Tucker Temple COGIC Pastor Jeffrey Williams and his wife, Jennifer, with their children: Jeffrey Jr. Ethan, Jaylen, Aylani, Madison and Kayli. (Courtesy photo)

Count the Rev. Jeffrey Williams among the local pastors who – despite dwindling attendance – is rock-solid sure that the church will increasingly become a place of refuge in the troubled times ahead.

Such assuredness is rooted in a faith that sustains the pastor of Tucker Temple Church of God in Christ even as churches have seen a sharp decline in membership numbers since 1999, according to a Gallup poll.

“There has been a great falling away because we are living in the last days,” said Williams. “But God is going to drive people back to the church. Trouble and persecution is coming. And we are seeing the beginning of some troubling times in the Middle East.

“We’re standing on the brink of war. The church is going to be the only place of comfort and refuge. There will be a return to prayer and people crying out for God’s mercy and intervention.”

A third-generation pastor, Williams’ grandfather, the Rev. Charles Samuel Tucker Sr., started in the 1950s what now is known as Tucker COGIC.

“My grandfather was a member of Lane Avenue COGIC, where he led Sunday School. He was called to preach, and sometime after that, he was appointed pastor of Hemlock COGIC on Hemlock St. When the church moved, the members renamed it Tucker Temple to honor my grandfather, Charles Samuel Tucker Sr.”

The elder Pastor Tucker served at Tucker Temple for more than 50 years before he passed away from a brief illness in 2006. His son, the Rev. Charles Samuel Tucker Jr., Williams’ uncle, was appointed successor.

Jeffrey Williams became minister of music at age 15. He plays, sings, composes original numbers and has been the driving force behind Tucker Temple’s dynamic music department. When he became pastor in 2017, the music director’s post passed to his son, Jeffrey Jr.

While he served as minister of music, Williams also took on pastoral duties to assist Pastor Tucker Jr., who suffered ill health throughout his 11-year tenure. For the Tucker Temple Church family, the line of succession had been set. Jurisdictional Prelate Dr. David Allen Hall Sr. of the Tennessee Headquarters Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction appointed Williams the new pastor in 2017, shortly after Tucker Jr.’s passing.

‘…remain faithful’

Recalling the days when the church’s pews routinely were full, Williams moves forward with resolve.

“We will just keep preaching the word of God, and living a holy life before the world. So when tribulation comes – and it is coming – they will know that Jesus waits with open arms. Jesus will be their Lord and Savior. Until then, we want to remain faithful in that which God has called us to do,” he said.

For the past three decades, Pastor Williams has directed a community choir, “Jeffrey Williams and the Voices of Inspiration.” The highly sought ensemble has charted on Billboard’s Gospel 100 with popular recordings, such as “My Love Song,” “Prodigal Son,” and “I’ll Praise Your Name.

Williams and the choir have toured with and opened for such gospel greats as John P. Kee, Yolanda Adams, Marvin Sapp and James Fortune. Now, The Voices of Inspiration are preparing for a new live recording this summer. For Pastor Williams, it will be his last.

“It’s time for us to step aside and let the young people take over,” he said. “They have grown and developed under our tutelage, and the time comes when they must take the helm and make their own mark. Gospel music and ministry are no different from any other endeavor,” he said.

“Not only Tucker Temple, but I believe the church of Jesus Christ will be left in good hands.”