PASTOR PROFILE E.L. Williams — New Prospect Baptist Church
How Long At Church: 10 years
Hometown: Los Angeles
Family: Married to wife, Evonne, 28 years, three grown daughters
Where did you get your love for church?
I got the love for church as a little boy. I got baptized out of the Faithful Central Baptist Church in 1963 under the late Dr. Willy L. Robinson. I’ve always watched preachers. I love music and I’m a singer. I loved being around my dad who was a preacher and I’ve always been privileged to watch and observe.
How did you come to receive the call to preach?
I knew that I had a calling on my life all my life but I just ran from it. Went to high school, at Crenshaw High (class of ’73), went on to LA College and ended up with a football career. I wanted to be a nightclub owner but I always was involved in the church. I ran from it until I was in my mid 20s because I saw the awesome responsibilities that come with it, I saw some of the problems that my father and other preachers had to face sometimes with contrary members, sometimes with misunderstanding and especially when it came to doing without but it never did go away.
What made you stop running?
A point in my life where I tried going the world’s way. I’d been a former dope seller—never was a dope user, but it was a way to make lots of money. I would give elaborate parties and this particular weekend I was just moved by God to get in my car and drive. When I got in my car, I drove all the way out to San Pedro and the Lord spoke to my heart and said to me, ‘If you want to live; if you want to continue to breathe and grow, you need to make a choice. You’re either going to live for me or you are going to die early.’ I said, ‘Lord, whatever it is that you want me to do, I’ll do.’
The next thing I know, I found myself at my pastor’s home knocking at his door at 12:16 a.m. on a Friday night and his wife came to the door asking who is this and I said ‘Edward.’ She said, ‘Edward?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I’d like to talk to pastor,’ and she said, ‘James?’ And he said ‘open the door’ and asked ‘what’s the matter?’ I said ‘pastor, I’ve been called to preach, and he said ‘what took you so long?’
I thought he was going to tell me to go pray and he said, ‘what took you so long?’ When I woke up that morning, I had two keys of marijuana that needed to be sold and I called my distributor who lived in Palos Verdes at the time and said ‘listen, man, you need to pick up this weed.’
He said, ‘What’s going on?’
I said, ‘I can’t do it no more. I got called to the ministry.’ Then I told him he had two hours to come get it or I would flush it and then I’m going to have to deal with you, but I’m getting it out of my house and out of my life. That same fellow who I had been buying weed from and distributing weed when I told him my story, became a pastor and he pastors a church in Jamaica Queens.
What is your goal as pastor of New Prospect?
To be obedient to God.
What is it that you want to get across to your members?
To be obedient to God.
How do you do that and how effective have you been?
Well, there’s only one way and that is to teach the word of God, the infallible truth, without error. I also give leadership to the Broadway Coalition. I’m part of the Mayor support team, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s support team.
I’m the preacher's friend, I’m the church van driver if need be. I just do my work—whatever it takes.
When you think about what the city of Los Angeles needs, what unique gifts do you bring to the mix?
I would say the need for brotherhood—the need for us to understand that it makes no difference whether we are ants or elephants, without God giving us breath we can’t exist. You can’t overlook ants because ants can crawl up in the elephant’s nose and attack him and kill him. At the same time, ants are definitely afraid of elephants because of their mere weight, and sometimes what we allow is our ministry to be compromised because of what we think the other fellow is achieving. Just do your work and be obedient to get around that. Don’t put your eyes on men, put your eyes on God.
How do you want churches to be viewed in Los Angeles?
I want churches to be viewed as havens, places of rescue
Do you think the church has all the resources it needs to do the work?
I cannot say because every individual church has a different need. There are needs that need to be met in Baldwin Hills that necessarily are not the needs that need to be met in south central LA. I have the resources that God provided and at some point, He lets you see a need and then you go to work on that need and once that need is supplied, God moves on to the next need.
What do you see is the most critical need in your community right now and how are you addressing it?
For people to understand that they are not misfits, but to be taught how to fit in.
My real prayer is that I will be able to leave this community that I serve with one thing and that is surely this one man was trying to follow the God who saved him.
What is your philosophy of life?
You have to live life with appreciation. You have to laugh at life with an air of lightness and you must love live, because God grants it day by day.