To simply walk in to Faith Tabernacle Church, which sits basically on the edge of Crystal Springs and Gallman, you might not be able to feel the fire in the air.
But it’s there, according to the parishioners, and it’s growing. In a time where churches are experiencing falling numbers and morale, Faith Tabernacle’s vitality within its own walls and extending out to the community can’t be ignored.
“It feels like fire in your spirit,” says church member Suma Dixon-Fair. “I don’t know how to describe it, it’s a powerful feeling. It’s like you feel God just in the place. I love it, but I don’t know how to explain it.”
Meet the Pastor
Pastor Jarrod Dixon, who is 25 years old, came to the pulpit with new ideas and enthusiasm and became a driving force in the momentum of the church. He won’t take credit for it though. He just thanks God for calling and using him.
“I was in my senior year of high school, and had these aspirations of basketball, and then He said, ‘I want you to preach,'” Dixon said. “I was like, ‘What??'”
Dixon went to three different high schools growing up: Crystal Springs High School, which is a majority black; Enterprise Attendance Center in Lincoln County, which is a majority white; and Brookhaven Academy, where he was the only black person in the entire school. He said learning the different perspectives and kinds of people has been invaluable as he’s navigated such a public position.
“I love the fact that I was able to experience that,” he said. “The world is not what you hear it is. Everybody thinks everybody’s racist, but it’s not like that. Everybody thinks everybody’s out to get them, but it’s not like that.”
Dixon was a basketball player, even as he shuffled from school to school.
“Three totally different experiences,” he said with a smile.
He and his dad would get up before 5 a.m., Dixon said, and go to the gym to shoot hoops. Sometimes they were still working on his skills when his classmates started to arrive for the school day. Offense was not his strong suit, Dixon said, so he worked on that more than anything. Today, those lessons have actually translated to his career as a pastor.
“Now in life, I’m able to do some offense, and the devil is trying to defend against me,” he said. “But he can’t hold me because I’ve been working on this all my life.”
That’s not an exaggeration, said his uncle, Rev. Victor Dixon.
“If you knew him years back, when Jarrod was 8-9 years old, he was already different,” the elder Rev. Dixon said. “He was excited about church, excited about singing, excited about the worship service. When the Lord called him into the ministry he hit the ground running.”
Realness and reality
Dixon says while his age may bring some younger people to feel more comfortable at the church, he feels like God has almost made it a nonfactor as he has built his ministry. He said the most important thing a Christian can be, in his opinion, is authentic.
“When people walk up to you, they know what young people call your vibe,” he said. “They know if you’re real or not. A lot of pastors think they are God, or put themselves in a place of such high authority, that they forget the fact that Jesus rode in on a donkey.”
Realness and reality have been a big part of the last year, Dixon said. Church leaders had begun to talk about a renovation of the church that they saw as some time down the road. It was almost a back burner idea, until the ice storm of 2021. When they showed up for church during the weather, they found the church flooded completely.
Dixon and another local pastor were able to rally the troops and go ahead and do the renovation. God’s hand was in that, he said, not just because the church needed the renovation, but because there was something else he’d been putting off.
“I left my job,” he said. “I was the assistant manager at Tractor Supply. I was there for years, and the Lord kept telling me you know, ‘I think it’s time for you to leave.’ I’m like, ‘Lord, I can’t afford to leave. I don’t need to do that.'”
But the church was going through major changes and he needed to be there, Dixon decided, so he took the leap.
“I’m not a carpenter,” he said, laughing. “But I YouTubed how to do some stuff.”
Technology, Theology, and Teaching
The experience at Faith Tabernacle isn’t a regular church experience for most people. Not unlike other churches, there’s singing and preaching, praying and a lot of worship. There’s also the Facebook Live that has become such a part of any church’s presence today.
But as Dixon preaches, there are also sometimes internet memes on the monitors behind him. As he preached about the fiery furnace on January 2, a fairly well known gif from the “Despicable Me” movies popped up.
As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego escaped the furnace, the little yellow minions jumped from their seats and cheered. At another point, the cheerleaders from the movie “Bring it On” issued a challenge to illustrate the Hebrew Bible heroes’ resistance to the government of that time. At other times during the sermon, Bible verses and important points are posted on the screens.
“I love how he breaks things down to where the youth can understand what he’s saying,” said Fair. “And now that we have the media behind him, they can also see.”
Fair says that’s because Dixon understands the need to reach different learning styles. Some people learn by listening, some by seeing, some by interacting, and so on. Dixon, she says, tries to find ways to reach all those people.
During the height of the pandemic, Dixon made a controversial decision. He decided not to close down the church because of the pandemic. It was a faith thing, he said. People were hungry for interaction, and they wanted to worship together.
“The church actually grew during the pandemic,” said Rev. Victor Dixon.
It has been that fearlessness across the board, that inability to see earthly boundaries as binding, that has helped what some would call a 25-year-old kid become one of the most influential pastors in Copiah County right now, church members said.
Pastor of the Year x3
Dixon was voted “Pastor of the Year” by the Copiah County Pastors’ Association late last year. So far this month, he’s also been chosen as Pastor of the Year by both the Crystal Springs Board of Aldermen and the Copiah County Board of Supervisors. It’s hard to imagine what the ceiling is for Dixon.
“I believe a church like this will change people’s minds,” Dixon said. “Because for us as people it’s normal to put everything in a box. But the world is a lot bigger than what we see.”
That’s the key, he said. Like Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”
“I don’t need to see the end. I only need to follow him,” Dixon said. “It’s not about seeing.”
Faith Tabernacle M.B. Church is located at 2117 Experiment Station Road in Crystal Springs.