Palmetto pastor goes back to his roots to lead church

jtate@bradenton.comOctober 26, 2013 

Senior Pastor Jason Williams, his wife Makisha and their four children, India, 3, Jasmine, 13, Malik, 11, and Kayla, 8. PHOTO PROVIDED

PALMETTO -- At the age of 14, Jason Williams was told by a Milwaukee prophet that he'd work in ministry one day. However, that was not Williams' plan for his life.

He dreamed of one day becoming a college professor of theology, but said God had other plans for his life.

"I had to accept the calling, I never wanted to be a pastor; it was not something I planned to do," said Williams.

However, by the time he was 15, Williams was preaching at the church he grew up in and now runs, Mt. Raymond Full Gospel Baptist Church in Palmetto.

"I started out teaching the young men in Sunday school," he said. "I was invited to different churches in the community to be the speaker for their youth services."

Williams wanted to expand his knowledge of theology, so at age 19 he enrolled in Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens to study philosophy and religion. While in Miami-Dade County, he met and fell in love with his wife, Makisha Williams.

She said they met at church, and what got her attention was his preaching style because it was clear and relatable.

"During my senior year of high school, we met," said Makisha. "When I heard him speak, I really understood what he was saying."

The two set up a life in Miami, with Williams taking a job as an assistant pastor at True Love Praise and Worship Church.

He said he had no plans on coming back to Manatee County other than to visit his family, but just like he got the unplanned call to become a minister, he also received a call to come back and help his ailing childhood pastor at Mt. Raymond.

"It took me a year to move back, even after I started to preach again in Manatee County," said Williams. "Miami and Palmetto is night and day. There are more jobs to offer in Miami than there is here."

At the time, Williams was a full-time probation officer and worked part time as an assistant pastor.

He now runs Mt. Raymond church with his wife at his side. However, the transition back to his origins was not a smooth ride. He took over as senior pastor in 2011 when the pastor died.

Williams said it took some adjustments for the older members to see him as an adult and leader of the flock.

He said that he met some opposition when he decided to change some of the traditional Baptist roots to encourage new membership.

"The older group felt they were being pushed to the side. And it was so much they couldn't do every Sunday, and bring the flavor that would draw in new people," said Williams

His wife said although members were welcoming, she had to adjust to sharing her husband and the father of their four children with the church.

"Everyone calls on the pastor, and we have to share him with everybody," Makisha said.

Williams said it didn't take long for the members and his family to adjust. He said no matter what, he's in this for the love of wanting to help people. He doesn't even take a salary and primarily provides for his family his pay as a member of the U.S. Army.

"I can't sleep comfortably knowing that we can't pay a church bill, but we pay the pastor," he said. "I'm not in it for the money. Our job as pastors and Christians is to be servants."

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.

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