LAUDERHILL — Allen B. Jackson, a homegrown, 42-year-old divorced father, used to preach the word of God to a handful of believers in a small, storefront church in Lauderdale Lakes.
Today, he is senior pastor of the sprawling, racially mixed Living Word Community Church, large enough to fill a renovated, former Albertson’s supermarket building in Lauderhill.
He was installed as senior pastor of the 500-plus member church during a service on Sunday, June 7.
“It was simply electrifying, and humbling,’’ Jackson said. “To have all of these elected officials and people of all races, ethnicities and economic levels come out for my installation is touching.”
He added: “In addition to worship services, I want to establish our congregation as a major place of resources, and direction. We intend to be vocal on community issues, and involved in the community at all levels.”
In addition to a 500-plus-seat sanctuary, the two-story worship facility has a daycare center, playground, classrooms, office suite, conference halls, a full-service kitchen, and even a gym.
Jackson, who stands at a commanding 6-foot-1, said he intends to vigorously inform the community about the programs the church already offers. He also plans to start others for abused women and children, as well as homeownership and foreclosure prevention courses.
“He has a real vision to make the church a place of worship and a community hub, and that’s the way it should be,’’ said the Rev. Anthony Burrell, senior pastor at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Pompano Beach. “When you go to his church, you see African Americans, Caribbean Americans and white folk, and that’s rare today. I’ve watched Allen grow spiritually over the years and he is going to do a tremendous job. He has a passion for saving souls, and I have no doubt Living Word will rise and be counted in this community.”
Jackson, father of 9 year-old daughter Gabrielle Alexander, took an unconventional path to the pulpit.
Born in Orlando, he relocated with his family at age 3 to Pompano Beach, where he was raised. He graduated from Dillard High School in 1985 and went on to serve four years in the U.S. Army. In 1994, he became a youth minister at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Pompano Beach. He later became an associate pastor there.
During this time, he worked for the city’s police department as a community policing specialist, and later with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in a similar capacity. He is involved in numerous community groups and in a grassroots social service organization, People Helping People.
In 2001, Jackson struck out on his own, founding the non-denominational Ark Ministry Christian Church in a storefront located in a strip mall in Lauderdale Lakes. That church has been featured on the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s “Praise the Lord,” program.
“It was a gamble, but it was something I had to do,” he said.
Initially, his small flock had few members, but over the next six years, its rolls reflected just over 100. During this time, in 2004, he ran for public office, losing to incumbent Broward County District 9 Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion in a hard-fought contest.
“I lost that election, and it made me want to run again, but more importantly, I knew God had greater things in store for me,” said Jackson, who ran again in 2008 in another losing bid to Eggelletion.
While campaigning in the 2004 race, Jackson was introduced to members of Living Word Community Church and over time he began to attend some of their worship services and express his future plans and vision.
He apparently made an impression.
On Dec. 31, 2007, Living Word organizers finalized negotiations to merge Jackson’s humble storefront church with the larger house of worship. He became associate pastor of the newly configured congregation.
Living Word was founded, and held its very first service, on Aug. 4, 1991. The Rev. Anthony “Pastor Tony” Palmisano founded the church in a remodeled Albertson’s Grocery Store at 5770 West Oakland Park Blvd.
The original 27 members consisted of 11 of Palmisano’s family and close relatives. The church implemented numerous programs, including a daycare, after school, and athletic programs. Food and clothing banks were also started.
Over time, the predominantly white congregation continued to grow, and its membership became more diverse. After the merger, Jackson began putting forth ideas about expanding its current programs and starting new community-focused initiatives.
As a person who serves on several community boards, and who started a youth center and owns preschools, Palmisano was impressed. He gave Jackson more say in the future direction of the church. When he decided it was time for new leadership, his choice was clear.
“I believe in community involvement,” Palmisano said. “Allen appeared to be a man that shared the same passion to help the community in Broward and I wanted someone to love and serve the people of the community and hope that he can be that person.”
The transition of the two churches into one, and taking on a new pastor, has not been without challenges, congregants say, but it has been an overall smooth experience.
“He’s like a breath of fresh air,’’ said Deacon Fred LaPicollo, 59, who has been a member of Living Word for more than three years. “He’s a spiritual man who has a lot of vision and great ideas. You can see the congregation being inspired by his leadership.”
LaPicollo continued: “When I first shook his hand, I was drawn to him and knew he would someday lead this church. Those who were not happy and left when the merger first took place, have mostly all come back now.”
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Allen Jackson
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Living Word Community Church
WHERE: 5770 West Oakland Park Blvd., Lauderhill
WHEN: Service at 11 a.m. Sundays
CONTACT: 954-485-0090 or log onto www.MyLWCC.com.