In May of 1987, I drove my loaded Isuzu pick-up truck from Conyers, GA to Southaven, MS, not knowing what I would find when I arrived. You see, I had surrendered to a full-time call upon my life to preach the gospel, left my career with Georgia Power Company, and was headed to seminary in Memphis, TN. Southaven was just across the state line and I had made an appt. with a realtor to look at rental housing. Cindy and the children were to remain in GA until I found us a place to live.
When I arrived, I checked into a cheap hotel (I believe it was a Saturday), looked up the closest Baptist church, and the next day went there to worship. During the greeting time (yes, they still had those), I was immediately welcomed by three of four folks and when they learned I was there to go to seminary, they said, “You have to meet our Associate Pastor, he is from Georgia, too!” After the service, I met John A. Jenkins … and that meeting would shape the future of my ministry in profound ways.
John, and his wife Donna, were so warm and friendly and went out of their way to help us get settled. John and I became close friends over the next few months, too. John was quirky, funny, unorthodox, flamboyant, self-deprecating, and profoundly in love with Christ’s church and God’s Word. As a man with little to no background in church service, I was shocked, pleased, and impacted by his life and teaching. In the Fall of 1987, I remember telling him that if he ever decided to pastor somewhere that I would like an opportunity to serve with him. In February of 1988, it happened.
John agreed to pastor Ridgecrest Baptist Church just south of Memphis and asked me to be the Worship and Youth pastor. He took a big risk with me as I had NO experience. He had a lot and knew how to position a church for healthy growth. Immediately, it began to happen, too. We eventually moved across the state line to Southaven, changed the name of the church to SouthCrest, and I saw our youth group grow from 2 to over 20. John taught me about new member classes, healthy church growth, staff meetings in hot tubs, and how to pick your nose on stage while your service is being broadcast (one of my funniest remembrances). So much of what I learned, I implemented in the churches I would go on to pastor and the results were always the same … healthy, biblical growth.
John challenged me. We broke fellowship and then restored it three months later. We remained friends through the years and through the pain. I loved him dearly and I will miss him.
John, dance with Jesus, buddy! We will (before too long) see Him together!