Introducing Pastor Raymond C. Dix Jr. of Pilgrim Baptist Church

| October 25, 2017
Sonya and Pastor Raymond C. Dix Jr.

Sonya and Pastor Raymond C. Dix Jr.

Frost Exclusive by SThomas

It has been a long and tedious journey for Pilgrim Baptist Church, located at 1331 Gay Str. in Fort Wayne. According to some, PBC has been in the midst of what some would consider to be the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane. Any organization that has undergone or will undergo leadership change (which is not uncommon for any group to go through at least once) can attest that change is not easy—especially when the change is on constant display to the public. The leadership position has finally been filled by PBC. The choice is Raymond C. Dix Jr.

Dix appears to be very comfortable in his position, despite only having been here for less than two weeks at the time of this interview. Already, he seems very well versed with PBC and Fort Wayne and has hit the ground and running.

PBC member Brother R. Brooks Sr. agrees:

“I believe he takes what he does very seriously. He seems to have a pulse on PBC and the community. I’ll tell you why I say that. Who do you know, when a job opens up in another city, will go and check things out without anyone knowing they are there? This was before anyone (including the search committee) even knew he was on the short list to be considered for the position of pastor. Dix came to Fort Wayne and talked with people and even went down in the area surrounding the church and spoke to the people of the community,” explained Brooks “He even talked with people down by and at the liquor store! That shows that he has a heart for the real cause of Christ—reaching out to all. He never let anyone know that he was here or made a big deal about it. I don’t know if anyone is aware of that even today.”

Frost sat down and talked with Pastor Dix and this is what he had to say:

FROST: Tell us about yourself and your family.

DIX:I began in the preaching ministry in 1978 at the age of 16, at the First Baptist Church in East Chicago, Indiana. In 1987, I received my first call to pastoral ministry at Great Band Baptist Church in Gary, Indiana. Since that time I’ve served two additional churches and now here at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Fort Wayne. I’ve been working in ministry for close to 40 years and in pastoral ministry for 30 years this year. I received license of ordination in 1979 at First Baptist. I am a graduate with a Bachelor degree in Biblical Studies from Indiana Wesleyan University, and currently seeking a Masters of Divinity degree at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. My plan is to seek a doctoral degree, if the Lord says the same.

I am the father of four children: Raymond III, Rahdric, Angelica and Adonis. My wife (Sonya) and I have been married for over 13 years. My parents, Raymond Sr. and Linda Dix, are still with us but now live in Phoenix, Arizona. I am the eldest of three children, (along with) two brothers, Kevin and Michael. I was born and spent most of my life in northwest Indiana.

FROST: Tell us more about your wife, Sonya.

DIX: Like I said, we’ve been married 13 years and I’m so incredibly proud of her. Attorney Sonya Dix has been a practicing attorney since 1997. My wife has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Iowa, a Master’s of Public Administration from Indiana University Northwest, an Executive MBA from Purdue University, and a Law degree from Valparaiso right here in Indiana. She passed the bar exam in 1997. She began as a prosecuting attorney and now has a private practice, the Law Office of Sonya Dix, in Merriville, Indiana, as well as being a state and federal public defender, and she just started doing some federal cases. That’s a big deal. I’m very proud of her for what she does.

FROST: Mrs. Dix, what does your practice have a specialty and any future plans?

Mrs. DIX: No, however, we do have a lot of interest in criminal law. I am undecided about opening a practice in in Fort Wayne because it takes a long time to create a criminal law base, build relationships and trust.

FROST: Mrs. Dix how would you describe your husband and what are you most proud of?

Mrs. DIX: His relationship with God and his love for people.

FROST: Now that’s something special. Every man or woman cannot say that they have a mate that believes that about them. Let alone has someone who actually has that kind of heart and still maintain a high respect for their counterpart. When one has that kind of heart, they are often looked upon with “less than” qualities, such as weak for one example. It is absolutely amazing and refreshing to see these qualities for their true strength, fully appreciated and celebrated. I applaud you for being able to publically profess your personal assessment. You can be and should be an example for married individuals, as well as all women, the way you have supported and put in practice a humble, private, and what appears to be a very genuine evaluation of your husband.

FROST:  Pastor Dix, what brought you to Fort Wayne?  Was it the position itself or was it the location? In one of your congregational interview sermons, you appeared to be so prepared and well versed with the local area and PBC prior to accepting this position.

PASTOR DIX: First of all, I knew that God had my wife and I in a season of transition. We knew he was going to be moving us somewhere. We just didn’t know where. Pilgrim had put an ad in the National Baptist Directory. Before I send an application anywhere, I always pray. I felt very strongly that this was the place that God was going to send us. When we received a call that we were going to be a finalist, I started doing a lot of research. I believe, if you are going to serve in a place is important, you need to know something about the city and the people and background is important. When you go to serve as a new pastor you want to fit in as soon as possible. I wanted to learn about the 46803 zip code, the education of the city, demographics, and some of the difficulties. I’ve been in urban ministries for 30 years. I see that some of the challenges here are very similar to large metropolitan cities such as Chicago, in areas like being entrenched in poverty, attacked by the enemy, children not being served well in areas that they need served in. It was important to us to know the city well before arriving and to continue to learn once we get here. I’m still in the learning phase or learning mode. I’ve talked with many ministers and become part of the Baptist Minister Conference of Fort Wayne so that I can learn more about how Pilgrim can become a major influence in Fort Wayne for the cause of Jesus Christ.

FROST: You mentioned the enemy,. Who or what do you call the enemy? Is there a name or face that can be assigned?

DIX: Satan. He has a design to destroy families. That is near to my heart. I believe that single moms are some of the strongest people that the Lord has on the face of the earth. But, I do believe that also that it is tough for mothers to rear children by themselves. That was not God’s design. Our goal here at Pilgrim is to help navigate families in the issues that they are in, rather that is a two-parent family or a single parent family, headed by mother’s or father’s. We want to put families in the best possible situation and environment to succeed. They are going to need Christ and education to break the shackles of systemic poverty. Now, everyone is not in an impoverished situation but we are not to ignore those that are. I think the church must recognize how we help people out of the situations that they are in and how do we help these children to get what they need and to navigate school.

A good example is one of the things that I have done over the past 30 years is to check on the report cards of children of the church. I want them to bring the report cards to me. I want to be another layer of accountability and support to the family. If the children know they need to show it to the pastor, maybe the children will think, “Maybe I should be buckling down in school. Pastor wants to see grades.” If they get a C or a D, we will have a conversation about that. What can the church help do. Can we get a tutor? We have retired teaches here. We have the people to help our children right here at Pilgrim Baptist to help them and pass the standardized test that may not designed to help them pass. So they can go on to college and have a career. One can have a job and one can have a career. Our goal is to help the children to find what their gifts are and find what their interest are and find a career that best matches those gifts and interest.

FROST: It’s clear that you have a vision and you have hit the ground running. Do you have a plan to implement this vision?

DIX: Let’s put it this way: it’s very similar to what Nehemiah done in the Bible. What he done was first was survey the land. That’s what we are in the process of doing. We are surveying the land. We will start with small incremental changes. I’m still in learning mode. The pastoral relationship is a trust relationship. As people have called me here to be their pastor, I want them to know that they can trust me. The more that people trust you the more they are willing to help get the vision accomplished. I want to build that trust capital with Pilgrim and share my love, love on them and let the people know that Pilgrim is back! Over the next six to eight months, my wife and I are going to be focused on building relationships, observation, and then building the vision. One of the key things of a vision of a church ought to be what Jesus said the vision is, “to save the lost and make disciples, which is kind-of-one thing and then to become one.” If people come to be a part of Pilgrim they know they are going to be part of a loving, caring, community of faith. There are no big I’s and little you’s at Pilgrim Baptist Church. Everybody is important in this ministry. Everybody has a gift that they can use for the building of the Kingdom. We want to help identify those gifts and build the kingdom. I’ll say this, Pilgrim is approaching 100 years as a church, and our goal is to provide 100 days of service to celebrate the 100th year anniversary. Over the next 18 to 19 months, we will have 100 service opportunities to show the community that we love you and we are setting the tone for the next 100 years and more, hopefully until the Lord comes back, of continued service with love.

FROST: Listening to you, there is a difference between you and others. All who work in the name of Jesus are not saved. Are you a saved man, Mr. Dix?

DIX: Amen. Yes, I am. I gave my life to Jesus at the age of seven years old at Vacation Bible School as a result of a missionary who came to our church. I stood up and went forth and confessed Christ at that time and up until now. I am a practicing Christian.

FROST: In your own words, what does that mean to you “to be a practicing Christian or to be saved?”

DIX: To be saved to me means: Giving your life to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You believe the Gospel. The Gospel to Jesus is that He came to earth, He died on the cross for our sins, He was buried, He rose again, and now sits at the right hand of the Father making intersession for those that would believe. I believe in him because I am justified by my belief Jesus and my faith in God. I’m obedient to Him not to get his grace but because I have His grace. I think that is Paul’s argument in the book of Romans. I encourage every Christian to read Romans; it’s like the Christian constitution. It is there how to get saved and live saved. This is most important as a pastor, to give your life completely to Christ so that you can help others do the same. If you believe and receive the Gospel you are saved.

FROST: Mrs. Dix? Are you saved under the same criteria that your husband spoke of?

Mrs. DIX: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s important to me to live saved—meaning to carry out my salvation by being an example and to exemplify my salvation throughout my life daily, which is always a very hard thing to do, but through faith it is possible.

FROST: Where do you see yourself in relationship to your husband’s ministry?

Mrs. DIX: I see myself as his helpmeet and as his sanctuary. Prior to understanding completely my lane, where I actually fit in within his ministry, I was always raised to be very active. I was part of the nurses’ guild, candy striper and things like that in church. I thought it was important to carry over that service in the beginning of our marriage as I have been taught all my life. I remember my grandmother, who has now gone to be with the Lord, said to me, “you know, you look kind of busy. The importance for you is to be his sanctuary. You are just to provide sanctity for him. This is a work place for him. He comes here to serve and he pours out his all to everyone. When he comes home I am suppose to provide his peace, his sanctity and the ability to allow him to refill again, so that he may do all that is needed of him when he leaves home.” I haven’t always gotten it right but I am growing so wonderfully in that area and I find it so important to me to be his ministry. He is my ministry. I don’t need any other ministry.

PASTOR DIX: Her ministry is very important. The common perception is that when you have a pastor you also have the spouse who pours out everything to the people as well. Sometimes church work is not pretty or perfectly package as one sees on Sunday morning. It’s hard work and can be very frustrating sometimes. When the day is done these two people are sent home and are expected to make their marriage work. When I come here, I come to empty myself of what the Lord has given me. That is hard. I teach pastors. One of the things that I teach them is about that very subject. My wife fills a very important role that no one else could or should fill. If the church can understand and accept that, they would get the best and the most of their shepherd. They would have a more fulfilled and blessed shepherd. I really believe that.

FROST: Minister Hicks and his wife have done an amazing job during this interim period. What are your thoughts now that leadership has changed?

DIX: Thank you for asking that and that is a great question. I will begin by saying that Pilgrim Baptist Church of greater Fort Wayne owes Minister Hicks and his wife a great deal of debt and gratitude. It is difficult to be interim anything. I don’t care if you are an interim maintenance man. People, generally, do not treat you the same. Yes, Pilgrim owes him for the almost four years of labor of love that he has given to the church. He and I have already sat and talked about his role. He will be an important part of our future. I expressed to him how important his council will be to me in the early stage and thereafter. The fact that he has been willing to give it so freely has been helpful. He has a knowledge of Pilgrim and its people that I don’t yet have. Yes, he has a role in our ministry and that role will be substantial.

FROST: All churches have problems. They become much more difficult when they are made public. The politics that are involved within any group of people can be hard to navigate. What are your views pertaining politics within the church?

DIX: Part of that has already begun, this month we are doing a series on unity and what the Bible says about the church and unity. Pilgrim and its leaders have done a remarkable job, in spite of everything, holding this congregation together. I think that people fail to realize that when you don’t have a formal leader how difficult it is to hold a church together. The most important thing is continue to come together as one even more. This is what I want the public to know. Pilgrim’s problems have been very public but that is not the end of our story. At the end of our problems we put a comma at the end not a period. A comma means there is something coming after. Pilgrim is a significant and important part of the Fort Wayne community. The rebirth of Pilgrim’s ministry will be assuming that mantle once again by be a leading ministry, work with other ministries, churches pastors, for the betterment of the community of God. Build relationships. The simple answer to church politics is, preach the Gospel. In season and out of season, there will come a time that they will not want to hear but you keep preaching the gospel anyway. I have supreme confidence in the gospel. The gospel doesn’t stop working when you get saved. Paul tells his son Timothy, “Preach the gospel.” The gospel produces fruit in our lives do to the spirit of Jesus Christ, just like Galatians 5:3 speaks about. I don’t preach my word. I preach Gods Word! The most difficult people, even in the church, can be turned around by the gospel. You don’t fight fire with fire. You fight with the gospel and love, in spite of opinions or anything. That is what I’m going to do, love. People will soon find out that Pastor Dix will love you no matter what. All those politics that divide us don’t matter. My job is to keep us focused on the Word of God.

FROST:  What did the reception of you and your wife here in Fort Wayne and Pilgrim look like to you?

DIX: I have been so well received. September 24the was our first Sunday here. I would say every person that was here shook my hand and said, “Welcome to PBC.” That was so warm for my wife and to hear. The ministers in the Fort Wayne community have been great. I walked into the ministers’ conference last week and they said, “Guess what you’re delivering the message today”. Guess what? They didn’t have to do that. They were so warm with open arms. Many were excited that PBC has a pastor. The reception has been nothing but great.

FROST: What is your greatest desire for Pilgrim and Fort Wayne?

DIX: My greatest desire is for the Kingdom of God to be advanced here at Pilgrim and the city of Fort Wayne.

FROST: How can Pilgrim and Fort Wayne be more supportive to you and help you be set up for success?

DIX: The greatest thing to help me is for us to love one another the way Jesus loved us, to act in one accord and keep our eye on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When people look to Christ they will support Christ and in turn support their pastor.  We have a lot of spiritual gifts here and if people discover these gifts and serve accordingly we will find that God has already deposited everything that is needed.

FROST: Will you have an open door policy or by appointment only leadership?

DIX: I think every loving pastor would like to say that people can walk in anytime they get ready. I’m that guy. I’m a people person, but that is not necessarily healthy for the church. I believe there are layers of leadership within the church. I believe what is best if at all possible for people to make an appointment so that I may give my undivided attention to that person and what they have come to talk with me about. Giving people my full attention is important to me. That doesn’t mean that there will not be times or situations that require my immediate attention. When that time comes, I will drop what I’m doing and address the circumstances. My leadership style is that I am a collaborative leader. I believe that God gives vision to the pastor or leader, He gave Moses the vision to pass to His people, but He gives people gives ideas. I am not jealous of ideas. It doesn’t matter where the idea comes from as long as it is within our vision and as God outlaid it within the Scripture. Let me say this, every year we will have a vision plan for the year will be published. We will have one at the end of the year for 2018. 2018 will not be as detailed as following years, because I will only have been here a few months, but it will be available for every member of this church, probably in December.

FROST: Dr. David Jeremiah once said, “God doesn’t waste our sorrows, heartaches and difficulties. He uses them to help us grow.” This sounds like encouragement for you and Pilgrim. How do you digest this statement?

DIX: This so important to me. Difficulties are just another tool in the toolbox of God to help us grow. The book of Job is not about the troubles of Job. It is about Job learning how sovereign God really is.  In the 38th chapter when God showed up He said, “Where were you when I created the stars in the sky…?” In other words, Job needed to know how big God really was. Pilgrims troubles are a tool to help them grow into the church that God can accept into His kingdom. There is purpose in all of this. We are the clay and he is the Potter. He must mold us, sandpaper, and put a fire on us. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but he is polishing us and smoothing out the rough edges.

FROST: If something would happen to you and Mrs. Dix, what would you want said about you?

DIX: (With tears in his eyes and a choked voice), If there is anything that I want to be said about me is, I just want to do God’s will.

Mrs. Dix: I once read a book by P. B. Wilson called Liberated By Submission and I learned a very important lesson about submission. It is difficult for me and many women to understand about submission. By me being a lawyer, I am used to always taking charge and telling others what to do. Submission has not come easy for me. I continue to be a work in progress, therefore, what I would want most said is, I was submitted to our Lord by serving his vessel, which is my husband for me.

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Category: Local, People, Spiritual Matters

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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