Can anything good come out of Arkansas? Well, sure. Why would you ask that question?
There’s a lot of good things about Arkansas besides hillbilly jokes. There’s beautiful scenery (it’s not called the Natural State for nothin’), memories of the great Southwest Conference, a superb presidential library . . . and twin brothers who were truly li’l Dickens. We are blessed to have one of the twins as part of our Texas Baptist IIM Network.
Dean Dickens (twin to Doug) has a solid resume of experiences that help make him one of the best interim pastors I’ve even known. He pastored, including Cliff Temple Baptist in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas. He taught at seminaries, including the Baptist seminary in the Philippines, where they recently named a lecture series in his honor. He served as a foreign missionary for 28 years, and he has coached/led/resourced/managed missionary teams, as well.
Today, he serves as the IIM pastor at Agape Baptist in Fort Worth, his third interim since joining our Network. Filled with former professors, Agape would be an intimidating place for the average pastor to serve, but Dean is not average. What sets Dean apart from most ministers, at least in my eyes, is his ability to be self-differentiated and his total commitment to helping the church—no matter what the personal cost.
Let me describe these in a little more detail.
Dean is not intimidated by his former professors and/or colleagues, because he’s so comfortable in his own skin. He is who he is, and he doesn’t try to put on airs. When questioned about whether his preaching would satisfy the demands of highly educated former seminary professors, he explained that he wouldn’t be preaching to them, but to the wider audience that mainly had a different level of needs. What a risky answer! What a perfectly truthful answer! . . . They called him anyway!
I’ve seen him do this before with different results. Dean has visited with other churches (interviews and on my behalf) and recognized that the interim search teams were drifting way off course. He was open, honest, and upfront in coaching them on a better way to conduct their search, assess their needs, and call an interim. In some of those cases, it has probably cost him the job, but the search teams were much better off for hearing from Dean.
Dean served at First Baptist Texas City, where I interviewed the Transition Team. After he was excused, I pointedly asked if he had tried to pressure them to become a CBF church (his denominational employer at the time). “What’s CBF?” they asked. His next church was an SBTC church, and now the pendulum has swung the other direction with Agape Baptist. Do you think this is a sign that his heart is in the right place—serving churches where they are and not serving his own ego?
Well, if none of this has made you cry out—“What the Dickens?”—let me share one more story with you. Dean is a dog lover. I was visiting with him while he traveled to Agape. I asked about some background noise and he said, “That’s my dog.” During his interviews he explained that if the church called him, they would have a “church dog” during his tenure. That’s a first time I’ve ever heard of that! I’m not suggesting you try this, but I am suggesting you think about the excellent model Dean is as an interim pastor. And you can join me in, “What the Dicken’s!”