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Father, son switch roles, work together for second timecomment (0)

July 24, 2008

By Martine G. Bates

It’s a story worthy of a movie plot: Father and son reverse roles, each occupying the position previously held by the other.

Only it’s not a movie; it is reality for Bob and Rob Jackson. Once serving as pastor and associate pastor of a church in Kentucky, they have assumed the same roles, only in reverse, at Central Baptist Church, Decatur, in Morgan Baptist Association.

Bob, the elder Jackson, is a native of Flomaton and has served in various churches in the state, including Calvary Baptist Church, Marion; Clio Baptist Church; First Baptist Church, Monroeville; and Gullette’s Bluff Baptist Church, Camden.

In 1990, he was called a second time to Buck Run Baptist, a church in Kentucky where he had served as pastor from 1966 to 1974.

Soon after Bob returned to serve as pastor of Buck Run, it was clear that more staff was needed.

“We got there, and God began to do a remarkable work,” Bob recalled. “We began to grow so rapidly that our building plans had to be modified three or four times and finally scrapped to relocate across the highway.

“I needed help,” the elder Jackson said. “The congregation had known Rob growing up, and they invited him to come and join us. We served eight years together.”

Rob, who had surrendered to the ministry, was happy to join his father.

“I was pastoring a small church in Winston County at the time (Antioch Baptist Church, Double Springs),” Rob noted. “It was an opportunity for him to train me and mentor me. I was able to see all aspects of the pastorate through his years of experience.”

It was a situation neither father nor son had anticipated. Only a few years before, Bob had suffered a heart attack, which led to other health problems and culminated in what he described as “a deep depression.”

“I was nonfunctioning. For a year and a half, I could not even carry on a conversation with my wife,” Bob recalled.

“The doctor put me on total disability and told me I would never be able to cope with work again.”

Bob was stunned when a man came to his home and said he had a message from God for him. The message was, “The greatest days of your ministry are yet to come.”

Not understanding, Bob nevertheless decided to accept the man’s words and wait to see what God would do.

The understanding came with the explosive growth at Buck Run, which was chronicled in the book “Eating the Elephant: Leading the Established Church to Growth” by Thom Rainer and Chuck Lawless. An entire chapter, “The Miracle Called Buck Run,” is devoted to the story of the church’s growth under the leadership of the Jacksons. Between 1990 and 1993, Sunday School attendance grew 133 percent, while worship attendance went up 200 percent.

By 1994, according to the book, nearly five people per week were joining the church.

Fast-forward to 2008. After a stint in the evangelism office at the Alabama State Board of Missions, Rob became pastor of Central Baptist, while his father had just resigned from his pastorate at Brandon Baptist Church, Brandon, Miss. Bob and his wife, Gail, were contemplating “shifting gears” and moving closer to one of their children.

In Decatur, Rob needed help. Central had purchased property and was in the process of renovating and preparing to move. A search committee began to look for an associate pastor.

Rob gave the names of potential associates — all young men — to the search committee.

“The committee came to me and said they felt the church needed a more senior person who had experience at relocation,” Rob related. “They prayed and rejected my three choices.”

One of the committee members asked about Bob Jackson, and the rest of the committee agreed to contact him to ask him about accepting the position.

The two are visibly happy to be working together again.

“One of the most thrilling things is to see how my son has grown — grown in the Lord and grown in wisdom and in faith,” Bob said.

Rob agreed.

“When I was at Buck Run, I wanted to see my dad’s ministry succeed. I believe it is even more so for a father to want to see his son succeed. What a great team we have. As father and son, if we have disagreements, we still love each other,” he said.

Even so, there have been adjustments for the pair.

“When I was associate pastor, I sent the headaches to Dad. Now they’re mine,” Rob joked.

Bob added, “Now I let him have all the problems, and he lets me have all the fun. I stepped down after 52 years of being head pastor — it took a little while to get used to saying ‘Yes, sir’ to my son.”

The pastor and associate pastor are expecting great things as they lead together once again.

“The world is not looking for good churches,” said Rob. “The world is looking for a church transformed by the power of God, a church walking by faith and not by sight.”

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