Two pastors with a shared past have been entrusted with helping to lead a prominent Baptist organization into the future.

The Rev. S.C. Dixon, pastor of the Greater Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, will be installed as general secretary of the 3.5 million member National Baptist Convention of America International Inc. during a special session of “Prayer, Planning, Unity, Renewal and Worship” set for Sept. 14-18 at the Baton Rouge River Center.

Among the other national officers to be installed are the Rev. Samuel Tolbert, the NBCA president-elect and Dixon’s former pastor at Greater St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Lake Charles.

“I’m honored to be able to serve with the new leadership at the helm of our convention, the Rev. Samuel C. Tolbert Jr., who is also my pastor, brother and friend, and I’m honored to be able to serve with him with the new insight that he has now for the (convention),” said Dixon, whose Greater Mount Olive is the host church.

“It’s a real thrill to have the special session here in our city, which will also entail installation of the 15th president of our convention along with other officers he has appointed and will recommend to the body for approval as well,” he said.

The installation service is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 18. More than 1,500 delegates are expected for the NBCA session, which will also include a banquet, meetings and preaching.

“I’m looking forward to Baton Rouge,” said Tolbert, who attended McNeese State University in Lake Charles and is also a member of the Southern University System Board of Supervisors. “I’m looking forward to that week, the installation and getting that behind us and doing all the work that’s ahead of us in education, missions and evangelism.”

Dixon, 49, and Tolbert, 56, are familiar to each other, both growing up in St. Mary Baptist Church and in the same north Lake Charles community. Tolbert has been the pastor at the church for 30 years, and Dixon’s parents and a majority of his family are members.

“We are from the part of the city where most of your poor, disenfranchised minorities lived. … To say both of us have came out of the same church from the same city from the same upbringing is a tremendous story, he coming from a single-parent home, me coming with a two-parent home with father and mother at home but from the same poor neck of the woods. … The Lord has been real good to us,” said Dixon, who has a master of arts degree in religious education and a minor in ministry from Calvary Theological Seminary in Lake Charles.

“Both of us came out of the same church, which is very unique. That will probably never happen again in the National Baptist Convention,” Tolbert said.

Dixon was already serving as general secretary under the previous administration for the NBCA when Tolbert was elected in June.

“What I have done is simply reappoint him because he’s done an excellent job in our state and in our convention,” Tolbert said.

Said Dixon, “He could have looked around the convention at his discretion and he could have chosen others but he thought enough to keep me in that position.”

Tolbert garnered 63 percent of the vote from delegates all over the country to lead the NBCA, which has its national headquarters in Dallas.

“To be named the 15th president of the National Baptist from Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is not one of your great metropolitan cities. Louisiana is not one your highly populated states. Now to be elected to me means that is significant. The delegates under the leadership of their pastors, members, affiliates and states decided that I was the one to lead the convention. I am humbled that I have been selected for this five-year term.”

Tolbert, who has bachelor’s in religion and philosophy from Bishop College in Dallas and master of divinity from Payne Theological Seminary in Ohio, credits his mother.

“I grew up in a single-parent home and we didn’t have a whole lot of extras, and I grew up between two housing projects and ended up pastoring the church I grew up in. … My momma saw to it that I was at church every Sunday and whatever they did we had to go.”

The special session will hold a welcome party — which will include local and state officials — and musical at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at the River Center. A late-night worship service is set for about 9:30 p.m. with the Rev. Joel Taylor, of Chicago.

A unity banquet will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium.

A recognition program to highlight longtime convention members is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at the River Center, followed by a late-night service about 9:30 p.m. featuring the Rev. Sean Elder, of Avondale.

The Rev. Tellis Chapman, of Detroit, is the guest speaker for the installation service at 7 p.m. Sept. 18. Chapman is a member of the National Baptist Convention USA, which just concluded its national convention this week in New Orleans.

For more information on session or for tickets to the musical and banquet, call (225) 355-5155.

‘Jesus is better’

Hebrews is one of most neglected books of the Bible, said the Rev. Jeff Ginn, of Istrouma Baptist Church.

Ginn will take a closer look at the book during a sermon series titled “Jesus is Better” starting Sunday at Istrouma, 10500 Sam Rushing Road in Baton Rouge, and The Grove Church, 39258 La. 42 in Prairieville. Baton Rouge campus services are at 9:15 a.m. or 10:45 a.m. and worship at The Grove begins at 10:30 a.m.

The series will continue for 13 weeks, Ginn said.

“Anytime I have a chance to get into any of the book I am always excited and Hebrews is no exception, of course,” Ginn said. “It’s one of the greatest and neglected books of the New Testament. It has some challenging passages. A lot of times it’s a book that avoided, but that’s to our loss because it points to the goodness of Christ over all rivals.”

A friend refers to Hebrews as the “The Letter of Better,” Ginn said.

“The book of Hebrews has as its theme the fact that Jesus is better than — and there’s a whole long list of things that he’s better than,” he said. “In fact, the word better appears 13 times in that book of Hebrews. He is a better covenant, he’s a better sacrifice, he is better than the angels, he’s better than the prophets. It points to the supremacy of Christ.”

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com