ALPHARETTA, Ga.—It wasn’t the first time Lee Jackson had made a trek from Cannonsburg, Kentucky to Atlanta. But there was something different this time.
It was an eerie absence of vehicles—even as he got closer to metro Atlanta, a place famous for its congested highways.
“As you’re driving, you just not seeing as much traffic,” Jackson said. “I mean, even in Atlanta with all the people here. It’s just kind of a sign of what all these people are going through. Nobody’s on the roads.”
For Jackson, it was a stark reminder of just how much things have changed in such a short time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But for the Kentucky pastor and trucker, the uncharacteristically empty interstate was sort of a confirmation to answered prayers.
“I’ve been seeing how this situation has been impacting people spiritually,” he said. “And as I was driving and seeing the empty roads, it reminded me how I’ve been praying for revival. I just didn’t realize it would come this way. People are really having to turn to God during all of this.”
On Wednesday April 1, Jackson will celebrate his one-year anniversary as pastor of First Baptist Church, Cannonsburg. A former church planter, this isn’t his first time leading a congregation. But it is the first time he’s had to do so in the midst of a global pandemic.
Less than 24 hours after teaching Bible study for his church—online, since his church has ceased corporate worship—Lee climbed the steps of an 18-wheeler Send Relief truck packed with 20,000 N-95 masks and 25,000 protective suits. He was preparing to do mobile ministry by delivering the haul to a facility where it would be distributed to healthcare workers across the state and country.
“Right up the street from my church is the Send Relief (ministry center) building, so when I moved here, we made that connection, and I told (Send Relief Missionary) Rob Allen any time he needed me, I’d be willing to help,” Jackson said.
Jackson appreciates the various ways God’s glory can be shown, even in crisis. He’s also glad he didn’t give up his CDL after being called from the oil fields and lumber yards of North Dakota to his Kentucky pulpit.
Jackson got his CDL after a stint in church planting. He wasn’t ready to get back into pastoring yet, but he still needed an income to support his wife and children. And even as he worked through those North Dakota oil fields and lumber yards, God was working on his heart for ministry.
“I knew this was just a respite,” he said. “I knew that God was going to bring me back to serve Him in a different way. But even while I was driving full time, I was still able to see people changed by the gospel.”
Now, as First Baptist Church Cannonsburg’s pastor, Jackson gets to serve again in a more traditional way as he leads a congregation that has “roughly 60% of our membership over the age of 70” through one of its most difficult and uncertain times.
“So, there’s some fear and trepidation with our folks because of all that’s going on,” he added. “And everybody’s taking all the precautions they can take. But at the same time, we’re still going out into the marketplace as we have to go. We’re still sharing Christ and telling people about the Lord and letting them know He’s greater than of these other things going around us, and that He’s still in control.”
Jackson calls the way God grabbed control of his life, ultimately resulting in a call to ministry, a “long story.” But one that, when he recalls it, causes him to re-up his motivation to serve Jesus in any possible way.
“I was saved at young age but lived a rebellious lifestyle for a long time,” he said. “I made a promise to my uncle that when I got married, I’d raise my kids in Sunday school. So, when I got married and we had our first child, I fulfilled a promise by taking that child to church, and that was that. The Lord brought us home and it wasn’t long after that I began to feel his call on my life to preach the gospel.”
Preaching is perhaps his biggest passion. It’s why he doesn’t complain about the fact that 24 hours after jumping off the road, he’d be preparing to stand behind his virtual pulpit Sunday morning to share the gospel with his members once again.
But because of his recent opportunity to serve people beyond his pulpit in such a unique and far-reaching way, Jackson says he’ll feel a twinge more purpose from now on as he continues to preach and teach God’s word and share his convictions of Christ with others.
“Coming out of this, I don’t think any church or any pastor will ever be the same,” he said. “We’ve talked about evangelism and all the things we know we need to do for so long. This pandemic is forcing us to do those things, and I don’t see us being able to just go back and get comfortable sitting on pews anymore. Instead of doing church or going to church, we get to be the church now, and I hope that doesn’t wear out.”