GregAlan Williams is an author and actor who stars in the Pure Flix motion picture “All Saints,” based on the true story of salesman turned pastor Michael Spurlock. GregAlan shares the ups and downs of his career as a performer and how a pivotal moment in the streets of L.A. made him an unexpected hero. Pastor Mark Batterson shares how men can achieve their greatest potential by living according to seven virtues, which he writes about in his book “Play The Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be.”
GregAlan Williams and Mark Batterson: Becoming A Man After God’s Own Heart – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 56
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today, we visit with actor and author, Greg Alan Williams, who stars in the Pure Flix motion picture “All Saints,” based on the true story of salesman turned pastor Michael Spurlock and Pastor Mark Batterson, author of “Play The Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be.” First off, our interview with GregAlan:
GregAlan Williams: My name is GregAlan Williams. I’m an actor and an author, and father, and hopefully a friend to some. For the past many years–25, 30 years–I’ve worked a lot on television, and some in film, and written a couple of nonfiction books, and a novel, and here I am; happy to be here.
I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, in the heart of the Midwest. I’m grateful to my mother for getting off the train from Mississippi in Iowa; lived in the heart of the city. Back then, there was lots of space, and lots of open fields. We would ride our bikes and be gone all day. No one had to fear for our safety, as long as we checked in, or came home for lunch, or came home for dinner.
Raised in a single parent household and mom worked a couple of jobs. I had some wonderful teachers in elementary school, and junior high school and even high school; and just a number of folks that I called heroes who gathered for me over the course of my young life to save me from myself well. I was raised in the Pentecostal Church and my mother was a Sunday school teacher, singer etc.
Following Your Heroes: The Big Dream
I was adventurous. I was curious. I probably didn’t listen long enough, or hard enough, or follow instructions to the letter. I guess that might be typical in some respects, but you know I had a wonderful elementary school teacher in fourth, fifth, sixth grade. Ms. Marilyn Smith; just an amazing educator, a strict disciplinarian, but an amazing teacher.
I was coming up in a time when people of color were not always welcome. In order to achieve the same goal as perhaps a neighbor of a different ethnicity, I had to do more. I had to be better than. I had to be twice as good. So, that was the standard that was what was given to me. I never felt there was a limitation. The lesson that I was given in my house was not that I couldn’t, but that I had to do it in a different way.
I didn’t really get a keen sense of that, and how it worked in the real world until I was well into adulthood.
I was raised an only child, and my mother was a nonviolent woman. Her contention was that there was no reason to fight and that sort of thing. But I was a boy child, in America, son of John Wayne and Chuck Connors, you know. The hero; the good guy, when he gets pushed to a point, to a breaking point and finally when the bad guy calls him out at noon for a showdown, he has to show up or be branded a coward. So what I’m saying is that I’m an American kid and the product of American television, and literature, and folklore, and all of those things.
The lesson that I was given in my house was not that I couldn’t, but that I had to do it in a different way.
I had some run-ins with some bullies who take advantage because I didn’t have brothers, or sisters, or cousins who could come to the rescue. My big dream was just to make the bullies eat their words.
When I came home from boot camp, from Marine Corps boot camp, I was ready and able to confront those old bullies. When I walked into public spaces where they were, or saw them on the street, no one had anything but positive things to say and “attaboys” and “proud of you.” No one seemed to remember that silliness but me. I learned about the importance of letting go.
Theater, Broadcasting, And The World Of Radio
When I got out I was 20, and went straight to Minneapolis, and enrolled in Brown School of Broadcasting so I could be a deejay on the radio and I had a chance to write. So I came out of the Brown School of Broadcasting and joined a band. I played keyboard for the band and then found out that a guy named Lou Bellamy; a theater professor from the University of Minnesota, was creating the first professional African-American theater company in St. Paul called Penumbra.
I auditioned, it was a rep company, so I auditioned and I had to commit to a full season, so I had to choose between the band and the theater. The band was wonderful; in fact, they all went on to be millionaires with a band called The Time.
So what a wonderful opportunity. I decided, after about a year and a half, to go to L.A. I went to L.A., and didn’t do theater there, didn’t act there at all–fell flat on my face. I didn’t have an AFTRA card or a SAG card. I didn’t have a union card, so no agent would take me on. One of the things that’s interesting to me; I had a meeting with an agent who represented an actor by the name of Milburn Stone, who played “Doc” on Gunsmoke. For, me that was, “wow, Doc’s agent!” Nothing came of it.
So I ended up working at a radio station, KGLH that was owned by Stevie Wonder. It was a wonderful time, and I was a copywriter there, and a production manager. I would write commercials, and voice commercials, and eventually got a late night air shift. It was an amazing time, because I was working in a radio station owned by a blind genius, and radio was right up his alley. He brought so much to the work that we were doing, and how we were doing that work, and how we were presenting that work to the community.
The Road To Recovery And The Rebuilding of Sobriety
It was a wild time. It was a time when people were using a lot of cocaine when cocaine became a currency. I mean it was when it was trendy and it became currency in the movie business and the radio business. I said, “well, if these folks are OK, with it then I’ll be ok with it.” They were not OK with it. Nor was I. So I got caught up in that whole trend there, and actually returned to the Twin Cities to sort of get myself together.
I was back in Minneapolis for about three years. I got back in the theater; back on the stage, doing a lot of industrial film voiceover, and then picked up a show in Chicago at North Flight theater.
That brought me into Chicago; helped me get an agent in Chicago, started doing a number of national on-camera and voiceover commercials in Chicago–big markets there. I picked up my first three movies over an 18-month period and a television series and that’s what brought me back to L.A.
Going back sober–I couldn’t have gone back and survived. I had read the Bible, had listened to sermons, I understood; or I thought I understood a lot about our relationship with Jesus, but there was a part of me that couldn’t get past the personalities in order to embrace the principles. In the course of my recovery, and rebuilding my sobriety, I constantly, consistently came face to face with individuals who would translate the Word of God for me or who would simplify.
Jesus Calling: A Message Of Being Loved And Being Worthy
God made it possible for me to hear His Word, to hear His wisdom, to hear Him say to me that I am a worthy human being and that I am loved. Very often, that had to come via someone else’s conversation with God. So when I read Jesus Calling, I’m sort of like, “look; some of us just need a little a little more help,” you know?
If I can get out of my own way, then maybe, then maybe I can have my ears and my eyes open long enough to hear what He’s saying to me. To receive the gifts that He has for me, and the understanding, and the peace, and the joy that He has for me and I’ve experienced that. I understand why there are people who say of Jesus Calling; “it saved my life,” it talks about being loved and being worthy and you’re OK.
I came back to Los Angeles for the show called Baywatch. I was a certified scuba diver. I got to work by the water. What a dream; with some wonderful people.
I understand why there are people who say of Jesus Calling; “it saved my life,” it talks about being loved and being worthy and you’re OK.
It was a wonderful time. I began writing, and wrote a couple of books. I wrote a lot on set. Boys to Men but prior to that A Gathering of Heroes. Then in 1992, when I was doing Baywatch, I had the opportunity to intervene on behalf of a fellow citizen who was being assaulted at the intersection of Florence and Normandy. I call that a “summit of my destiny.” I heard about the violence happening at the intersection. I live not far from that intersection at all, in a safe gated community next to the Los Angeles forum, and I thought I might be able to be a voice of reason.
Standing Up For What’s Right: A Gathering Of Heroes
But when I arrived, there was a man who was being beaten inside of his Ford Bronco. Being an ex-Marine, supposedly having taken an oath to defend the Constitution, and all of that, but more importantly it had taken me a long time to develop the ability to look myself in the eye in the mirror. I wasn’t willing to abandon that on that day. If I had walked away from Mr. Hirata, who was being beaten at that moment, then I would have lost the ability and perhaps the right to look myself in the eye, and certainly my children in the eye. I waded out to the intersection and said to the fellow who was about to open the doors so they could drag him out. I just said, “you know, come on, you know this ain’t right.”
He did. He knew, because he backed up, he backed up. There’s this thing about stop signs, if there were no stop signs, we would kill each other. Not because we hate, but because we would forget to stop. So I just became a stop sign that day, and was able to pull him out of the vehicle and get him to safety. Then another individual came along and took him to California Medical Center. Some people allowed us to rest several blocks away on their grass and went to wipe his wounds. So it was a day.
The book that I wrote was called A Gathering of Heroes and has nothing to do with my actions on that day. It has everything to do again with those heroes who had gathered for me over the course of my life up to that point, again, to save me from myself. There was certainly a time I would have arrived at that intersection to harm rather than to help. So I’m very grateful for that opportunity. Because during the Los Angeles riots of ’92, people all over that city rescued individuals, and put their lives on the line to save people. This is what we do; not just those who are sworn to it, certainly our first responders, but just regular folk. The love, the “agape” that is in us, the God is in us, the divinity as Jesus Calling often refers to it; the divinity in us can do no less, than potentially, if not lay down one’s life, put one’s life at risk–one’s well-being at risk–in order to save the life of another.
Being Your Brother’s Keeper
Narrator: GregAlan went on to be involved with many humanitarian and citizenship organizations, and has had the opportunity to speak all over the country about the issues of justice and intolerance. He relocated to Atlanta, Georgia to raise his family and continue his acting career. His latest role is in the Pure Flix film “All Saints” starring John Corbitt as salesman turned pastor. GregAlan explains why he was drawn to the role of the Bishop and discusses his other roles and how they’ve influenced him.
GregAlan: Initially I auditioned for a different role, and then Steve saw that audition–Steve Gomer the director–and then asked me to read for the role of the Bishop.
At that point I was able to read a script and it was just this wonderful, wonderful, wonderful story. It’s a real story about real people. I got to meet the Bishop who I was portraying, the Episcopal minister who is being portrayed by John Corbett, and many of the parishioners who were part of that church. When John Corbett’s character was sent to close the church, because it wasn’t self-supporting, those people who were there in the midst of that miracle, and I was like “wow.”
This church literally is, or appears to be, in the middle of a field–in the middle of a field. Clearly in the middle of a field that at one time was almost in the middle of nowhere, because everything around it is new. There’s a church across the street that is new, there’s this little mall across the street’s that new. So when the story was really taking place, this church was sort of here. To see how this community was blessed; what a joy. When we tend to the least of these, when we recognize and act on the truth that “I am my brother’s keeper,” so being a part of this amazing, true story was a blessing and a privilege.
Narrator: To find out more about the All Saints movie and where it is showing near you, please visit AllSaintsMovie.com.
Narrator: We’ll return to the second half of our show, featuring Pastor Mark Batterson, right after this brief message from Audible.
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Pastor Mark Batterson On Becoming The Man You’re Meant to Be
Narrator: Next up on the Jesus Calling podcast, we visit with author Mark Batterson, who is also the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. Mark has recently written a book called “Play The Man: Becoming the Man God Created You To Be.” Mark shares what led him to write this book and encourages men to live by the “seven virtues of manhood.”
Mark Batterson: I’m Mark Batterson, and I am pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C. We’re one church with eight campuses and about 50 percent single twenty-somethings; so a very young church. I feel as called to write as I do to pastor, so I’ve written 15 books, and of course, the latest book is Play the Man. Most importantly, I am husband to Laura; we’ve been married 25 years and we have three children. Parker, Summer and Josiah; ages 21, 19, and 15.
I’m a Midwest guy, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and grew up in the Chicago area, and then eventually transitioned to Washington D.C. Actually it was a failed church plant, when I was in seminary in Chicago–22 years old. It’s amazing how much you know when you’re 22. I felt like I had it all figured out and had a 25-year plan for a church plant. My professor gave it an A and said “that has to work.” But it did not work, and it was out of that failed church plant that we ended up moving to Washington D.C. and I feel like God gave us a second chance. I look back on it now, and I’m grateful, because I think the cure for the fear of failure is not success, I think it’s failure in small enough doses that you build up an immunity to it and you realize that God is there to pick you back up, dust you off, and give you another chance.
The Blessing Of Family: Setting A Godly Example
I’m blessed to have had a dad who was such a godly example. He wasn’t the most verbal person, and you know in some ways didn’t necessarily talk the talk, but man he walked the walk. To have a father who is there for you gives you a certain security. For example, in fact, I played basketball in college and I remember this one game in particular. I played for the University of Chicago, we were playing out in Boston at Brandeis University and my dad drove all the way. My mom and dad drove all the way from Chicago to Boston and then had to drive back through the night. I only played five minutes in the game, so I did the math and they basically drove about 24 hours just to see me play five minutes of basketball. That to me, that moment, is a wonderful example of who my dad is; someone who was there for me, and I really felt like I was a priority in his life. I think that inspired me to be that kind of a dad to my children.
I think that’s a standard that we’re called to as men. How can we grow in the virtue of Christ into “Christ-likeness?”
Then I was blessed to have a father in law as a pastor–to have a father in law who is a pastor and really became a mentor to me. I saw his prayer life; in fact, I wrote a book a few years ago called The Circle Maker, a book on prayer and dedicated that book to him, because he’s the one who really set that example for me.
Finally, I’m grateful I’ve got a spiritual father named Dick Foe who took me under his wing when I was a rookie pastor, pastoring 19 people. He had been a pastor and a college president. For whatever reason, I think he saw some potential in me, and he’s someone that’s been a spiritual father to me for the past 20 years and eternally grateful for his influence. I think those three men really influenced, shaped, and certainly wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without them.
Growing In The Virtue Of Christ
Here’s the example that God sets for us; and this really is the heart of the Gospel, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. So while we were at our worst, He was at his best. Now let me ask a question: you know when your spouse is at their best, it’s easy to love them. But when your spouse is at their worst, you know hypothetically speaking of course, you know that takes tough love. That’s the true test to me and so I think that’s the starting point.
Start with tough love, and talk about everything from childlike wonder, to willpower, true grit, raw passion, clear vision, and then end up with moral courage. Because I think it takes courage to really exercise all of these virtues; especially in the culture in which we live.
I think that’s a standard that we’re called to as men. How can we grow in the virtue of Christ into “Christ-likeness?” So there you have it, seven virtues of manhood. I think most people, if they read them, they’re going to identify a couple that they’re pretty good at, and then a few that they need to go to work on. That’s really the purpose in writing it.
We live in a culture where we give up a little too easily; we give up a little too quickly. I don’t want to cast judgment on anybody, but I think that’s true when it comes to marriage and family. I think as men, we’ve got to learn what it means to fight for our family. I love this verse in Ephesians 6 where Paul says, “having done all to stand; stand.” It’s that second stand that I think is grit–it’s the perseverance to keep on “keeping on,” even when it’s difficult to do so.
Turning The Monologue Into A Dialogue
It’s so critical as men and as women that we stay in the Word. Of course, it’s not about getting through the Bible, it’s about getting the Bible through us. That’s how God speaks to us. That’s part of what I love about Jesus Calling, it’s not about reading it in the third person, it’s really about letting God speak to us in His voice.
I think a healthy relationship is about listening, and talking, and I think the beautiful thing about Jesus Calling is that it’s this wonderful dialogue.
I think one of the challenges that we face in our relationship with God, is that sometimes it feels like a monologue. We either feel like God is speaking to us but we don’t really take the time to listen and respond, or some people, God can’t get it a word in edgewise. All they do is talk instead of sit and listen. So I think the beautiful thing about Jesus Calling, is it turns the monologue into a dialogue and that’s what God wants. I mean just think about it. In a normal earthly relationship, any relationship that’s too one-sided, that one person does all of the talking, something seems a little off. I think a healthy relationship is about listening, and talking, and I think the beautiful thing about Jesus Calling is that it’s this wonderful dialogue.
The good news is that God does want to speak now. He usually speaks in a still small voice. It’s a whisper. But the reason why I believe He does that is because when you speak in a whisper, someone has to get real close to you. You have to put your ear right next to their mouth so that you can hear what they’re saying. We think the goal is to hear the voice of God. I think the goal is for God to get us as close to Him as He possibly can. So He speaks in this still small voice and then when we draw near, I think that’s when we not just hear His voice, but He reaches out and embraces us, and gives us one of those “divine hugs,” so to speak.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over Mistakes: Accept God’s Grace
One of my hopes is, when people read Play the Man, that they would begin this process of identifying, “what are our values? What battlefield are we going to die on? What is it that we believe God has called us to as a family?”
I remember so many attempts at family devotions that just would run out of gas after a week or two. I think sometimes we beat ourselves up, and then we give up because that attempt didn’t work. I think the first thing you’ve got to do is forgive yourself. Listen, God forgives you. Don’t try to pay double for what He’s already forgiven. Just realize that you’ve made some mistakes. Get up, dust yourself off, and believe that God’s going to give you a second chance. By the way, I think for fathers who maybe have older children and feel like it’s too late, it’s not too late. God gives us a second chance. I believe it’s called being a grandparent. It’s a chance to go back, and maybe make a little bit more of an intentional difference in the lives of your grandchildren, that maybe you missed in the lives of your children.
Listen, God forgives you. Don’t try to pay double for what He’s already forgiven.
I just believe in God’s grace. The other thing I would say is that sometimes the mistakes we make set us up to teach our kids. I believe one of the toughest and most important lessons in life; and that is how to apologize, how to say “sorry.” In fact, my parenting really comes down to three words. Thanks. Please. Sorry. If I can help my kids be good at those three things, then I’m not worried. Thanks, please and sorry; you’re going to have a good marriage, you’re going to have a good career. I think those three words play out in every arena, and I also think they’re the key to a healthy spiritual life.
Narrator: For more information about Mark’s book “Play The Man: Becoming the Man God Created You To Be,” visit MarkBatterson.com.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we visit with, singer, author, and actress Kathie Lee Gifford, host of the Today Show on NBC. Kathie Lee shares about her life, her marriage, and how she got to the place where her faith was cemented by her relentless pursuit of the truth in God’s Word.
Kathie Lee: I want the truth. The truth is what sets us free. I don’t want to be spoon fed faith my whole life. I want the meat of the Bible because that’s where, that’s what grows us down to the marrow; to the joint and marrow. Scripture–the Word of God is living and active.
As for God, His ways are perfect; the Word of the Lord is flawless.
Narrator: Our featured passage for today comes from the May 11th entry of the Jesus Always audio book:
I am your Brother and your Friend. I’m the Firstborn among many brothers; you are being conformed to My likeness. This is an astonishing privilege and blessing! Some children are blessed to have a strong, loving older brother who helps and protects them. You have an all-powerful Big Brother who is constantly looking out for your interests. Even the most committed family member or friend cannot be with you always, but I never leave your side. I am the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.
My continual Presence with you should never be taken for granted. Remember that your faithful Friend is also King of kings. If you could glimpse Me in all My Glory, you would understand why John fell at My feet as though dead when he saw Me. I am the First and the Last—the Living One who was dead and is alive forever and ever! I want you to relate to Me with reverence because I am your Savior-God. Remind yourself that the glorious gift of salvation is yours forever— and honor Me with gratitude.
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling Podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.