn’t get any better than that!
Both Bible and Christian history show that the vast majority of the people who are purchased by the blood of Christ from every “…tribe, language, people and nation” come from “outside the gate.” That’s why Paul reminded the saints at Corinth:
“Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He choose the lowly things and the despised things – and the things that art not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him” (I Cor. 1:26 -29).
So the vast majority of people who respond to God’s grace are always the “outsiders” – not the “insiders.” It is the low caste…no caste…out-caste that respond to Him the most readily – not the high caste. It was true in the First Century and it is still true in the Twenty-First century that the vast majority of first responders to the Gospel are from “outside” the religious, social, political and economic structures. It is those who have been broken and humbled through sins and failures like alcohol, drugs, sexual abuse, divorce and financial failure – who most readily repent. It is the “poor in spirit” – not those who perceive themselves as “rich in spirit,” who kneel at the foot of His cross “outside the city gates.” And all of this sovereign grace is “…so that no one may boast before Him.” So when God calls and uses the “outsiders” in society – just like me, He gets all the more glory!
Because of this verse about where Jesus suffered and died, it has been a life-long tradition for me each Easter to be somewhere outside the camp…outside the city…outside the church…outside the ‘in group’…outside my comfort zone – sharing the glorious message of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. As a result, there have been very few Easters over the past 40 years of public ministry that I have not been somewhere preaching the Gospel to those who are on the “outside” of life. As I understand the New Testament, that’s what Easter is all about. That’s why I have a very low tolerance for Easter bunnies…Easter baskets…Easter candy…or Easter bonnets! Those are religious and cultural counterfeits for the real thing.
For those who know something about the history of NDI, you will remember that for many years we focused our Easter evangelism on the beaches where tens of thousands of high school and college students migrated (see pictures below). Those young people were there to celebrate anything and everything but the true meaning of Easter. They were on the beaches to “grab for gusto!” They were not there looking for Jesus. Those thousands of young people were there in the passionate pursuit of sun, sand, surf, suds and sex!
While the Grand Strands of North and South Carolina were some of the toughest mission fields we ever invaded – God always blessed our evangelistic efforts. Seeds were sown in “sandy soil” that was often soaked with suds! But the Word still took root and lives were transformed. Some were instantly changed right there on the beach where they prayed to receive Christ – in bathing suits and bikinis. Others did so much later when the Holy Spirit convicted them and brought them to repentance and salvation through the seeds that were sown when they were confrontation with the Gospel on the beach. Just as He promised, His Word never returned back to Him void or empty. It always changed lives one way or the other for time and eternity (Isa. 55:9-11).
If you will go to my personal web blog J.L.WIlliams.org and click on the top right button marked “Alumni,” you will see many more pictures from those exciting days of Easter ministry “outside the gate” on the beaches.
After those early musical ministry years of NDI, I have spent most of my Easters in some foreign country preaching Christ. This Easter will be no exception. I will be in Haiti for an exciting and diverse series of Easter Outreaches that will begin in the National Palace, or “Haiti White House.” Then there will be special Easter Sunrise Services in the down-town Champ-de-Mars Plaza in Port-au-Prince. It is sponsored by the 3 primary church alliances (CEEH, FEPH, HAVIDEC) and participated in by over 50 local churches. This will be followed by further Easter Services in Jacmel in the morning and finally one Sunday night in Verrettes in the Artibonite Valley. I will be the guest preacher at each of these events, interpreted by my long-time friend and partner, Pastor Chavannes Jeunes. So we will be “on the move” in the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus from Maundy Thursday to Easter evening!
In addition to preaching, we will be doing another series of Bible distributions to Government officials in 5 different departments, including all mayors in the Western region of Haiti. Again in partnership with Pastor Chavannes, we will be distributing thousands of French Bibles to these key government officials and workers.His goal is to put a Bible in the hands of every government worker throughout all of Haiti – which is some 100,000 people
! And we are well under way in reaching that goal.
We firmly believe thatonly the Word of God can change Haiti
! The Bible is clear that: “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). So only the applied Word of God can take Haiti from voodoo to Christ…from error to truth…from corruption to honesty…from deceit to integrity…from poverty to prosperity…from bondage to liberty!
Finally, I not only need your prayers for these Easter outreaches,I also need your financial support. So I hope that many of you will send in as generous a gift as possible. You can either do so through the mail with one of our return envelops you have already received. Or you can do so more quickly by giving on line through your credit card. Either way, I go by faith with the confidence of your spiritual and financial support
With you “outside the gates” for the Lord Jesus,
PS: Be watching for a report with pictures soon after I return from Haiti on Easter Monday. I think you will be blessed and encouraged by seeing what your prayers and partnership made possible.
Recently Patt and I had the privilege of teaching a Marriage Conference for the Wakefield Family Church, a predominantly African American Church located in Raleigh. The Conference was held at the lovely water front Embassy Suites Hotel at Kingston Plantation in Myrtle Beach. This wonderful church is led by Pastors Rodney & Valerie Frazier and Pastor Danny Peebles and his wife Monica.
A year ago this May, it was my privilege to travel and minister with Pastor Rodney and Pastor Danny in Zimbabwe, Africa, on our first “Ministry To The Motherland” trip, along with 3 other African American pastors. This is a new joint initiative by me and my good friend, Dr. Jim Seymour of ACTS, to help activate mission partnerships between African American pastors in the States with their counterparts in the “motherland” of Africa. It was an exciting and dynamic trip with these brothers whom we called “The Big Five”—several of whom were former NFL football players!
After their professional football careers were concluded, Pastors Rodney and Danny founded the Wakefield Family Church. It is a solid Biblical Church that is Spirit filled and rapidly growing in both depth and breadth. So what a joy it was to have this follow- time of fellowship and co-ministry with them. I also shared the ministry time with Pastor James Nixon from Wilmington, NC, and Biship E.L. Warren and his wife Ella, from quincy, Ill. What a joy for each of us to share God’s liberating Word on the subject of marriage and how we are to strive as couples for God’s spiritual, emotional and relational ideal of being “...naked and unashamed.” (This is the title of a new book on Sexual Intimacy in Marrige” that Patt and I are currently writing together—at 65 and 66 years of age!).
The Marriage Retreat started out on Friday night with a “70’s Party”—which was an absolute hoot! For Patt and me it was like going through a time warp back to the early days of our ministry—the tumultous Civil Rights Era in America. So get ready to laugh as you look at the following pictures from that “70’s Party” with all of the afros, mod clothes, bell bottoms, head bands, sun glasses, peace symbols and “in your face” attitudes! It was such fun! And I will soon be posting pictures of the ND’s going back to that era when we dressed and looked the very same way—so don’t miss it.
The final set of pictures are of the same group of Wakefield saints as they look today—minus the afros! So try to match the “before” and “after” pictuees of each couple! And if you are in the Wakefield area of Raleigh and want to visit an exciting church—check out the Wakefield Family Church.
God bless you for your continued prayers for Patt and me as we minister wherever God leads us in America and abroad…
In His Love,
Dear NDI Partner,
One of the uniquenesses of Biblical relationships is the authentic empathy that we feel toward other brothers and sisters within the Body of Christ. While we have a certain pathos and pity toward the plight of any hurting member of the human family, we have a more deep and personal empathy with family members who have experienced sorrow. As the Bible says, we are to “…weep with those who weep”” (Rom. 12:15).
Recently I went to India to do just that. I flew half-way around the world to be at the side of one of my beloved friends and partners, Bishop Ezra Sargunam. We have been in a covenant relationship for over 30 years. So when he lost his wife through a stroke, I had to drop everything and fly to Chennai (Madras) to be at his side. Fortunately I had a 10 year visa for India that made a sudden trip like this possible. I received the call of her death this past Friday, the very day she died. By God’s grace I was able to get a flight out the following afternoon and reached Chennai at 3:00 AM Monday morning before her funeral was schedule to begin at 9:00 AM. And I was honored to be asked to preach the special funeral message, as well as her Memorial Service the following evening before leaving to fly back home. I hope the following email I have just received back from Bishop Ezra about my brief visit will be a blessing and encouragement to you.
Thanks as always for your love, prayers and partnership. Next week I will write again about an exciting and challenging “Easter Outreach” that I will be involved in…
In His Comforting Love,
Sub: Thanks for Standing by our Side at this Time of Bereavement
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
Through this letter, I am hastening to respond to all those who sent emails, sympathy cards, telegrams and letters; personally visited, prayed or made phone calls to express your condolence after hearing about the sudden Home-Call of my beloved wife Mangalam.
At about 10:30 am on 20th February 2008, Mangalam was rushed to the hospital after she collapsed with an attack of what doctors later diagnosed as Grade IV Diffuse Subarachnoid Haemorrhage. She was in deep coma for nine days. We were so fortunate to even have world-renowned doctors like Kanno and Yoko Kato of Japan to examine her free of cost. Almost every one of them said that she could not be resuscitated because her brain was already dead. Thousands of God’s dear children from the ECI congregations and other friends from India and overseas prayed for her recovery. But it seemed as though God decided to take her back home to be with Him for ever and ever. She entered into glory at 2:15 pm on Friday, 29th February 2008, the tenth day of her hospitalisation.
I praise and thank God for her life as a wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandma and as an organiser and preacher. Personally, her loss is irreplaceable. My heart continues to be heavy because of the great vacuum she has left in my life. Thousands turned up to pay homage to Mangalam, including our believers, state leaders and others from various walks of life, at the Funeral Service that was held on 3rd March 2008 on the MTSC campus.
The Thanksgiving Service was held on the same premises the following day. Dr J L Williams rendered a very appropriate and comforting message recounting the life of Abraham and Sarah. He drew a parallel between Mangalam and Sarah and me and Abraham, as the Matriarch and Patriarch of ECI – comparisons we don’t deserve at all. He further drew a comparison between Mangalam and Sarah with the following “five-B” alliteration, for which JL is quite famous. Sarah was a woman of faith – BELIEVER. She was BEAUTIFUL both inwardly and outwardly. She was a BLESSED woman. She was a woman who kept herself BUSY – preparing meals at Abraham’s tent when strangers visited. She was BELOVED to her husband. When Sarah died (Genesis 23), Abraham wept and mourned for her, pointed out JL – “then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife”. So he told the congregation, “let your Bishop weep and mourn for Mangalam now. He will soon arise and the Lord will go on to use him mightier than ever before”. The entire gathering said, Amen and Hallelujah. I was personally encouraged by this message.
Please consider this as a personal letter to each of you from me and the girls, Sunlight and Moonlight. They are shell-shocked. Sunlight is going through trauma. Do continue to pray for us, as all of a sudden, I have become a widower, my daughters have lost their mother and the grandkids their grandma. I cannot think of a life without Mangalam at my side with her awesome presence and support. Please forgive us, dear partners, if we haven’t been communicating with you regularly for the last fortnight or so on various businesses, despite Bishop Sundar Singh taking an extremely heavy load in the midst of his own physical problems. I am sure you can understand our predicament at this tragic hour in my life and in the life of the church.
For us here at the ECI headquarters, life goes on now without Mangalam, but of course with the continued presence of our Lord. I feel like ‘half the man I used to be’, after losing my better half. Do you know of someone who after having lost a wife ‘arose’ like Abraham and had much more productive years of ministry? I wish to hear from you.
I again thank you for your prayers and for standing by our side at this most critical hour in our lives.
Cordially in Christ,
M EZRA SARGUNAM