Today is a special day at Whitesburg. We are celebrating with our pastor, Dr. Jimmy Jackson, on the occasion of his 35th anniversary as Senior Pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church. In today’s world, such a tenure is extremely rare. In fact, just this week, I read that the average tenure of a Southern Baptist Convention pastor is 3.5 years. Think about that. This fact means that the average Southern Baptist church has had 10 pastors during the time Jimmy Jackson has served at Whitesburg.
“Bro. Jimmy” as Whitesburg folks (and many from the community) refer to him is certainly deserving of every accolade given him. When I decided to write a blog post about him, one Bible verse kept coming to mind…
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:11–12, NASB95)
Bible scholars point out that “pastors and teachers” refers to one office. In fact, it is not wrong to write it as “pastor/teacher” in order to emphasis two aspects of the same office. There are many reasons that he has been able serve through the ups and downs of 35 years at the same church, but I believe one of the many reasons is that he is a consummate pastor/teacher. A pastor is a shepherd who leads, cares for, and protects his flock. A teacher is one who faithfully teaches his people the Word of God. Jimmy Jackson does both of those things extremely well. He shepherds his people and he teaches them the Word of God. He has done that for me and my family as well as thousands of others.
I first met Jimmy Jackson in March 1993. I was new in ministry and going through a discouraging time. A friend talked me into attending revival services at Whitesburg on Monday night. The music and the message from Bill Stafford were uplifting, but the most uplifting time for me occurred at the end of the service. Bro. Jimmy saw two young preachers sitting down near the front and made a bee line for us after the service. He spent a few minutes encouraging us and asking about our ministries. It really meant a lot to me that he took the time to speak to us. I left Whitesburg that night uplifted and encouraged. What I did not know then was that was just Jimmy Jackson. He tends to just minister to folks as he meets them.
Since 2007, I have served as Associate Pastor with him at Whitesburg. Now that I have worked closely with him for six years, I can honestly say that I have more respect for Jimmy Jackson today than I had when I arrived six years ago. He prays for every member of our church by name on a regular basis. He prays for me as a staff member multiple times each week. He still visits people in the hospital, counsels the confused, sits in multiple meetings each week, and officiates at dozens of weddings and funeral each year. In fact, I am amazed at how available he is to the people, even though he is a “mega church pastor.” He does all of this when faithfully preparing to preach the Word verse by verse each week. I have never heard him preach, but that I did not get a fresh insight or nugget of truth from the Word.
In spite of being the pastor of a large church, and a Southern Baptist Convention leader on many levels, Bro. Jimmy remains down to earth and humble. He is a very successful pastor of one of the largest churches in one of the most highly educated areas of the United States. Yet, at heart, Jimmy Jackson remains a country boy from Mississippi. His background and experience enable him to connect with people from all backgrounds. He can meet with a powerful Huntsville business leader in the afternoon and then drive to preach in a small country church that night, and be effective in both places – wearing the same suit! Not many pastors can pull that off! That’s Bro. Jimmy.
He is still my friend. He is my pastor. He is my boss, although it really doesn’t feel that way. His genuine love for Christ and for people comes through every single day. I don’t believe that he has ever called me into his office and said, “Now, I am going to teach you something you need to know….” That’s just not his way. However, I have learned very much that I needed to know just by working with him and watching him over these years. His impact on my life has been immeasurable. I am a better Christian, a better husband, a better father, and a better pastor from having him as part of my life.
This is why I join the rest of the Whitesburg family in saluting my pastor, our pastor on his 35th anniversary at Whitesburg. Our prayers are daily with him, his loving wife, Bobbi, and the rest of the Jackson family. I look forward to continuing to serve alongside him as we enter his 36th year of ministry at Whitesburg.
Bro. Jimmy, you are truly the best, and I thank the Lord for you and pray for you each day!