In my first week as president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, I quickly realized that there are stories from the Central community that need to be heard—not just by me but by all who love and are committed to the seminary. To share those stories with you I will “interview” students, alums, faculty, staff, board members, and supporters, and each week will share an interview with you on this new blog titled THIS IS CENTRAL. I look forward to getting to know this community, and I invite you to join me on the journey.
Today’s interview is with Bennie L. Jackson, Jr., a Master of Divinity student at Central.
PD: Tell me about your calling and your ministry journey. How has God been at work in your life?
BJ: I love Jesus with all my heart, soul, and mind. I met him at the age of seven years old. I confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in the city of Little Rock, Arkansas. After being baptized by my father and mentor, Pastor Bennie L. Jackson Sr., I started my walk with Christ. I answered the call into the ministry on November 12, 1986, at a Fall Revival in the middle of a terrible storm that changed my life forever.
I lost my father to pancreatic cancer on Father’s Day in June of 1993. My first eulogy was a week later at my father’s request. A week later, I received a phone call from the chairperson of the pulpit committee at Salem Missionary Baptist Church of Conway, Arkansas, informing me I was the newly elected pastor. I am currently serving as senior servant twenty-seven years later.
My story is one that testifies of God’s grace and goodness as a novice trying to lead God’s people to the next level. Time taught me what no seminary could, and tenure forced me to lead the flock while bleeding! God’s grace made the difference and was more than sufficient as mentors served as scaffolds in my life. I worked over eighteen years as an educator with middle school kids until divine destiny forced me to choose what had precedence.
PD: Tell me about your Central origin story. How did you come to be a student at Central?
BJ: It was evident to me after twenty-seven years of service as a senior pastor there was so much more I needed to learn if I was to be an effective leader. I understood my role as a shepherd to pour into my congregation. Frankly, I’d reached the point where I needed to be poured into spiritually. I pastor a small country church with a big vision. I realized as the ongoing challenges, as well as the demographics of our congregation, changed that I would need the training that I felt this program, along with its astute staff of professors, could adequately provide as essential professional development necessary for my growth. I’m so thankful that a former professor by the name of Dr. Clifton Conley understood my passion for being a better pastor for the Lord. He urged me to contact Dr. Ray Higgins, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas. I shared my interest in furthering my education with Dr. Higgins, who gave me direction. He directed me to Mr. Lyle Kraft, who is responsible for my intrinsic interest in Central Baptist Theological Seminary. I enrolled in Central’s Master of Divinity program in January 2019.
PD: What have been the best resources and experiences you have had in your time at Central?
BJ: My experience here at Central has been academically challenging, and the curriculum rigorous. My best experience has been adjusting to diverse teaching styles and the diversity of various backgrounds of my classmates. I’m looking to meeting Dr. Wallace Hartsfield II. I met his father while attending Arkansas Baptist College at an E.C. Morris Institute. Dr. Hartsfield’s father was one of the keynote speakers that mentored a student for a day. That one day changed my whole perspective as a minister of the gospel. I’ll never forget the priceless advice that Dr. Hartsfield shared with an aspiring novice minister. When I learned his son was a professor at Central, I was excited to have two generations of mentorship.
The classes that I’ve experienced at Central have stretched me to be a better representative of the Kingdom of Heaven. During this period of pandemic, it is refreshing to know that classmates unite in prayer for grace, guidance, and the mercy of God to bring this global pandemic to an end.