It wasn't his preaching or his prominence in the community that grabbed the attention of Missouri Baptist leaders, but rather the growth and blessing God gave to Miner Baptist Church in Miner, Mo., said the Rev. Mitchell Jackson.
Jackson was recently elected as president of the Missouri Baptist Convention during an annual meeting in Raytown, Mo. Jackson, who previously served as first vice president, was unopposed in the bid for the convention's top post.
"Becoming president doesn't have as much to do with me as it does with the church catching the attention of state leaders because of its growth," he said. "And that's a God thing."
When Jackson came to Miner Baptist, the church was averaging 150 people in worship. In nearly eight years the average has jumped to 600 people attending two services. "I was just here at the right time and in the right place," Jackson said.
Jackson believes that the church today is poised to make a large impact on society. He sees people who hunger for the truth.
"People are tired of hearing what people think they want to hear," he said. "They want to know what the Lord says."
A Cape Girardeau native and Southeast Missouri State University graduate, Jackson says part of his church's growth can be attributed to his stand on preaching the Bible as the inerrant, or literal, word of God.
He doesn't avoid addressing controversial topics from the pulpit -- like family values and the impact of gay marriage -- nor does he bow to politically correct attitudes. "I just preach the word of God," he said.
In the past three years, Missouri Baptists have been at odds on issues of theology, biblical inerrancy and politics. The convention and five Missouri Baptist institutions have been embroiled in a legal battle over who actually controls the institutions and their assets.
During a 2001 meeting in Cape Girardeau, delegates voted to form a legal task force and escrow any money the institutions would have received from the state convention.
The years of lawsuits and legal depositions have been grueling, Jackson said. As a member of the state executive board, he has been named in the suits. "We try to keep people informed, but I don't let it drag me down," he said. "Whether we win or lose we'll go on."
And despite the struggles, the state staff has been able to focus on other matters like evangelism and church planting.
During their annual meeting last week, Missouri Baptists also discussed a proposal that would prohibit any church with ties to groups other than the Missouri Baptist Convention or Southern Baptist Convention from retaining membership in the convention. The issue of single-alignment has come up in years past but hasn't received enough support for a vote. The issue will be voted on during the 2005 meeting that will be held in Springfield, Mo.