We never fully understand the impact our lives can have on those around us. The life and ministry of Johnny Jackson — a Southern Baptist minister in Arkansas — was a major influence on mine.

I had the privilege of attending a memorial service for Brother Johnny last week at First Baptist Church in Maumelle. The service was a celebration of a life spent serving others.

Brother Johnny was pastor of many churches in Arkansas and spent his last few decades of "retirement" as interim pastor in numerous churches all over the state. He was at one time president of Arkansas Baptist State Convention and was influential in many denominational organizations. But his greatest impact was perhaps on the people around him throughout his ministry, including my family.

I had known Brother Johnny since childhood. He mentored my father as a young pastor. He spent time encouraging and challenging him in the ministry. I grew up hearing stories about Brother Johnny, two of which stand out in my memory.

My dad’s first position working for a church was as minister of evangelism at Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro. One of his responsibilities was to assist the evangelist who would travel in to preach for the annual revival services. One year Johnny Jackson was that evangelist.

Duties included pre-arranging the visit — making sure the evangelist had his hotel arrangements secured and similar details. Brother Johnny asked something different from my dad; he wanted a list of 25 people in Jonesboro who needed Jesus.

When Brother Johnny arrived for the revival, he pulled out the list that had been worn and folded as he had prayed for months over the names. That week, 17 of the 25 people on the list made the decision to follow Jesus.

During revival week, Brother Johnny took my dad to lunch. He asked my dad if he made time to take my mom out for a weekend getaway from time to time and show her how important she was. My dad admitted that he wanted to but struggled to find the time.

"Mark, you need to do this. It is important," Brother Johnny told him. He specifically challenged him to take his wife to the Red Apple Inn in Heber Springs for a weekend sometime in the next few months.

My dad followed his advice and took my mom for a couple nights to the resort. That evening when they went to dinner at the restaurant at the hotel, they found Brother Johnny in the dining room eating dinner with his wife, Carlene.

Brother Johnny lived what he preached.

In our lives, we impact those around us. Like a rock thrown into a pond, the lives we touch spread out to touch other lives. I grew up in a home with a dad who took the time to show my mom how much he loved her. I came to know the love of Christ from the ministry of a man who took the time out of his busy schedule to mentor my dad.

Whose life are you impacting today? How far and wide will the ripples of your life spread? You can make a difference.

Will you?


Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.