A few weeks ago, I received the heartbreaking news that one of my friends in the ministry had been tragically killed. Claude Williams left behind a wife and 3 boys. We was a kind, gentle soul who was a campus pastor as one of the branches at Celebration Church in Louisiana. Claude was a tremendous husband to his wife and a firm but fair godly father to his children. He was a man who seemed to be perfectly shaped for God’s ministry. In just one moment, his life was snuffed out by a drunk driver. We would talk more about that in this blog but that is not where we are going today.
You see, Claude wasn’t always someone you would think would be in Christian ministry. Over 25 years ago, he struggled with alcohol, drugs, and the party life. In high school, he was an accomplished athlete, but fell into the lifestyle of partying as do many young men (Bob Bell included).
Claude came to Knoxville from Louisiana in search of a job and to try to restart his life. Claude didn’t know Jesus at this time until he met a man named Earl. Earl was working at a Kroger on Western Ave., semi-retired. Had owned his own business many years before. He was a kindly, old saint. Earl had the audacity to invite Claude to church with him. Claude resisted at first but after an emotional breakdown, Claude promised Earl that he would show up at Grace Baptist Church. Claude might have been the only African American that walked into Grace that day. The members at Grace and Earl, didn’t care about skin color, they cared about a young man who was searching for a new life. Eventually, Claude came to Christ, giving his heart to the Lord. I remember the day he was baptized. Later on that afternoon, Claude told me he thought he needed to be in ministry. After hearing his desire expressed for a number of minutes, I shook my head and said, “Yes, I believe you should be in ministry as well.”
Claude went on to fulfill God’s call on his life and became a real, pastor-shepherd. He touched thousands of lives for the cause of Christ. But it all started with a man named Earl. Are you someone’s Earl – today?