In the past two decades, the subject of leadership has been a cottage industry for authors, conference speakers and the general public. Almost every reader has read at least one book on this ambitious subject. The old debate concerning leadership centers around whether a leader is born or made. I choose to believe that leaders are both born and made.
For Christians, leadership is an absolute essential. Churches need good and godly leaders. I might add that denominations do too. That brings me to the point of this feature in this blog edition. I want to offer a tribute to two well-known Alabama Baptist leaders.
The first leader I want to affirm is Roger Willmore, pastor of the Deerfoot Baptist Church in the Birmingham area. I have known Roger for decades and I have always respected him as a friend and fellow pastor. Roger takes the preaching ministry very seriously. He was mentored by the late great Stephen Olford. When I hear Roger preach, I can detect the masterful influence of Stephen Olford in his style and spirit.
Roger Willmore is also an excellent pastor. I have some family connections with Deerfoot and they, among so many others, have the highest regard for his compassionate and competent pastoral ministry. He really has a “pastor’s heart.”
I have been the recipient of his caring pastoral ministry too. Earlier this year, when my mother became ill and then weeks later passed away, Roger Willmore was right there by my side walking me through this difficult time of grief and loss. He delayed his trip to the SBC meeting in Indianapolis so that he could conduct her funeral. I remember his words to me, “Now, I am not leaving you until we have your mother’s funeral.” That is the epitome of pastoral ministry. Being a pastor to fellow ministers is going way beyond the call to duty.
The second leader I want to honor is Jimmy Jackson, pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville. Jimmy is a towering figure in Alabama Baptist life. He has served with dedication the Whitesburg Church for more than 30 years. During that time, the church family has experienced growth in numerous ways. Few pastors in the SBC can equal his strong and steady tenure in this pastorate.
I first met Jimmy in June 1978 when he and his family came to Whitesburg from Merritt Island, Fla. Our brief meeting was in Atlanta for the Southern Baptist Convention. I was a twenty-something pastor who wanted to introduce myself to the new pastor of one of our strongest churches. Jimmy took time to be cordial and conversational with me, and I will never forget the feeling of acceptance and affirmation I received from the initial contact.
Jimmy Jackson is a rock solid expository preacher in the same ilk of Jerry Vines and the late Adrian Rogers. Additionally, Jimmy Jackson is a visionary leader and devoted pastor. He is well known in the SBC as well as in our state convention. Jimmy is a friend to pastors and church leaders in every kind and size of church in our convention. This is evidenced in the testimonies of pastors and lay people echoing across our state.
The reason I pay tribute to these two outstanding men is that they both have served as leaders among us in Baptist life. Roger Willmore has just completed his most effective two terms of service as president of our state convention. He has been excellent in this servant-role. All Alabama Baptists can be proud of what he has done to keep us focused on the Great Commission.
Recently, Jimmy Jackson was elected without opposition to the position of president of our state convention. He brings immense pastoral and denominational experience to this role of strategic leadership.
Join me in praying for him as he commences his time of service among us. Also, remember to say thank you to Roger Willmore. He went beyond the call of duty. We can be proud of both of these men and perhaps when we search for a definition of leadership, we can point to them and say, “There go two men who are living definitions of the word ‘leader’.”