“Eternity for every child of God will be a permanent state of blissful service, worship, and glory,” Dr. Mark Jackson wrote. “Throughout all eternity we will be discovering new things about our infinite God. And even eternity will not be long enough!”
On March 7, Dr. Jackson’s eternity began. He was 87. Jackson had spent a lifetime serving Jesus and making Him known. He ran the race, he finished his course, and now he is united with his Savior forever.
Mark Jackson was born in 1928 to Paul R. and Stella (Chappell) Jackson. The son of a Regular Baptist pastor and GARBC national representative, Jackson witnessed firsthand some of the Regular Baptist movement’s most formative years. As a student at Baptist Bible Seminary, he had the privilege of driving and ministering with two of our association’s national representatives, R. T. Ketcham and H. O. Van Gilder. (“You had to be soul-dead not to weep when Dr. R. T. Ketcham preached about Jesus Christ,” Jackson later recalled in a 1994 Baptist Bulletin editorial.)
After graduating from seminary, Jackson spent four decades pastoring Regular Baptist churches in New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Michigan, and Iowa. In 1979 he returned to his alma mater to take the presidency of Baptist Bible College and Seminary (now Summit University). He served in that capacity until 1985.
“Dr. Jackson was a consistent encourager to students, faculty, and staff,” recalls Summit University’s tenth president, Dr. Jim Lytle. “We were never surprised when he stopped us in the hall, looked in our eyes, and asked how we were doing. When we asked him to pray about a concern, he followed up to ask how God had worked. A ‘Dr. J’ hug could carry you through a tough week!”
At the national level, Dr. Jackson was extensively involved in the association’s leadership. He served on the Council of Eighteen, working closely with national representatives Joseph Stowell and Paul Tassell. From 1986 to 1995 he directed Gospel Literature Services, a ministry founded in 1973 to provide printed materials (especially Regular Baptist Press resources) to missionaries of independent Baptist faith mission agencies. This ministry took Jackson, who had inherited his father’s passion for international travel, all over the world.
“My wife, Irene, joins me in thanking the Lord for allowing us the privilege of being His instruments to help place so much literature into the far corners of the earth,” Jackson wrote in 1998. “The years of our pastoral ministries were blessed, but the eight years with GLS were the thrill of our lifetime.”
Dr. Jackson had planned to retire in 1994, but he was unexpectedly called upon to serve the association a little while longer. About three years earlier, National Representative Paul Tassell had begun to experience the first symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. By ’94, his illness had advanced to the point that he was forced to resign his position. The Council of Eighteen asked Mark Jackson to take on the responsibilities of interim national representative. He graciously accepted, and guided the association with a steady hand until John Greening’s appointment as Dr. Tassell’s permanent successor in 1996.
Mark Jackson was a man of many talents and passions. Perhaps he will be most remembered for his fervent advocacy of international missions. “If you can get a church enthused about missions—that’s the hardest thing to do today,” he told the Baptist Bulletin in 2012. “When I visit a church, the first thing I do is look at their missions board, to see what they are doing. I don’t scold them, but I ask myself, What can I do to get these people stirred up, stoked up for the cause of missions?”
Jackson’s own missionary enterprises took him to 75 countries. Some of them he visited during his eight years as director of GLS. Others made their way onto his itinerary in connection with the International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries, some of the groundwork for which Jackson had unintentionally laid as GLS director. Beginning in 1973, a massive number of international churches were either planted or strengthened as a result of GLS’s efforts. This in turn produced a sort of unofficial network of like-minded churches all over the world. Early in John Greening’s tenure as national representative, he realized the potential that existed to forge this network into something more formal. In 1999, messengers to the GARBC Conference passed a resolution forming the IPFBM. Today the partnership comprises over 10,000 churches in nearly 20 countries.
As soon as the IPFBM was formed, Greening invited Jackson to take an active role in cultivating the new network as the GARBC’s international ministry consultant. Jackson accepted the position, and spent the next several years crisscrossing the globe—often accompanied by other pastors, missionaries, and ministry leaders—to minister in these churches and strengthen the ties between them.
“So many places,” Dr. Jackson said in 2012, a pensive gleam in his eye, as he reflected on his years of international ministry. “I traveled two million miles during my time with Gospel Literature Services and the international partnership. Almost unbelievable.”
Dr. Jackson is survived by Irene and their three daughters, Sheryl, Laurie, and Lynne; a daughter-in-law, Deborah; 11 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Paul.
We will always remember Mark Jackson as a godly man who stood for truth because he loved truth’s Author. At every stage of his ministry, Dr. Jackson was convinced that the GARBC’s founding principles were both veritable and valuable. In 1983, long after the sense of urgency sparked by the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy had begun to fade, he passionately implored the churches in our fellowship to stand on and fight for those principles: