Hampton, VA, Wednesday, November 12, 2014 – Tommy McDearis, Pastor of Blacksburg Baptist Church, is leaving office after serving as BGAV president for the past year and first vice president for the prior year. In the following responses, he reflects on his leadership experience.
What did you enjoy most during your time in office?
I enjoyed most the personal interaction with both the BGAV staff and Virginia Baptists as we wrestled with the proposed governance changes. I have also enjoyed, albeit with mixed emotions, the opportunity to review the state of the church in Virginia and how some congregations are addressing the decline in church attendance (and how other churches are proceeding as if nothing is changing and all is well).
What was the greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge thus far has been in attempting to hear the concerns of the traditional Virginia Baptists as we have moved toward a restructuring of our governance system. By nature, Baptists are a conservative, traditional group. Change is always viewed with caution, or at least with a degree of hesitancy.
However, if you take your time, if you work to give good information, and if you offer good reasons for the needed changes, Baptists can also be quite reasonable and trusting. While this process has been challenging, it has also been rewarding.
What do you hope/think will be your legacy?
I expect there will be no personal legacy. My job as president is to preside over the meetings of the whole and to serve as a sounding board for the BGAV leadership as they prepare to cast a vision for the future.
If I am successful, no one will long remember that I was BGAV president. The goal is that our churches will find excitement in the embracing of a dream that is both attainable and essential for the future of kingdom and Baptist life.
What will your role in Virginia Baptist life look like post-presidency?
It will look like a short bald guy doing ministry in a college town, trying to leave his corner of the kingdom as least as healthy as it was when he found it, and hopefully even better. I will gladly help wherever the BGAV staff needs me, and if they don’t need me, I will try to stand out of the way while cheering from the sidelines.
I will continue to try to recruit people to serve as ministry and missions volunteers with the BGAV, and I will also likely be a lightning rod down the road. For some reason, I tend to be on the cutting edge of issues that are often (and usually needlessly) controversial, and I doubt that will change much since that has been the story of my ministry.
Lastly, I hope to continue to bring seekers to the faith and to lead more young believers to the service of God in ministry.
The BGAV is a cooperative missions and ministry organization that consists of over 1,400 autonomous churches in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as churches from Seoul, South Korea, the District of Columbia, and the states of California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.