Timmy D. Blair Sr. is amazed at the course his life has taken – from a broken home, to pastoring the same church for 26 years and now to serving as the president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “To look at my life, from where I’ve come to where I am, it’s just a work of God’s grace,” he said. “I am so thankful and humbled to serve Him and to be saved. Anything beyond that – whether it’s pastoring or serving the convention – it’s just icing on the cake.”
He was elected to the position without opposition at the annual meeting in Greensboro, Nov. 11.
Born in High Point, Blair was five years old when his father left the family. His mother remarried, and they moved to Conway, S.C.
Theirs was not a church-going family. But a high school friend, Kenn Hucks, tried to witness to Blair. Hucks is now pastor of Sardis Baptist Church in Indian Trail. “I am so thankful that God put him in my path,” Blair said.
Hucks was scheduled to sing with his youth choir in a revival service. He invited the 16-year-old Blair to attend. “I agreed to go, but I slipped into the back pew of that revival service,” he said. “I planned to slip out and go about my life. But that night God spoke to my heart; the Holy Spirit convicted me. I walked the aisle and gave my life to Jesus Christ.”
Hucks’ parents gave Blair a Bible, marked with the date of his conversion, and encouraged him to read it. “That was the second Bible I ever had. The first one was a Gideon Bible I received in elementary school,” he said.
BR photo by K. Allan Blume
Timmy Blair, pastor of Piney Grove Chapel in Angier and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is thankful for God’s work in his life.
At age 17 he answered the call to preach and began filling in as a lay-preacher wherever he was needed. He attended Fruitland Baptist Bible College “just to take Kenneth Ridings’ class on homiletics.” Blair transferred his credits to Luther Rice Seminary where he completed the bachelor and masters programs. In 1984 Bolton Baptist Church in Bolton, N.C., called him as their pastor.
“When the Lord called me to preach I thought that meant I would preach in my county in S.C. I never dreamed that I would move to another community let alone another state,” Blair said. “It was a good experience for a young preacher who was 24 years old. They were good to our family,” said Blair.
A retired pastor that he knew from the Whiteville area, John Stevenson, became the interim pastor of Piney Grove Chapel in Angier, N.C. “One day, out of the blue, John called me up and said, ‘Tim, I’m at a church in Angier. Knowing the church and knowing you, I just feel like you might be a good fit.’”
Again, Blair thought any move he made would take him south, not further north. But in 1987 he became the pastor of Piney Grove Chapel.
In five years of ministry the church grew and built additional facilities. “But the church was not growing as I thought it should,” Blair said.
They were financially strong and had good facilities. “But I thought, maybe if I leave, somebody new could come, and maybe the church would take off.” A church near his home town called him. He moved his family to Aynor, S.C., to become the pastor of Salem Baptist Church.
“About three months of being there I realized that I had probably made a mistake. I was out of the Lord’s will,” Blair said. At the same time the new pastor of Piney Grove did not work out either. “The chairman of the pastor search committee called me and said, ‘I’m sitting here with all of our committee and we’ve got a stack of resumes, but they don’t want to look at them. They said they want their pastor back. Would you remotely consider coming back?’”
Blair agreed to preach a weekend revival to “see how things go.” The church and the community turned out in strong numbers. “We had an awesome revival, and it was confirmation that the Lord was leading me and leading them to call me back as their pastor. So I came back,” he said.
“It has been an amazing journey for us. The Lord has blessed us beyond anything I could ever have thought or imagined.” The church has grown from a membership of 200 to more than 960. Renovations have doubled the capacity of the sanctuary, other facilities have been added and additional land has been purchased.
“The church has been good to my family,” Blair added. “My boys grew up here. … and got married here. My oldest son serves as the vice chairman of our deacons.
“That’s been an honor. To my children, it has put a positive outlook on what church is about, for which I will always be very grateful.”
When asked to identify the most important elements of his life and ministry, Blair did not hesitate. “I think the greatest accomplishments of my life was seeing my two boys come to Christ. I felt that if I failed as their dad and their pastor, though I have touched the masses, if I failed them, I would feel like I have not done the most important thing in ministry – to model the Christian life before them.
“To see them receive Christ and become Christian men who know the Lord, love the Lord and love the church has been the greatest joy of my life. One day I will step away from all of this and that’s what will count – your family.”
Blair said he and his wife, Wendy, were “childhood sweethearts” who wrote notes to each other in the fourth grade. They are now the proud grandparents of a nine-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy.
Their youngest son, Brandon, is the student pastor at Langston Baptist Church in Conway, S.C., serving with former N.C. pastor, Hampton Drum.
Having grown up in a broken home where his father was abusive and an alcoholic, he sees the importance of a spiritually healthy home.
“It was a very hard life,” he said. “I never knew where my daddy was. He took my mother’s wedding ring and hocked it to buy cheap wine. He never contacted us, and never tried to have any relationship with us in any way.”
When Blair was in his 20s he joined his brother and sister to hire a private detective to locate their father. They found him in a prison in N.C. “We went to the prison and met him, just to see if we could have a relationship with him, but there was no interest in that, which was another blow for a young man. I just can’t imagine how someone would not want to have a relationship with their children.” Their father died in prison.
“Statistically I would have been the same as my dad – a product of the family I came from. But God, in His power, can break the cycle. That’s why I say my life is a work of grace. That’s why it is so humbling to know that while my dad ended his life in prison, I get to be elected as president of our convention – it’s just a work of grace. That’s all I can say. It’s a work of grace!”
Blair’s background not only intensifies his desire to be a good husband and father, but also fosters strong admiration for the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH).
“Because of the life I lived, I can identify with so many of those children,” he said. “My heart goes out to them, and I’m just thankful for the work our convention is doing through the BCH: touching those young lives, giving them a place of safety, helping them to become productive adults and leading many of them to the Lord.”
His most fulfilling pastoral work is to preach the gospel and love people. “What you do Monday through Saturday to touch the people – being there with the people, whether they are hurting or rejoicing – I’ve always felt like that gave me the platform for what I do on Sunday. I love to be with my people.”
Blair has tried to stay involved with the Southern Baptist Convention and the BSC. As a young pastor he often found convention life challenging. “In those earlier days I remember how hard it was going [to the annual meeting], and I was so discouraged. In fact there was one time in Fayetteville when I said, ‘I’ll never go back again.’ I was just so discouraged. But some time during the year we would get a good candidate and everybody would go again.” His perseverance paid off.
“Finally the convention began to turn and I was able to get involved serving on some committees,” Blair said. He has since served on the BSC’s Committee on Committees (2003-2004), the Program, Place and Preacher Committee (2006-2009, chairman in 2009) and the Board of Directors (2011). He served two terms as second vice president of the BSC (2012-2013) and one year as first vice president (2014).
As president of the BSC Blair wants to “… continue the right course as a convention, to make sure that we have [leaders] that understand some of the battles that were fought in the early days, and the sacrifices and commitments that were made in those days,” he said. He described Milton Hollifield’s vision and leadership as “awesome.” Hollifield is the BSC’s executive director-treasurer.
“I am very grateful for the leadership, the staff and all of the employees of the BSC,” Blair added. “Until you serve in some capacity in the work of the convention, you really have no idea of the level of commitment and the level of passion in these people who serve us.”
His vision is to see N.C. Baptist churches of every size work together to reach the state and take the gospel to the whole world. “I think the greatest vehicle for that is the Cooperative Program (CP),” he said. “To me the CP was ‘networking’ before networking was cool. CP is basically churches choosing to network together and partner together to carry out a particular mission to the community, the country and the world, seeing lives changed by the power of God.
“I think we need to recapture the vision our leaders had years ago with the CP. No one church and no small group of churches could ever do what is being done through CP now. It would be hard for small churches to have the resources to underwrite families and send them out on the [international] mission field.”
He said CP is not a program, but a vision that all Baptist churches can buy into. Piney Grove Chapel has a record of leadership in baptisms, leads mission trips in North America and has continuing ministry in Swaziland, South Africa. The church has accepted the 1% CP Challenge, increasing their gifts to six percent annually.
“It’s time to put the pedal to the metal and go all out to reach the world for Christ. It’s bigger than any of us could do on our own.”