The Rev. Dr. William L. Self

Denomination: Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)
Organization: Wieuca Road Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA (1964-1990) and Johns Creek Baptist Church, Alpharetta, GA (1991-2012)

Dr. William L. "Bill" Self, prominent Baptist leader and longtime Atlanta-area pastor, died Jan. 9, 2016, from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease - one day shy of his 84th birthday.

Bill was pastor emeritus of Johns Creek Baptist Church - formerly First Baptist Church of Chamblee - where he served as senior pastor from 1991 to 2012. Previously he pastored the Wieuca Road Baptist Church from 1964 to 1990. More recently, Bill taught at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology winter and spring of 2015, and served as chairman of Day 1 radio ministries, formerly the Protestant Hour. He also was a frequent speaker on that program. He was a 2014 recipient of the Candler Centennial Medal, given by the Candler School of Theology of Emory University, for extraordinary service to the school, church and society for the last century. Bill was a 1971 graduate of that school, earning the doctor of theology degree.

An unapologetic optimist, Bill was a visionary leader. His strong pulpit style, intellect, humor and evangelistic zeal impacted tens of thousands of people - not just in metropolitan Atlanta, but throughout the nation and around the world. Preaching was Bill's passion. His sermons - renowned for their clarity and boldness - impacted all generations, race and gender. He often said with a grin, "I have something to offend everyone." He also admitted to being "an evangelist disguised as a pastor." Although a Southern Baptist for much of his ministry, he was uncomfortable with the fundamentalist direction of the convention and helped create and support the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, an organization of moderate Baptists in 1991.

Bill was born Jan. 10, 1932, to Edgar and Della Self in Winston Salem, N.C. Following the unexpected death of his father, Bill and his mother moved to Delray Beach, FL. When he was 13, Bill acknowledged God's call into full-time Christian ministry and began speaking in area churches. He attended Seacrest High School, where he was on the football team and played trombone in the band. Upon graduation he enrolled in Stetson University. As a college student, Bill worked as part-time pastor of a small church in Palatka, Fla., and also was elected state president of the Baptist Student Union. He and a team of students held summer revival services throughout Florida.

Bill and Carolyn met at Stetson and were married his senior year. He graduated from Stetson in 1954 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, then returned to North Carolina, earning a bachelor of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1957. He remained in North Carolina and became the first full-time pastor of Edgemont Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, serving from 1957 to 1960. During his second year there, Edgemont was named "Church of the Year" by the North Carolina Baptist Convention. He was also elected vice president of that organization. In 1960 Bill went back to Florida to pastor West Bradenton Baptist Church for four years. The church grew rapidly. He cultivated a relationship with the local business community and was elected president of the Bradenton Chamber of Commerce.

The Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta called Bill as pastor in 1964. Under his guidance, that church experienced tremendous growth, becoming one of the most innovative and influential churches in America. To help expand the ministry of the Wieuca Road church, Bill became a weekly guest on WSB-TV's "Today in Georgia" morning talk show, a privilege which lasted 16 years. He also joined both the Buckhead Coalition and the Buckhead Business Association, becoming president of the latter in 1990.

Bill was one of the first Baptist pastors to endorse and promote ordination of women as both deacons and ministers. He also embraced early on acceptance of single adults - never married, widowed and divorced - into all aspects of church life. The rapid growth of the Wieuca Road church attracted much attention, elevating Bill's prominence among Baptists locally and nationally. He was elected president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, president of the Georgia Baptist Pastors' Conference, and chair of the Georgia Baptist Executive Committee. On the national level, he served as president of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and second vice president of the SBC. In 1977 he preached the annual sermon - the showcase event - at the Southern Baptist Convention in Kansas City, MO.

Bill was a much-sought-after speaker for business and professional meetings, as well as college and seminary convocations and special assemblies. He was guest speaker several times at the Annual National Conference of Preaching and International Congress of Preaching in London, sponsored by "Preaching" magazine, and was the 1978 speaker for the Governor's Prayer Breakfast. The Billy Graham Crusades School of Evangelism recruited Bill to speak at numerous venues throughout the world. He also preached in various churches and missions both in the United States and abroad.

At a time when many people look toward retirement, Bill decided to start over. In 1991, just before his 60th birthday, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Chamblee - a struggling congregation trying to survive. He led the relocation of that church to Johns Creek, changing the name to Johns Creek Baptist Church. The church experienced phenomenal growth in organization, finances, and membership. Within his 21 years there, he guided the planning and construction of four buildings and the total reorganization of the teaching program.

Bill wrote four books, including his most recent, "Surviving the Stained Glass Jungle," about his years as a pastor. He also co-authored five more books with Carolyn and frequently wrote numerous articles for various publications.

Some of his other honors and accomplishments include: Appointed special ambassador by President Gerald Ford to the inauguration of William Tolbert as president of Liberia. As part of his special assignment, he discussed Idi Amin's relationship with the United States. Invited to the Republic of Korea by Prime Minister Kim Jung Pil to negotiate religious liberty issues Invited by the government of Republic of China to visit Taiwan, during which he met with the president, secretary of state and other leaders. Chair, Board of Visitors, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University.Board member, Baptist House of Studies, Duke Divinity School. Trustee, Mercer University. William L. Self Preaching Lectureship established at McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University. Received the Louie D. Newton Award for Service to Mercer University. Received the W. Lee Arrandale Award for Vocational Excellence 2000-2001 by the Rotary International District 6910, sponsored by The Rotary Club of Johns Creek.Received the Distinguished Alumnus Award, 2007, by Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Chair, Board of Visitors, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University; Annual lectures on preaching at Erskine Theological Seminary (Associated Reformed Presbyterian), 1972, and Golden Gate Theological Seminary, 1978. Lecturer on preaching at Salvation Army Training School 1993, 1994, 1995. Featured speaker for "Day 1" Armed Forces Radio program, 2010. Served on Board of Trustees of the Alliance for Christian Media, and on Advisory Committee of Day 1, Received honorary degrees from Stetson University; Mercer University; Han Yang University in Seoul, Korea; and Campbell University.

Day1 Weekly Programs by The Rev. Dr. William L. Self

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Magic Eyes

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Bill Self, pastor of John's Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, helps us look at the world through forgiving eyes.

Speechless

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. William Self, senior pastor of John's Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, tackles the difficult issue of what to say to others in difficult times--"funeral home theology."

The Waiting Place

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Bill Self is the pastor of John's Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Swimming to the Deep End of the Pool

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Bill Self is the pastor of John's Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Bill Self is pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA, and a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

On Being Pursued by the Black Dog

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Bill Self is pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA, and a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Have I Got News For You!

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Bill Self is pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA, and a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

What God Has Put Asunder, Let No Man Join Together

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Bill Self, pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, emphasizes the historical and biblical imperative for the separation of church and state.

Getting the Sand Out of the Gears

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. William L. Self, senior pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church, Alpharetta, Georgia, takes a look at the debilitating role of fear in our lives.

Is There Any Hope?

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Bill Self reminds us that hope comes from faith in the resurrected God who is present in every moment of our lives.

Doubt--The Prelude to Faith

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Bill Self explores the differnece between doubt that robs us of our faith and doubt that lead to deeper, transformational faith.

Cobwebs on the Confessional

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Bill Self explains that sin is alienation from God and call us to repentance where we turn our lives in a new direction according to God's will.

What Do You Want with Me, Jesus?

Friday October 24, 2008
Dr. Bill Self digs into the dramatic story of the healing of the demoniac from Mark 5, and introduces us to Jesus the Tormentor, the Liberator, and the Disturber.

The Church IS Worth the Effort!

Friday October 24, 2008
Despite all its dysfunction and scars, all its confusion and humanity, the church is worth the effort, because it is doing the work of the kingdom of God in the world.

King for a Day

Friday October 24, 2008
As we celebrate Palm Sunday, Dr. Bill Self calls us not to join the throngs proclaiming Jesus King for a Day, but rather to make Jesus Lord of our lives.

While It Was Still Dark

Friday October 24, 2008
As we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord, Dr. Bill Self takes us back to the empty tomb and explores the scene through the eyes of Mary Magdalene.

The Struggle to Believe

Friday October 24, 2008
Dr. Bill Self shares the story of Simeon and Anna, two faithful servants of God who saw the Christ child and rejoiced in gratitude to God. Their joy reveals the doubts and struggles they must have wrestled with for years--just as we do today. This is a good time to move from skepticism to faith, to celebrate our doubt as a prelude to a deep, abiding, and mature faith.

Radio by The Rev. Dr. William L. Self

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Follow Life's Rules - A Good Day with Dr. Bill Self

Friday October 24, 2008
Dr. Bill Self brings you positive powerful messages of hope and faith. Produced by Day1.

Dream Big - A Good Day with Dr. Bill Self

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. William L. Self brings you positive and powerful messages you will cherish and can help guide you in tough times. Have big dreams and big things will follow.

Take a Risk - A Good Day with Dr. Bill Self

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. William L. Self brings you positive and powerful messages as a trusted motivational leader. These public service announcements were produced by Day1 Radio listeners and bring hopeful messages of inspiration to our programming.

Enjoy the Rain - A Good Day with Dr. Bill Self

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. William L. Self brings you positive and powerful messages of faith and hope as a trusted motivational leader. The hardship of a rain storm can test us, but we must learn to love that challenge as a sign of the very life we have been given.

Watch Who You Follow - A Good Day with Dr. Bill Self

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. William L. Self brings you positive and powerful messages of faith and hope as a trusted motivational leader. This time discussing the importance of being cautious about the path you follow, and those who lead you down them.

Stop Putting It Off - A Good Day with the Rev. Dr. Bill Self

Friday October 24, 2008
Need some motivation? The Rev. Dr. Bill Self gives an inspirational message of motivation to get it done today, because tomorrow may be too late. A Good Day with the Rev. Dr. Bill Self.

Grow Into Maturity - A Good Day with Rev. Dr. Bill Self

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Bill Self discusses the meaning of maturity and growing up in an inspirational message from Day1 and Growfaith.

Conquering Difficulties - A Good Day with Rev. Dr. Bill Self

Friday October 24, 2008
Rev. Dr. Bill Self discusses the difficulties of all human life and the importance of persevering through the hardships that make life beautiful. A Good Day with Dr. Bill Self.

Hold Fast to Dreams - A Good Day with Dr. Bill Self

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. William L. Self brings you positive and powerful messages of faith and hope as a trusted motivational leader. This time discussing the importance of sticking to your dreams, no matter what the challenges, because one day they will come true.

Expect the Best in Others - A Good Day with Dr. Bill Self

Friday October 24, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Bill Self, a trusted motivational leader, reminds us of the goodness of others in this message of faith and hope. Polish someone else's halo for once.

Back To Basics

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self says many Christians are like the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, who did not believe in him, so he could do few miracles. “The power of God, the immediate power of God in our lives, is much more available than the average Christian knows, or is willing to dare tap ... This is the central tragedy of any church, that God in Jesus Christ is willing to do much more in and through us than we are willing to do or to let him do.”

Is Our Gospel Too Small?

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self said, “Politicians can come and go, philosophies can come and go, elections can come and go, but the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of God is forever. We need to unhook ourselves from these petty causes ... Changing this world is the only vision big enough for the cross of Jesus Christ and it’s the only vision big enough for a church that takes its calling seriously.”

No Cross, No Crown

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self said in this sermon, “If you think you have a Christian faith without a cross, you don’t have a faith. We want a faith that makes us feel good. We want a faith that gives us four ways to get along with everybody, three ways to save our marriage, two ways to make sure that we don’t get in trouble. And all of that little, shallow “Reader ’s Digest” kind of religion will not do a thing for you. That kind of religion is not going to get to the heart of the human problem...”

Roadblocks to Renewal

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self says many Christians are like the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, who did not believe in him, so he could do few miracles. “The power of God, the immediate power of God in our lives, is much more available than the average Christian knows, or is willing to dare tap ... This is the central tragedy of any church, that God in Jesus Christ is willing to do much more in and through us than we are willing to do or to let him do.”

Taking Control of Your Life

Friday October 24, 2008
You can act your way into a new way of feeling easier than you can feel your way into a new way of acting. Know what you want. Dream. Believe. And then get ready for what God is doing with you and you know what’ll happen? You’ll be in charge of your life and you’ll give it to God.

Depression: Its Cause and Cure

Friday October 24, 2008
Sometimes we feel like the prophet Elijah, so depressed we want to run away and quit. But God provides for us, even when we feel alone and abandoned.

It is Finished!

Friday October 24, 2008
In his final service as pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church, Bill summarizes his life of ministry, offers counsel to the church, and paraphrases Gary Cooper’s line from, “The Pride of the Yankees,” when he says, “I’m the luckiest man that ever lived.”

Every Remembrance of You

Friday October 24, 2008
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Bill Self said, “We all have a past... And I’ll guarantee you that if we go into your past and my past, we’re going to find some things back there we don’t like. I don’t mean we’re all deep dark criminals or anything, but there are bad judgments, bad decisions, bad days, everybody has it back there... But I don’t care what you think about what you’ve done, you’re not big enough, I’m not big enough. All of us together are not big enough, to create a sin big enough that God can’t forgive.”

On to Maturity

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self explains four steps to grow from a “Peter Pan” Christian to one who is mature in their faith. “The Christian faith is not a crystal or a china porcelain teacup that will chip and break. The Christian faith is an oak tree that has deep roots. And people smarter than you and me have tried to destroy it and they haven’t been able to do it.”

This is What the Lord Has Commanded

Friday October 24, 2008
In this stewardship sermon, Bill Self said God expects His people to live sacrificially. “We want the Spirit of God to dwell with us, as God has promised it would. We need to open ourselves up to Him. We need to say, ‘I’m a part of that. I want to lift a load of this world.’ I’ll guarantee you that there’s a direct correlation between the sacrifice of God’s people and the presence of God and their service and the effectiveness of their ministry.”

A Sermon on the Amount

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self says that participation is critical to living a significant, meaningful life. “If you want to be somebody spiritually, if you want your life to mean something, participate! If you want your church life to mean something, participate!” He said, “Don’t be a spectator. Take part. You get out of life what you put into it. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”

And Finally ... Some Things to Think About

Friday October 24, 2008
What are the three most important things we need to know about God? Bill Self delves into that question in this sermon entitled, “Some Things to Think About.”

We Can Soar With Our Language

Friday October 24, 2008
Words are powerful. They can inspire people and bring them to their feet, or they can bitterly hurt and demoralize. Bill Self says, “The tongue controls the body and what we are shows in our language.” God views our words seriously and in this sermon Bill explains how we should use them to help, rather than hurt.

A Report from the Front Lines of Marriage

Friday October 24, 2008
What are the keys to a long, meaningful marriage? Bill Self looks at Scripture and also shares tips from Johns Creek Baptist Church’s Golden Club, an organization of couples married 50 years or more.

Above a Useless Life

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self challenges the Johns Creek Baptist Church to be the church God intended. “The purpose of church is not to make us feel good. The purpose of church is not to satisfy us with oratory, teaching or music. That’s not why we’re here ... We are here for the world, and that’s why God blessed us... Our purpose is to affirm God’s agenda.”

The Sin of Aiming Low

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self says each of us have defining moments that help set the trajectories of our lives. But the temptation is often to aim low and play it safe. “The question God is going to ask the deacons and committees and Sunday school teachers, the question He’s going to ask you, ushers and church members is, ‘Did you aim high, or did you aim low?’”

We Can Soar

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self says everyone has special times when life is good — soaring times. But life also includes ordinary days — for people and churches — and sometimes it’s hard to move. God promises strength for His people in those times. Bill says, “You can soar. You can run. And you can walk. Because God’s in it with you, all the way. All three are a part of God’s plan. But the key is, you’ve got to take the step. You must take the step. You must do it.”

Why I Am a Baptist

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self explains who Baptists are and why he has been one all his life. “Jesus Christ has called us to feed the hungry, so here we feed. Jesus Christ has called us to help a church somewhere...We’ve come together to tell the world what Jesus Christ can do. We’re missionary people and we’re testimony people. That’s what makes a church alive. Not this inward feel-good stuff, but the outward makes a church alive.”

The Top Five Reasons for Not Joining the Church

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self relates the top five reasons people give for not joining the church. But despite the explanations, he says “there’s a craving in each one of us, whether we admit it or not, to be a part of a group. We don’t want to be separate. We want to be connected with other people... We join all kinds of groups that are sympathetic to what we are to feed ourselves.” The church is different, Bill says, because “the church is made up of Jesus’ people.”

God's Providential Protection

Friday October 24, 2008
In this Father’s Day sermon, Bill Self continues a study of the 23rd Psalm. “The Psalmist is saying, ‘You are God’s special person. I not only give food and shelter and take care of you, but I give you the gift of being special.’ That is powerful. Many people go through life and they never feel special.” And as he did for more than 40 years, Bill concludes with the retelling of a portion of Harper Lee’s book, “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Come Home, Atlanta!

Friday October 24, 2008
Taking his text from the story of the Prodigal Son, Bill Self said Atlanta, “like the Prodigal, have left our father’s home. I think we need to take a good, hard look at where we are and what we’ve done, and I think that in our journey to be uptown, and our journey to be like New York, and our journey to take our place in the middle of what may be the nation and the world, we have left our father’s home.” He urged, “Come home, Atlanta. Get up out of the farmer’s pig stye and come home!”

Where the Rubber Hits the Road — Fear

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self said, “There comes a time in everybody’s life when you have to decide that you cannot live all of your life dominated by fear of what’s going to happen. So many of the human problems we all see are problems that are created by people who are going into next week, and next month, and next year, and borrowing all the trouble they can and they’re spending all of their time worrying about those things. What happens if? What will come about if? If this occurs what will it mean?”

Whatever Happened to Sin?

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self says, “It’s not fashionable any longer to think in terms of man as being a moral creature. It’s not fashionable any longer to use sin as a moral category, because the minute you talk about sin, you have to talk about whether it is part of our lives. It presumes a moral law and it presumes a relationship with God. ... (but) man is a creature who is alienated from God. His basic alienation from God is that which gives him his own pain, and God has mercifully supplied a way for us to have a bridge back to God.”

He Is Able

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self said many Christians get discouraged because we have said something that the Bible doesn’t say. “We have said, ‘I am able.’ And we find ourselves being ground up out there by the world. We think we are able. We get our energy up. We go into battle and we get destroyed. The Bible never says, ‘I am able.’ The Bible says, ‘He is able.’ And that’s where we’ve made a mistake. We somehow think that we go in to do the work of God on our own strength. Actually, we do the work of God in his name and in his strength.”

It's Character That Counts

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill Self said Jesus offers us a lifetime guarantee. “He will take care of our needs and God will take care of our needs, but we will never get them without fulfilling one condition. That one condition is ‘Righteousness’ ... Righteousness comes first. Righteousness comes before anything is added on to us. That’s a spiritual law. It’s a law, like gravity.”

For Such a Time as This

Friday October 24, 2008
Bill delivered the 1977 annual sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention in Kansas City, MO, which was the keynote sermon. He challenged the convention to expand its vision, think more creatively and minister more courageously, saying, “Who knows whether we have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

The View from Mount Nebo

Friday October 24, 2008
In his next-to-the last sermon as pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church, Bill Self urged the congregation to “finish the game.” He said, “Whoever you are, whatever your age is, whatever you’re facing, whatever you’ve been through, life does not end there. Finish the game and understand that it has four quarters in it, or seven stages, whatever. And don’t let anybody tell you that it ended when you became 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or 70 or 80, don’t let anybody tell you that it’s over. It’s over when they put you in the ground. But then that’s the beginning because God raises you up and you’re with Him forever. Finish the game!”