Yesterday, we memorialized a man of God, Dr. Richard Allen Williams, former pastor of Christ Community Church in Tampa and president of Trinity College in Clearwater. It struck me that here we all were, together in the building that most of us had a hand in constructing, as a church–actually a fellowship–once again.
Sadly, over time, many of us scattered in all directions for many reasons. The structure in which we congregated yesterday is now owned by a church of a mainline denomination–we prided ourselves in being non-denominational–and the surviving CCC now meets in a Seventh Day Adventist Church. Ironically, in the 1960s, CCC in its infancy also began meeting in a Seventh Day Adventist Church!
Now if one looks at the fruits of Dr. Williams’ ministry, the scattering was obviously for higher purposes. We may yearn for the Camelot we once had, but God had other ideas. We may grieve for the fact that we no longer congregate regularly together, and it took the passing of a great man to reunite us, but we can clearly see the hand of God at work, just as in the early church.
Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Acts 4:4
Over time, CCC spawned and sent out many missionaries into our community and nation, and all over kingdom come. And Lord knows, our congregation knew all about the “kingdom,” and wanted it to come soon! At one time, regional heads of most of the national parachurch ministries hung out with us, and a veritable “who’s who” filled our pulpit in guest appearances, J. Vernon McGee, Chuck Swindoll, J. Dwight Pentecost, Bill Bright, John Walvoord, Howard Hendricks, and others I can’t remember. Basically, the faculty of Dallas Seminary. Our associate pastor, Dr. L.P. McClenny, also a graduate of Dallas Seminary, even bounced little Billy Graham on his knee back in his church in North Carolina. You get the gist. We could name-drop all day long.
Our people were not only sent to the remotest parts of the earth, what we misconstrued as attrition, was actually the population of area churches with needed and remarkably gifted people, some of whom went on to plan and build the area’s largest church, and its pastor knows full well what I mean!
CCC was also on the cutting edge of worship, incorporating a praise team and worship band in 1993, before its time really. Truth be known there was a good deal of discussion on mothballing the organ and buying a set of drums, a projector, big screen, theater lights, and suitable PA. The original players of this ministry went on to become integral members of four other local worship ministries, and there were many more generations of musicians to come after them. Also, in our heyday, we wrote and produced full-scale dramatic plays. It was extraordinary what was accomplished with God’s help.
But more than anything else though, true to Dr. Williams’ teaching, former and present CCC members will always have the highest regard and fervent love for the truth and accuracy of God’s word. Dr. Williams made sure of that. I still remember the first full sermon I heard him preach, on Matthew 24, the Olivet Discourse. He cleared up so many misunderstandings that night, and yes, it was about the “kingdom.”
Because of his teaching, I’m absolutely certain that I’ll again share a meal and a thought with him. You see, every Thursday afternoon for a good long stretch, we’d meet for lunch at an Arby’s restaurant in South Tampa (because he loved their roast beef sandwiches with that oozing cheddar cheese). I was a 20-something professional single man and he sought me out to disciple me, and who would turn that opportunity down? A few years later he took care of my singleness, by officiating my wedding. Glory be to God!
Anyway, now that he’s on the inside, I’m sure he’s negotiating for our quick release! That was probably his plan all along. Lord knows he’s got a lot of good reasons for it, provided he can get them all out of his mouth! This is an inside joke, but you all know what I’m talking about!
Richard Allen Williams, 1930-2018