The new general overseer for the Church of God, Mark Williams, was elected on the closing day of the 74th International General Assembly. He was commissioned and delivered his first sermon as general overseer Friday evening to close out GA2012.
The following is a re-print of a profile which ran in the General Assembly TODAY publication and outlines Williams background, his family and deep roots in the Church of God and a glimpse into the future of the denomination.
By Cameron Fisher
Anyone who has heard the preaching of Rev. Mark Williams is familiar with his unique and disciplined style of ministering the Word. His scripture text is memorized. His points are precise. His delivery is impeccable. His anointing is genuine.
For those familiar with his leadership record, you know he has served in numerous posts, starting as a young evangelist traveling on the weekends while a student at Lee University. Upon graduation he continued that evangelistic track for a decade, ministering across the nation in camp meetings, youth camps, prayer conferences, and conducting local church revivals. It was behind the concession stand at a Texas youth camp in 1985 where he first spotted Sandra Kay Collins, who would become his bride four years later.
In 1995 he took his first pastorate, the South Cleveland (Tennessee) Church of God, one of the oldest continuing congregations in the denomination. After four years, the family, which now included Sandra Kay, and their young son, Austin, moved to Florida to assume the pastorate of the Riverhills Church of God in Tampa. In Tampa they would be blessed with a second son, Ryan, born in 2001.
The year before accepting the Riverhills pastorate, Rev. Williams would be honored with a signature event of his ministry: delivering the youth night message at the Church of God General Assembly in San Antonio, Texas in 1994.
During the five years the Williams family spent at Riverhills, the church would experience exponential growth, becoming one of the more prominent congregations in the movement. He would be elected to the Florida state council and was a chaplain with the Tampa Fire and Rescue. His ministerial colleagues acknowledged his leadership by electing him to the Council of Eighteen at the 2000 General Assembly in St. Louis. In 2004, Church of God officials took note of this up and coming leader and appointed him state overseer of California-Nevada.
While pouring into the lives of the pastors and laypersons, Mark and Sandra Kay invested as much or more spiritually into the lives of their two boys. Without compromise, their sons were raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord, yet encouraged to participate in community and school activities, to strive to be all God has called them to be. Upon accepting the nomination as general overseer earlier this week, Mark made a promise to his sons: “I will still be your Dad,” to which the General Council gave a standing ovation.
The General Assembly of 2008 was a pivotal moment in the ministry of Mark Williams as he was elected to the position of second assistant general overseer at the age of 44. The last four years he has mentored and been mentored by his fellow executive committee colleagues Wallace Sibley, David Griffis, Tim Hill and Raymond Culpepper. The five have prayed, toiled, laughed, and worked diligently through some of the most trying financial decisions ever heaped upon the leadership of the Church of God. These and other challenges have brought the next general overseer well equipped for the task.
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Besides being well equipped and experienced in leadership, Mark Williams comes to the office of general overseer with a rich heritage and loyalty to the Church of God. Born in Lubbock, Texas in 1963 to W.F. (Bill) and Rose Marie Williams, he is third generation Church of God. His father and maternal grandfather were both Church of God ministers. Saved in Iowa Park, Texas at the age of seven, Mark has been on a path to ministry ever since, even though he did not receive his “call” to ministry until he was a student at Lee in 1984. First enrolling at the University of Denver in 1982, he transferred to the Church of God college in 1983, eventually receiving a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. His commitment to the total package of Church of God education continued when he received the Master of Divinity from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in 1989. He is currently nearing completion of coursework toward the Doctor of Ministry degree from the seminary.
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Anyone who has spoken with Mark Williams immediately senses his congenial nature and passion for others. Although called to full-time ministry, his interests are varied and help define his character. At a recent gathering of friends, the group was asked to write down two things others might not know about you. He was able to stump the crowd when he shared his two unknowns: 1) he was a 70s music radio disc jockey and 2) he once crashed into an airplane with a gas truck. Both involved former occupations.
“In high school I developed a great interest in radio,” Williams shared. He became mildly famous as the young DJ on KVWC in Vernon, Texas and eventually to the larger Wichita Falls market and KNIN where he played country, Top 40 and 70s hits. The experience helped with his memorization as he can quote the lyrics of most any song from the 70s era.
A job at a local airport did not turn out as well where he was tasked with filling small planes with gas. A wrong turn brought his truck in contact with a small Cessna. He was asked to, “take the rest of the day off.”
For leisure, the next Church of God General Overseer loves to vacation at the beach with his family. He loves the ocean, water sports, jet skis, fly fishing and four wheeling. A former starting forward on his high school basketball team, Mark’s love of sports has migrated to baseball and he is a fan of the Atlanta Braves. While in California, he attended games at all five of the Major League Parks.
“Baseball is a game where time doesn’t matter,” he says, “the game isn’t over until the home team gets the last at bat.”
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Being the people’s choice for the Church of God’s new leader is humbling, but a task he takes very seriously. He sees a unique opportunity not afforded previous leaders to be able to project a four year ministry plan rather than two. He is grateful for the theme of this Assembly, “Living the Word: Empowered for Our Future,” as it hits a hot button of passion.
“I want to see the Church of God emphasize the centrality and power of scripture,” Williams stated. “Many new believers enter salvation with a scriptural innocence. They have not even heard of ‘dreaming Joseph’ or ‘fearless David and his sling.’ I want our church to learn, live, and love the Word.”
“These days there are lots of opportunities to engage in scripture, via the Internet and through apps on iPhones and iPads,” Williams said. “You can always have the Word of God in hand.” He has a longing for children and students of the 4/14 window to view the church as a place that captures their dreams.
He also has a passion to stop human trafficking, to plant churches in rural areas as well as large cities, and a desire to see pastors return to being shepherds.
“I am afraid that, in our culture, we have lost what it means to be a shepherd. Too many times pastors feel they must acts as CEOs. I want to see the Church of God equip and deploy shepherds.”
While just in the infancy stages of his vision for the next four years and beyond, Mark Williams sees the big picture. His heritage, praying family, intense training, and experienced leadership gives the Church of God a bright and secure future as he leads by the Master’s hand.
Cameron Fisher is coordinator of communications for the Church of God and served as editor of General Assembly TODAY.