Serving as the pastor of a small town Baptist church provides Cameron McGill with both the perspective and the vision for encouraging other small churches across the state. In his new role as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), McGill said he wants to “help small churches in small places realize they can accomplish big things.”
Photo by Steve Cooke
At the 2016 BSC annual meeting, Cameron McGill (center), pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church was elected as president. Joel Stephens (left), pastor of Westfield Baptist Church, was elected first vice-president. J.D. Grant (right), pastor of Scotts Creek Baptist Church in Sylva, was elected second vice-president.
Dublin First Baptist Church called McGill to be their pastor almost 17 years ago. The town of Dublin claims 250 residents. He wondered if the church could grow in that environment.
“I never was convinced that because I was in a small place that we couldn’t do big things,” he said. “Very seldom did Jesus take a large number of people to accomplish things. He took small groups of people that were faithful and willing, and He inspired them to do great things.”
In the context of a culture that continues to experience seismic shifts, McGill said his focus in ministry has also change dramatically. “I find myself more and more compelled to be in the environment where lost people are. I’m less impressed with sitting in meetings and dealing with the bureaucracy of the church.”
There was a time when the emphasis of his ministry was to offer “the best product possible to attract as many people to our place as we could.”
Now he believes the calling of the church is not about getting people into the church building.
“It’s about getting people out of the building,” he said. “If we’re going to make a difference in the Kingdom, it’s not about coming together and singing about how good the God is that we own. It’s about showing the world we don’t own Him. He owns us. We are His hands and feet.”
In the last 10 years, Dublin has become more focused on missions as they connected with BSC’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships (GCP). Church planting and revitalization also became core values of the church’s vision. Much of that adjustment in the church’s direction originated when McGill heard Milton Hollifield explain BSC’s “Seven Pillars.”
As Hollifield, executive director-treasurer of BSC, explained the seven pillars, two caught McGill’s attention. Pillar three reads, “Strengthen Existing Churches,” and number four is, “Plant New Multiplication Churches.”
McGill was torn with some hard decisions as he pondered those specific parts of the vision. “I would stay awake at night thinking, ‘Lord do you want me to strengthen the church I’m in, or do You want me to step out in faith to plant a new church?’ God said to me, ‘It’s not either-or, it’s both-and.’ It’s a rare thing for a traditional, rural church to plant another church. But it worked, and it has strengthened our existing church.”
On April 20, 2014, the church launched a second campus at White Lake, called The Lake Church. White Lake is a resort community 17 miles from Dublin. The 750 year-round residents swell to 10,000 people in the summer.
“We looked at an area in our community that needed a gospel presence,” McGill said. “Our strategy was to share the gospel with people who are in-and-out on the weekends, or those who vacation at White Lake. We also wanted to provide a church home for people who have retired and settled in that community.”
An attractive waterfront facility was rented for Sunday services. At one time, the building was an amusement park, then a night club. It was re-purposed as an assembly and wedding hall, and named “The Venue.”
A group began meeting at 8:32 every Sunday morning in The Venue. McGill said the time represents John 8:32, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
“We want people to know that we’re all about the truth of God’s Word,” he explained.
Attendance ranges from 125 in the winter to as many as 450 in the summer. Fifty baptisms have been celebrated at the church.
“This church plant has also strengthened the host church at Dublin FBC,” McGill said.” It’s helped us to think out of the box. We’re able to reach teenagers, adults – even senior adults who searched for something all their life and retired – they’re getting saved and beginning to serve the Lord in their retirement years. That’s so cool! The Lake Church appeals to a very wide range of people.”
Dublin First Baptist has expanded their vision with the addition of two church mission partnerships – Moldova and New York.
“We are active with these partnerships day to day,” said McGill. “We communicate with them, we financially support them, we send teams to work with them. Every Sunday we get reports from our two partner churches. My goal is that what we do as a church goes far beyond what we do in our building.”
The first partnership in New York was born through the ministry of BSC. McGill said Dublin wanted to have a Hispanic ministry for 10 years. “We tried many ways to force a door open in Bladen County, and it just wasn’t to be. Through the convention, God showed us that our Hispanic ministry was to be 550 miles away in Woodside Queens, New York.”
More than 150 church members from Dublin First Baptist and The Lake Church have ministered in New York through the partnership.
A second partnership began in 2012 when a speaker talked about BSC’s Moldova partnership in a Wednesday night service.
McGill’s wife, Tiffany, was captivated by what she heard. She learned that BSC’s Embrace women’s ministry planned a vision tour. In a few months, she traveled to Moldova with the team of women. Soon thereafter, the couple returned to the Eastern European country with a GCP vision tour.
“Our hearts were knit with theirs,” McGill said. “We found a specific village that reminded us of our community at Dublin – a small community where the church was a big part of the activities of the community. We partnered with the church in the village of Vadul Lui Isac in 2013, sending four teams each year. I’ve been five times. Through the partnership we’ve added a ‘second daughter,’ Tabitha Mesina.”
The Biblical Recorder reported Mesina’s story in August 2014.
McGill “loves” BSC’s focus on impacting lostness. “This is my heart,” he said. “If you look at what’s going on at Dublin, much of what you see is tied so closely to the vision and strategy of our convention at this time. It works! Churches don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They can get plugged in to what is happening in the convention.”
Born in Danville, Va., McGill grew up in Winston-Salem. Attending a Christian school and regular church attendance was the lifestyle he knew as a child.
“I remember clearly at age five a teacher shared the gospel out of a brown Gideon New Testament,” he recalled. “When I was eight a different teacher with a similar brown Gideon NT showed me the Roman Road plan of salvation. I accepted Christ that day. My salvation is one thing I have never doubted.”
At 15, he committed his life to full time ministry. After high school, he attended Wingate University for two years and transferred to Emmanuel Christian College, a small Bible college in Connelly Springs.
McGill served on the staff of three churches as a youth pastor and associate pastor. In 2000, he became the senior pastor at Dublin First Baptist.
Cameron and Tiffany married in 1995. Their three sons are 20, 17 and 15, and their daughter is 9.
“They are all saved and love the Lord,” said McGill. “If you ask any of them if they would rather go to Disney World or to a mission trip, they would choose a mission trip every time. Even though we live in a town of a few hundred, they feel very at home in New York, a city of 8 million, doing homeless ministry. When I see them kneeling down on the streets of New York, giving a bottle of water to a homeless person, that’s when I realized how much I appreciate their heart.”
Being elected to the office of president of BSC at the 2016 annual meeting, “was the most humbling experience,” he said.
“I drive by many of our Baptist churches and I think, ‘God, why me? Why would You allow me such an honor?’”
In his new role, he wants to “encourage small churches to do big things well, and encourage big churches to remember to do the small things well.”
“I realize that a lot of churches are looking at their limitations,” McGill said. “There was once a little boy who looked down into his lunch basket and said, ‘All I have is a couple loaves and these few fish. I don’t think I have much to offer.’ But, Jesus did some pretty amazing things with that small basket of food. You may be in a church where you say, ‘Our resources are so limited, we’re in such a remote place – what can we accomplish for the kingdom?’ The answer is, great things.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Zac Lyons and the GCP office invites pastors to join the Moldova Vision Tour, Oct. 3-14, 2017. For more information, contact Lauren McCall at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5536, or [email protected].) _ÑŒ_ÑŒ