The good news of the Rev. Jason Dees' arrival as pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington already has drawn crowds to their 8:30 and 11 a.m. worship services.
At age 26, Dees' passion in life and in ministry is to build the church of Jesus Christ through the practical teaching of God's holy word.
He believes that the local church is the hope of the world and the true bride of Christ.
With a B.S. in communications and a minor in history from Auburn University, Dees received a Master of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, School of Theology, in Louisville, Ky.
He is a candidate for Ph.D. in theology and the arts, expecting to graduate in 2011.
"Jason Dees is a really outstanding young man," said Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "I was very pleased to get to know him as a student. He's a natural leader, has a very engaging personality and all the right convictions.
"I congratulate the First Baptist Church of Covington upon the election of Jason Dees as their pastor and I expect to hear great things in the future."
Son of the Rev. John and Nancy Dees, he grew up in Huntsville, Ala., and enjoyed working in children and youth ministries at his father's church. He spoke of the joy of growing up in a great Christian home and watching his parents' faith mature through the years.
Dees' only sibling, his sister Kellis, is a missionary in Spain. He affectionately refers to his father as Big John - describing him as a big guy who loves life, loves the Lord and enjoys his relationship with Christ.
"My son is one of the most godly young men I've ever known," said the Rev. John Dees, minister of the Cross Pointe Church in Madison, Ala. "Except for when he was teething, Jason has been an absolute joy to his mother's and my life. Jason has always been a natural born leader. God has gifted Jason with a great understanding of spiritual things and a great ability to communicate God's truth. I am thankful that God has led the people of the First Baptist of Covington to call Jason as their pastor. I am sure it will be a great blessing both ways.
"Jason is not only my wonderful son - he is my deep, deep dearest friend. I admire him immensely."
Dees speaks of his mother as "sweet Nancy," a sweet southern belle - a godly woman who loves the Lord.
"She is tough as an individual, she is strong and has a lot of fortitude," he said of his mother. "I really admire in her that she was able to say no to me."
A self-taught guitar player, Dees was in a rock band called the Big Red Cup during high school. An all-star athlete, he was captain of the football team all through high school and played as linebacker, tight-end and fullback.
With his sights set on playing college football, Dees faced adversity. He tore the ACL twice in his right leg and had two reconstructive knee surgeries by the time he was 18 years old.
"When I was growing up, I loved football," Dees said. "I worked hard and started to be recruited by schools to play college football. In May of my junior year of high school, I was lifting weights one day and felt a strange sensation in my head. I had a 2-and-a-half inch tear in the basil artery of my brain.
"The interior layer had torn, so it was only the outer layer that was keeping me alive or from becoming a vegetable."
Facing the reality that a torn artery is never supposed to heal, Dees was devastated with the news. Although he was confined to the hospital for a week, he remembers it as being one of the greatest weeks of his entire life.
He was showered with visits from friends who threw parties for him in the hospital.
"I hung out with the team even though I couldn't play," he said remembering how they referred to him as Coach Dees. "The teams that were recruiting me sent letters saying they were sorry to hear that this happened. The Lord taught me a lot about compassion and humility. Man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his path."
Dees remained firm in his faith and held onto two favorite passages from the Bible. Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (NIV), and Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (NIV).
Dees' name was on prayer lists in several states. Schools stopped recruiting him. For fear of having a stroke, he wasn't permitted to train, run or walk faster than 3 miles per hour or lift more than 10 pounds. He relied on blood thinners and stool softeners. As people would tell him that they were praying for his healing, he thanked them and asked rather that they pray for God to make him strong and keep him content.
"I went for another test that August and I was told by my doctor that nothing was there," he said remembering his doctor shaking his head in disbelief. "I believe I was healed by almighty God. It was a huge attribution for me to the power of prayer and the continuation of pleading to Christ."
A 2000 graduate of Grissom High School in Huntsville, Ala., Dees had an opportunity last fall to speak with his former assistant principal. He complimented Dees on how he had defined and executed the role of SGA president and had set the bar for other leaders to follow.
Dees said he recognized his gift for teaching when he worked on the JH Ranch in southern California. On father-and-son boat outings, Dees would draw questions about advice or wisdom from the dads knowing that the sons would be impacted from their answers.
He worked as the assistant program director during summers at the JH Ranch. He led team building activities, served as the Wild West Rodeo Master of Ceremonies, Second Wind mealtime announcer and pod leader on the river.
As Dees served in various Chaplain roles and leading bible study, he said that God started showing him his ability to minister and to teach his word. People sought him out for spiritual guidance. During his junior and senior year of college, he spent time on Wednesdays with mentor, Steve Scoggins.
"I knew during Jason's days as a student at Auburn University that God's hand was on him in a special way and that Jason would one day be one of the great pastors in our denomination," said the Rev. Steve Scoggins, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Opelika.
At Auburn University, Dees was awarded the Bryant-Jordan Achievement Scholarship, the Auburn Letterman Association Scholarship, was a three-time recipient of the Eddie Welch Letterman Scholarship and received the Laura Chappell Memorial Scholarship.
He was a member of several honor societies to include Omicron Delta Kappa, Cardinal Key, Squires, Alpha Lambda Delta, Phi Eta Sigma, and was on the Liberal Arts Deans List.
As a member of social fraternity Phi Gamma Delta from 2000 to 2004, Dees served as pledge trainer, led brother Bible study, Chaplain, sorority relations committee head and led brother Bible study.
His collegiate activities included the Student Government Association from 2000 to 2004 as the director of SGA philanthropy, director of special projects and freshman forum.
A natural born leader, Dees said being the guy who was always pushed out in front of the crowd to serve was not a strange experience for him.
"I'll tell you what I enjoy about being a leader," he said. "You can encourage people, set a tone and a pace for an organization and get people excited. It's like running out ahead of people and saying, 'run along with me.' That's what I enjoy about leadership - the ability to motivate people to do something great."
Dees backpacked into remote villages of Guatemala showing Christian videos and giving personal testimonies. In Yunnan, China, he worked to map and collect demographic information that will be used by the International Missions Board in efforts toward a church planting movement.
At Southern Seminary, Dees received the Lifeway Pastoral Leadership Award. On the METS Study tour, he was one of 30 seminary students chosen nation wide to do an extensive research tour through the Middle East during the summer of 2006. He studied at Regents Park College of Oxford University in Oxford, England in the summer of 2005.
Dees served as the senior pastor of a small congregation of 50 at New Washington Christian Church in New Washington, Indiana.
He served as an intern at both the Cross Pointe Church in Madison and at the Farmville Baptist Church in Auburn. His duties included directing youth group activities, planning church and youth trips, coordinating the youth calendar, teaching Sunday school, Bible lessons and coordinated Wednesday night meetings.
Dees always had a dream of working with his father. In 2007, he joined his father's staff and became the executive pastor at Cross Pointe Church in Madison, Ala. from June 2007 to March 2008. He was in charge of small groups, Sunday school and preached the mid-week service.
In December 2007, Dees delivered his first sermon at the FBC in Covington. The interim pastor, the Rev. Bob Horner, knew Dees and his father. He asked Dees to supply the pulpit in his absence. Shortly thereafter, the pulpit committee began talking with Dees about coming to Covington.
"There is so much potential here," Dees said. "I see the Lord doing great things in this church over the next few years. It is an exciting place to be."
Dees spoke highly of his staff and how they have embraced him as pastor.
Dees talked about his hopes and visions for his future at FBC. His primary desire is to serve the church faithfully.
"I want to teach and preach, give away my faith, encourage and lift up and make great the name of Jesus Christ," he said.
For more information, contact the First Baptist Church of Covington at 1139 Usher Street in Covington at 770-786-9031.