COLUMBUS — Tony Dickerson, who has preached in churches all across the Southeast and served as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, has been diagnosed with cancer and several other ailments that make it difficult for him to travel far beyond Muscogee County. Instead of lamenting his circumstances, Dickerson has devoted himself with every ounce of energy and unwavering commitment to the church he has loved and served for 45 years.
In July Pinehurst Baptist Church celebrated dual anniversaries – not only Dickerson’s’ 45th anniversary as the pastor of the church, but the 63rd anniversary of the church’s founding.
While Dickerson and his church have joyfully commemorated the past, they have no intention of continuing to look in the rearview mirror. In fact, the pastor and church are focusing more on what lies ahead and rejoicing in the beginning of his 46th year as pastor.
No plans to take a breather
On Sunday morning the Dickersons’ daughter, Kimberly Humphries, and son-in-law, Chris Humphries, were present to lead in the worship experience. Chris preached the message and Kimberly sang a solo as well as duets with Laila Fletcher and her husband. The church choir along with Vanessa Biggers, Artis Johnson, and Sandra Roane provided what the pastor called “the sweetest music this side of heaven.”
Pinehurst put an exclamation mark on their week of celebration when the retirement of the church debt was completely eliminated. In only one year the church with a budget of less than one million dollars erased an indebtedness of more than $230,000. What the pastor had hoped to do in two years was accomplished in one year.
Dickerson has no intention of advocating that the church take a breather and “take their ease in Zion” now that the debt has been eradicated. His sermon on Sunday evening at the end of the celebratory day was entitled, “Family Forever … Forward Together.”
He explained, “This will be a message to more fully acquaint our members and friends with our plans for the future [now that the] debt is retired. Let me remind you that I am asking everyone who committed giving at his/her current level to continue to do so through July of 2019.
“This will fund a program we are calling Renew, Repair, Renovate, and Revitalize!” The pastor specified that the money received over the next twelve months would be used to repair and renovate some of the church’s aging facilities and revitalize various ministries designed to ignite a new emphasis on evangelism and church growth.
‘A true shepherd’
Over the years we have had Georgia Baptist pastors who have served for more than 45 years, but The Christian Index could not currently identify any pastor whose present tenure with one church exceeds 45 years.
Dickerson is mightily loved and respected by the people in his fellowship. Mariano Pidlaoan, a faithful member of Pinehurst and a mighty prayer warrior, stated, “Pastor Tony Dickerson, whom I love and esteem, is truly a man of integrity. He faithfully serves God, preaches the Word of God without deviation, and leads the church with Christ-like leadership.
“Pastor Dickerson is a true shepherd who does not merely point the way, but leads the way. My entire household has been saved and baptized under his leadership.”
Pidlaoan continued, “Pinehurst is not a perfect church, but it is a church that is full of Christ’s love. It is the church of the open Bible, because our pastor preaches the Gospel and reaches out to the lost. Every message is an exposition from God’s Word and highlights the core truths for Christian living.
“My pastor reminds me of Jeremiah. He is not afraid to preach the whole counsel of God. He proclaims holiness along with love, judgment alone with grace, and does not fear to call sin by name.
“Our church has a worldwide impact, because numerous soldiers and their families (who were at Fort Benning) were saved and baptized here and are now stationed throughout the United States and around the world serving Christ.”
L.B. Murphy, a devoted deacon and a personal assistant to the pastor, spoke somewhat poetically, saying, “As I read the 23rd Psalm, I understand that the Shepherd is the provider of the sheep.
“As the under-shepherd my pastor has been my spiritual teacher; and has not only taught me to have personal time with Jesus, but he has demonstrated it to me in his walk with Jesus. He has taught me that being a Christian is a multifaceted process. It is not just what you say, but it is how you live your life.”
Learning from my pastor
Murphy continued, “I am learning more and more to put my total trust in Jesus as I watch and learn from my pastor. He has meant more to me than silver and gold. Because of the teaching of my pastor I can say like the sheep in verse 4, that every day I am ready to walk” – (even through the valley of the shadow of death).
Lorraine Badr has been a member of Pinehurst for 20 years and is a personal assistant to the pastor’s wife, Mary, as well as the pastor and declares, “They are truly a blessing to our community and church. They have unwavering compassion, consistency, understanding, dignity, and a spirit of inclusiveness. They are the most kind and gracious people that I know.
“Mary Dickerson is a steadfast Christian woman who serves in the background without notoriety. She is a retired schoolteacher and has a doctorate in education. She is undoubtedly a true leader who serves faithfully as a keyboard musician in our church. I have learned to admire and respect Mrs. Dickerson as a mentor and dear friend, who has given me guidance and inspiration as I teach elementary school.”
Pinehurst is a church with great hospitality, a loving congregation, a spirit of unity, a desire to serve, a passion to evangelize, and a pastor who continues to lead with grace and a pulpit ministry that is legendary.