by William Dwight McKissic, Sr.
In the past three months, I have been chosen to receive three distinguished awards and given an opportunity to serve on the Board of Trustees of a Historically Black College and on the Advisory Board of an evangelical revival ministry with an incredible vision.
There are numerous awards, certificates, plaques and tributes I have received across a forty-year span of public life and ministry. I am equally thankful and godly proud of all those as well. Typically, I am not one who desires or broadcasts awards, honors and Board appointments. However, I am so thankful and thrilled to serve and be associated with these awards and institutions. I feel unworthy of each one. I wanted to write a statement to promote each ministry that has entrusted their name to me; and given me the honor of promoting, praying for and supporting their significant and substantial ministries. I pray that you will join me in praying for, supporting and appreciating these ministries. I guess it is a sign of old age that these most recent awards and appointments are unusually meaningful to me. They all came suddenly and unexpectedly.
THE WILLIAM JOSEPH SEYMOUR AWARD
I will travel to Los Angeles, April 6-8, 2018, to receive the William Joseph Seymour Award and speak at related events. Who was William Joseph Seymour? Yale University historian, Sidney Ahlstrom, stated before his death (July 3, 1984) that Seymour personified a black piety “which exerted its greatest direct influence on American religious history”—placing Seymour’s impact ahead of figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, WEB Dubois, E.C. Morris, C.H. Mason, Booker T. Washington, Richard Allen, Frederick Douglas, Marcus Garvey and a host of other religious and cultural-impact iconic figures in Black American history. Although Seymour is not as well known in cultural Black history, when one measures the height, depth, width, breath, and longevity of Seymour’s historic and current impact, I agree with Ahlstrom: William Joseph Seymour “exerted its greatest direct influence on American religious history.”
Perhaps, many are unaware of the legacy of Seymour because truly his incredibly impactful and fruitful ministry centered not on himself or his legacy, but rather on the Spirit of The Living God. The Holy Spirit is the ignored member of the Trinitarian Enterprise. The Holy Spirit is the only God on planet earth. Yet, The Holy Spirit historically and currently does not receive the worship, study, fellowship and celebration, such as given to God The Father and God The Son. Seymour was a game changer as it relates to the church ignoring of The Holy Spirit, particularly in the African American community. No theological system or denominational stream has influenced the Black worship experience as much as Pentecostalism.
Globally, the fastest growing churches and churches that are retaining membership, in this season of “a great falling away,” are charismatic/Pentecostal churches. The cofounder and single most important influence on the widespread growth and development of Pentecostalism was William Joseph Seymour. Oral Roberts University, Hillsong Church and music, The Church of God In Christ, The Assemblies of God, CBN and TBN Christian Television, C.H. Mason, C.P. Jones, Oral Roberts, T.D. Jakes, Kenneth Ulmer, Jack Hayford, Paul Morton, G.E. Patterson and Tua Tagovailoa, the amazing Alabama quarterback that led them to win the 2018 College Football Championship, all can trace their spiritual and theological roots in whole or in part to William Joseph Seymour.
When one considers the phenomenal widespread growth of Pentecostalism in Black America, and arguably the largest spiritual influence in African American communities, and how charismatic/Pentecostal worship and some theological tenets have almost totally impacted all African American churches, how could anyone dispute Ahlstrom’s claim that William Seymour is the most influential religious figure in Black American history. Yet, by name and face recognition, he is far less known than Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, E.V. Hill, Tony Evans and T.D. Jakes, in many evangelical circles.
If you were asked to name the one person who has brought to the masses—the person, work, doctrine and ministry of the Holy Spirit—in post biblical history—more so than any other—who would you name? If one gave an honest, objective, historically accurate and truthful answer to that question, the answer would be: William Joseph Seymour. Seymour is primarily known as the man who eventually led a prayer movement in Los Angeles from about 1906-1922 that literally expanded around the globe in a ten-year period. The prayer movement led by Seymour was thoroughly interracial and interdenominational.
At a time when blending races and denominations in worship was virtually impossible; and even today, it is a difficult feat to accomplish. By the power of The Holy Spirit, thousands upon thousands of persons of every race from throughout the world, and persons from every denomination made their way to Los Angeles, Azusa Street, in order to experience an unusual, historic, outpouring of The Holy Spirit. The Azusa Street outpouring of The Holy Spirit was kindred to the first and second great awakening.
Seymour was born the son of former slaves in Centerville, Louisiana, in 1878. His first name, William, means: Determined helmet or protection—later meaning “conqueror.” His middle name, Joseph, means: Add or increase. His last name, Seymour, means: Dark-skinned saint. Seymour’s name is filled with prophetic insight that he fulfilled throughout his life.
In light of the illustrious, iconic, and impactful life, leadership and legacy of William Joseph Seymour, I am thrilled beyond measure to accept The William Joseph Seymour Award.
THE N.L. ROBINSON AWARD
Rev. Norman Lee Robinson served as the proud pastor of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas, for fifty years. His congregation grew from 17 to 10,000 under his leadership. His motto was: “Live a Clean Life.” And that he did. His integrity and lifestyle were impeccable. Rev. Robinson fell into the arms of Jesus in 2017. I was so delighted that his successor, Rev. James Thompson, his church’s leadership and community leaders chose me to receive this distinguished award. Arlington’s mayor, Jeff Williams, read the reasons for granting me the award. I was deeply humbled being associated with the character and leadership traits of the most venerated Pastor—period—in the history of Arlington, Rev. N.L. Robinson. I received this award in February 2018. In 1983, (27 years old) the year I planted Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, TX, my father took me to Rev. Robinson’s church and said to him, “Take care of my son.” I was 60 years old when “Pops” passed. Rev. Robinson was affectionately called by everyone, “Pops.”
ONE COMMUNITY CHURCH AWARD, PASTOR CONWAY EDWARDS
In January 2018, I received the Distinguished Senior Pastor Recognition Award from One Community Church, Plano, TX, led by Dr. Conway Edwards. This church is only ten years old, and the average attendance currently is 9,500 (documented numbers). They hosted their 2nd Annual National Leadership Seminar where they chose to bestow this honor upon me. Last year’s recipient of this Distinguished Senior Pastor Recognition Award was Dr. Tony Evans, the internationally known expository preacher/pastor of Dallas. I was grateful and humbled to follow him as the honoree and receive the large cash gift award that Pastor Edwards prefers to give as an award, rather than plaques, trophies, certificates, etc. I was extremely pleased and thankful for the generous gift. The world will hear about One Community Church Plano.
Their Annual Leadership Conference is already up to 800 registrants in their second year conducting it. One Community Church is one of the most innovative, biblio-centric churches in America. As Jesus said to James and John, when they asked Jesus about His residence, Jesus said “Come and see.” Every young—and, not so young—pastor and church leader would do themselves a great service in January 2019, if they attend the One Community Church Leadership Conference, “Come and see” (John 1:38-39).
ARKANSAS BAPTIST COLLEGE BOARD OF TRUSTEES APPOINTMENT
I was asked by the current Board of Trustees at Arkansas Baptist College (ABC) to join them as a board member in February 2018. My parents were married on the campus of ABC, while my father was a student there; so the college holds a special place in my heart. The College was founded in 1884 by former slaves. E.C. Morris was their first President, who also was the first President of the National Baptist Convention. E.C. Morris was also one of the early pastors of St. Paul Baptist Church, Pine Bluff, AR, where I was born again, baptized, licensed and ordained as a preacher.
As a youth, we made annual trips to ABC, and each youth was asked to donate two cans of pork and beans to the College, for the student cafeteria. The Cornerstone Church, Arlington, where I pastor, has donated over $225,000 to the College over the past 25 years. We believe in their mission and their potential. The late Dr. Sandy F. Ray, Pastor of Cornerstone Church, Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Jerry Black of Atlanta, GA, and Rev. C.D. Edwards of Little Rock, AR, are a few distinguished individuals who are proud graduates of the College. Bishop C.H. Mason, founder of The Church of God in Christ, also matriculated at ABC.
LIFE ACTION MINISTRY ADVISORY BOARD APPOINTMENT
Life Action Revival Ministries, based in Buchanan, MI, is an evangelical ministry uniquely focused on revival and disciple-making. Across the past 20 years, they have conducted five revival meetings at Cornerstone Church, Arlington. Three of these meetings were two weeks in duration. Their approach to revival has wrought wonderful changes in the lives of our people, healed marriages, evoked repentance and a clear conscience before God with many of our people and enhanced the prayer and devotional Bible reading among our people. I highly recommend Life Action to local churches of every ethnicity, if you want to see God do an in-depth work in the lives of His people that result in fruit that remains.
Rev. John Avant was recently selected as President of Life Action Ministries. Churches where Rev. Avant has pastored have experienced an awakening during his tenure. An extended Revival broke out at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth while John was preaching in Chapel, during the ‘90’s.
John Avant and his executive team recently cast a fresh and exciting vision for their ministry. Their vision: “Millions of God-Astonishing Lives in Action with Him Shattering Division, Injustice, and Lostness.” It is most unusual to see an evangelical ministry make the centerpiece of their vision addressing “injustice” and “division.”
God may sovereignly choose Life Action to partner with Black, Asian and Hispanic church leaders throughout America to unite our hearts–those longing for revival, to pray together for a spiritual awakening in America. Just recently, Rev. Avant asked me to serve on Life Action Ministries Advisory Board.
It is my prayer that you will pray for me as I attempt to continue to serve Christ’s Kingdom and His people. Hopefully, my grandchildren and great grandchildren will get a hold of this writing, at some point, and it will be a source of inspiration, information, affirmation and encouragement to them (Psalm 145:4).
William Dwight McKissic, Sr., is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, TX, where he has served for 35 years. He is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, and has received honorary doctorates from Morris Booker Baptist College and Arkansas Baptist College. He has served as a guest lecturer at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Criswell College, the University of Minnesota, Emory University, Southern Illinois University, Wheaton College, and Harvard University. He has also served on the Board of Trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX, and currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock, AR, an HBCU. He and his wife Vera have four children and twelve grandchildren.