King David, mourning over the death of Abner, asked the question that is the title of this article, “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?” (2 Sam. 3:38). Today, in spiritual Israel (the church, Gal. 6:15-16; cf. Rom. 2:28-29), we mourn the loss of a truly great servant of God, Tate Lamar Williams. Tate was a member of the Bremen congregation, but he was more than just a member; he was truly a servant to all. Tate never failed to tell me after a sermon how he appreciated it, and he always told me he loved the sermon.
I preached my first Sunday at Bremen on July 1, 2012. That night, my family and I left to go to Bible camp in Tennessee. I was excited to learn that a young man from Bremen would actually be at that camp. We enjoyed a great week at camp, but, it wasn’t until we finally got back to Bremen and began the day-to-day local work that I began fully to appreciate this young man of God. He came to the building one day to study, but he found out quickly that the new preacher likes to talk! I apologized to him as he was leaving for taking up so much of his study time, only to receive a Facebook message that evening telling me, “You don’t need to worry about ‘taking up my time’ today. 50% of the reason I came up this morning was so we could hang out.” Tate and I took up a lot of each other’s time in the weeks that followed. If either of us had known just how short the time was, no doubt we would have spent far more time together. But, I will always treasure the time I did have with him.
Tate loved gospel preachers! He once told me that from the time he and Thad were little, their parents always put faithful gospel preachers before them as heroes. I always enjoyed hearing Tate’s stories about his preacher heroes. You could tell as he spoke of each one that he truly admired them. I remember well telling him about my own preacher hero, Eddie Brinkley, and telling him how brother Brinkley was a student of Marshall Keeble. At the preachers’ workshop, “Polishing the Pulpit,” Tate finally got to hear and meet him. After brother Brinkley’s sermon, “Running from a Lion, Met by a Bear,” multitudes crowded around him. I can still see Tate looking back at me with wide eyes, that million-dollar smile, and a look on his face that just seemed to say, “Wow, you really weren’t kidding about this guy!” Tate, Thad, and I posed with a couple of other young men for a photo with this spiritual giant. I have smiled many times over the past few days just picturing Tate visiting with brother Keeble in paradise.
I chuckled this Monday morning as I saw a picture of Tate on Facebook. Karen Loyd had taken it on his 15th birthday, and it was Tate impersonating Frank Sinatra. I chuckled because it occurred to me that Frank Sinatra once bragged, “I did it my way.” Tate Williams, however, did life God’s way. Gary and Jamie Williams are to be commended for their tireless effort to, like Hannah of old, give their son to God. And, when Tate came of age, he then gave himself to God. His life was literally saturated with God, the Bible, Jesus, the church, and all things spiritual.
I have never known anyone like Tate Williams, and I shall never forget him. I would not have thought it possible to grow so close to someone in so short a time had I not experienced it personally these past few months. Tate’s influence on my life is profound; he made me a better person and a better preacher. Every time the saints gather here at Bremen, we will be reminded of Jonathan’s words to David: “thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty” (1 Sam. 20:18). Jane McWhorter, in her book Let This Cup Pass, writes, “The seat will always be empty here on this earth because we can never be with that loved one while we live, but we haven’t really lost something if we know where it is. We may not be able to touch it, but we know exactly where to find it. Departed Christians act as magnets, drawing us closer to Heaven” (emphasis added). Indeed, heaven now seems just a little bit sweeter because of the presence there of a young man named Tate Lamar Williams. I am thankful to have known him, and I am even more thankful to have called him my friend, brother, and coworker in the kingdom of God.
[Article written by Chad Dollahite, taken from Bremen Church of Christ (Bremen, GA) bulletin]