This week my good friend and a man I have long looked up to is celebrating 40 years of ministry and retiring as Senior Pastor at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville.
“Bro. Jimmy” as most of us call him has been woven into the fabric of my life for many years. The first time I knew of him was in the early 80’s on the rare occasions when my family was not at church on Sunday morning. We would watch the service of Whitesburg on one of the local Huntsville television channels. The first time I met him was in 1992, when a young pastor friend talked me into going with him to a service at one of Whitesburg’s Winter Bible Conferences. Two young “preacher boys” evidently stood out to him from the platform and Jimmy made a beeline for us after the service. He took a few minutes and greatly encouraged us when he did not have to. In the years to come, as I served in ministry, I would make an appointment with him and he would graciously give me an hour of his time as I navigated life as a young husband, father, and pastor. So, he was a mentor to me for a number of years. Then from 2007-2013, I had the privilege of serving on staff with him as Associate Pastor at Whitesburg. After serving “up close and personal” with him for almost seven years, I had more respect for Jimmy Jackson than I did the day I started. I make no apologies, I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for Jimmy Jackson. In many ways, he is still my pastor.
He is one of the wisest people I know. Etched in my mind and heart are many things I heard him say repeatedly. Here are a few examples…
- “God blesses what is right; He does not bless what is wrong.”
- “The Bible says to forgive people, and there are some people I have had to forgive lots of times.”
- “Bloom where you’re planted.”
- “Stay steady.”
- “Nothing builds people up like love.”
Very often when facing a situation in my own leadership, I quote one of these to myself or to others. His impact on me and my leadership is profound.
In today’s world, it is almost unheard of for a man to lead the same church for forty years, yet Jimmy Jackson has done just that at Whitesburg. He has been faithful. He has been faithful through years when the church grew and prospered in astounding ways. He has been faithful through years when the church faced challenges and hardships. He has been faithful through personal tragedy and set backs that would have made most men quit. Through it all, week after week, he stepped to the pulpit of Whitesburg, opened his Bible, and preached from it. Week after week, he shepherded people and walked with them through their own valleys. Week after week, he consistently shared the gospel and sought to win souls. He is an example of Godly, steady faithfulness over decades. This past Sunday in his final message before becoming Pastor Emeritus, Bro. Jimmy told the church “Stay in the battle, no matter what comes. Be a sticker!” That’s Jimmy Jackson in his own words.
At his side every step of the way has been Bobbi Jackson, a faithful pastor’s wife. Many times, I saw Bobbi meet needs in the church family in her behind the scenes way. Only another pastor’s wife has any idea of the burdens and blessings involved in being the wife of the pastor. Maybe that is why my wife, Becky, loves Bobbi Jackson so much! Like her husband, Bobbi Jackson has a legacy of faithfulness. I honor her as I honor him.
It’s hard to put into words what the Jacksons mean to the Corbin family. Since leaving Whitesburg in the Fall of 2013, every time I have seen Jimmy or Bobbi Jackson each of them has asked about Becky and our boys. Every single time. They know our boys names. They love us and we love them. Literally thousands of people have the same story. It’s no wonder that Whitesburg chose “A Legacy of Love” as the theme for the Jacksons’ 40th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday. It’s a fitting description.
Certainly, in forty years as pastor of Whitesburg, Jimmy Jackson has left a legacy of love in the lives of so many people. However, this legacy of love is only possible because of his own legacy of love. He has loved the Lord faithfully. He has loved his wife faithfully. He has loved his children and grandchildren faithfully. He has loved his church faithfully. He has loved his city faithfully. He has loved the Word of God faithfully. In a day when so many have fallen, he has stood. In a day when so many have quit, he has kept going. In a day when so many are filled with anger, he is filled with love. He is a pastor I want to be like because he is a Christian I want to be like.
Unfortunately, Becky and I won’t be at the special service and reception on Sunday due to ministry responsibilities at the church we serve now. No doubt there will be a huge number there to express their love. It’s a privilege to use this platform to express in a small way the love, respect, and appreciation we have for Jimmy and Bobbi Jackson. “Bro. Jimmy and Bobbi” we love you, honor you, and celebrate with you. Congratulations. Well done. You are the best!