EDITOR’S NOTE: The following interview of Jimmy Jackson, one of the three SBC presidential candidates, is to be published in the May 6 edition of The Christian Index.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–J. Gerald Harris, editor of the Christian Index (www.christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention, conducted the following interview with Jimmy Jackson, pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., and one of three announced candidates for president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Index: What prompted you to make yourself available to serve as president of the SBC or to allow your name to be considered for this strategic office?
Jackson: Because of my many years of experience at every level of service in the SBC — beginning with working with RAs in my home church, later becoming pastor of a church running 30 in Sunday School in my home state of Mississippi, pastor of Union Baptist in Grand Bay, Ala., a rural church of about 120 average in Sunday School, pastor of First Baptist in Key West, Fla., and First Baptist in Merritt Island, Fla., and now for 32 years at Whitesburg Baptist in Huntsville, Ala., averaging around 2,000; serving on associational committees and moderator of Florida Keys Association, state convention pastors conference president, second vice president, first vice president, and president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention; SBC Executive Committee — one of the first appointments by Adrian Rogers in 1979; first vice president, parliamentarian for 23-24 years, and board of trustees at Southwestern Seminary for the past six years.
People began to call me and church members urged me on the basis of my leadership as president of Alabama Baptists to pray about the SBC presidency. Others called me because of concerns about the future of our convention.
They wanted someone with years of experience in the inner workings of the SBC and felt that I would be a peacemaker and would move carefully yet courageously to lead our convention and its entities to seek the Lord for genuine Holy Spirit revival and honest evaluation of how we can renew the passion for personal soul-winning, global evangelism and loving cooperation among our people.
Index: Since there are presently three announced candidates, what segment of the SBC do you think your candidacy will appeal to most?
Jackson: I have no real feel for who may support me, but I would hope that all of those who love our convention, who see that we need to deal with our spiritual issues before we start changing the system of cooperation that has been blessed by God for so long and who are willing to face the fact that we need to be open to new ways of ministering the Word without disregard for the past or fear of the future — these I hope will support me.
Index: What would be your vision for the SBC as president of our convention?
Jackson: My vision for the SBC is for a healing of the body through a transformation of each of us as individuals. I am praying for a spirit of love, forgiveness and openness. If we can agree on the importance of our God-given mandate to evangelize the lost and disciple the saved, and if we can agree that none of us is big enough to do it all alone — that for Jesus’ sake, we need each other — from small churches to large and all in between, from every ethnic group, and if we can agree that the CP is still a great method to provide financial support for all of our work, both here and abroad, [then] we can forge ahead and be instrumental in calling down a great spiritual awakening on our nation and our world.
Index: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing Southern Baptists today?
Jackson: Our divisiveness and suspicion of one another, our pride and turfism, our lack of personal obedience to the Scripture — “do not let the sun go down on your anger” and love God and one another.
Index: What are our greatest strengths and weaknesses as Southern Baptists?
1. Our strong belief in the Word of God.
2. Numbers of people
3. Giftedness of people and pastors
4. Concern for others — lost and needy
5. A growing awareness of the need to work together
1. Unforgiveness toward each other
2. Lack of understanding of the intricate workings and multiple ministries of our state and Southern Baptist conventions.
3. Unwillingness to accept change.
4. Desire to change too fast and only as we desire. “General gets too far out in front of his troops — they mistake him for the enemy and start shooting at him.”
Index: What is the most strategic role a convention president has in Southern Baptist life?
Jackson: He gets to use his influence in just about every arena of convention life. He can inspire, calm, challenge, love and pray. My experience as president of Alabama Baptists has given me a greater passion for pastors, people, leaders and the mission of our Lord.
The president also leads in the appointment process for various convention entities and agencies. His convictions and vision are reflected in these choices.
Index: How long have you been one of the convention parliamentarians?
Jackson: 23 or 24 years
Index: What have you learned about Southern Baptists in this vital role at that many convention gatherings?
1. Value of the autonomy of church and agencies.
2. We are different — we come in a lot of varieties.
3. We like to be respected and heard.
4. We are doing a lot of good things right, but we need to constantly evaluate and improve. Our Lord deserves our best.
Index: What has been the most challenging moment in the convention from the perspective of a parliamentarian?
Jackson: Continuing to carry out business in an open forum with thousands of people. We are unique.
Index: You have served as a first vice president of our convention. How has that prepared you to serve as president?
Jackson: This helped me to see things from a different perspective. Although the vice president does not get involved in the appointment process very much, he does get to represent the convention when the president is unavailable, and he presides for part of the convention. He also sits in on the officers, parliamentarians, and attorney meetings prior to and during the convention annual meeting.
I was already doing this and working with the Committee on Order of Business as a parliamentarian, but I listened even more attentively since I was going to be at the podium handling business. The view is different from up there.
Index: How do you feel about the work of the GCR Task Force to date? What would you like to see accomplished in the task force’s final report?
Jackson: The GCR Task Force had a great deal of unnecessary inflammatory rhetoric early on. Since that time there has been an effort by chairman Ronnie Floyd to moderate that. I think the task force was assigned an almost impossible task, but they have worked hard in recent months to hear the concerns of all who are affected by their recommendations.
I would like to see the task force make its report and make it clear that any implementation that involves an entity or agency of the SBC must be acted upon according to the trustee system and the constitution and bylaws of the SBC. They also need to assure Southern Baptists that the CP will be the main artery of financial supply for our ministries.
The original agenda of the task force seems to have been moderated to gain more support but it has not changed in philosophy. It is here most concerns are raised by those who do not favor the report.
Index: What role do you think the convention president will have in helping to implement the task force recommendations?
Jackson: Whether the task force recommendations are accepted or rejected by the SBC, I believe they will have raised some serious questions and will have offered some heartfelt suggestions as to how we can move ahead as a convention with a greater world evangelism passion. Their suggestions are not the only ideas that could be considered, but at least we are open to evaluating where we are and how we move ahead.
The president must be open to all of the concerns and must prayerfully and wisely seek to lead our convention to greater unity and effectiveness.
Index: Whitesburg’s CP percentage would be considered by some as below average. How would you respond to that criticism?
Jackson: Our CP giving is below average. We adopted a plan years ago based on our understanding that the IMB and the NAMB would not be able to function at their present level without both the CP and the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings. We have begun to raise our CP giving each year in small increments. We have raised our special offering goals each year too.
We now give around 4.6 percent to the CP and 6 percent to the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings. In addition we do direct missions with our state convention, NAMB and IMB. These offerings are not counted in our percentage to the CP and major convention gifts.
As I have served the Alabama Baptist Convention, I have come to understand better than ever before that the CP is our day job. We need to give sacrificially and systematically to support all of the work of our convention, but we must also continue to increase our gifts to the special offerings.
Our church leads our state nearly every year in the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings.
Index: What do you think can be done to reverse the decline in the Southern Baptist Convention?
Jackson: We must come together in prayer and fasting, in seeking revival in our established churches. We must also continue in the planting of churches in strategic places to reach the lost and needy. We need a spiritual transformation.
Index: Who have been your heroes in life?
Jackson: My grandfather (Papaw), Daddy, and Mother, and my wife, Bobbi. Jess Hendley, Roy Fish, Billy Graham.