There have been a lot of changes since Dr. David Al Myers came to Chattanooga in 1984 to become Director of Missions for the Hamilton County Baptist Association. After nearly 30 years, the soft-voiced friendly minister is retiring, effective Sept. 30. A reception honoring him and his wife, Brenda, will be Sunday, Sept. 22, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Brainerd Hills Baptist Church, 6611 East Brainerd Road.
Dr. Myers came to Chattanooga from Jackson, Miss., where he had been director of Christian Social Ministries for Hinds County for nine years. Prior to that, he had pastored churches in Kentucky, South Carolina and Mississippi. Several times while in Jackson he had been asked if he was interested in becoming a director of missions of an association, but he had always declined the opportunity.
"Then one night I got a telephone call from a friend, Dr. Monty Jordan, who at the time was pastor of Signal Mountan Baptist Church. He told me he was chairman of a committee searching for a director of missions for Hamilton County and wondered if I would consider the position and I found myself saying yes. I knew nothing about Chattanooga, where they had been without a director for 18 months. The Lord was in it," he said.
"A lot of controversy was beginning in the Southern Baptist Convention at the time, but we were spared of controversy here." Dr. Myers said he hated controversy and hoped that he had been a peacemaker. "Everybody doesn’t get their way, but they respect each other. The churches have found ways to work together."
Baptist work was more program-driven when he came than it is today, he said. "There were a lot of meetings and training sessions. We all used the same literature from the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board. It’s not at all the same today." Churches now are so varied, with different literature for everybody.
"There are small groups today as opposed to former thousands in a meeting. Churches have become so individualized with resources no longer just Southern Baptist. There are far more opportunities for training. Now what I do is consultation, one on one, putting people in touch with resources."
Another difference is denominational loyalty. "There is more apathy in doing things together. There is more mission work by individual churches locally and internationally. (Local church) mission trips are growing. That’s not bad, just different. The younger generation likes hands on projects and being involved in shorter projects and action rather than sustaining programs."
Many of the differences are cultural, he noted. There is not as much organization as it used to be. Churches are working on what they want to do, but the work is still strong and there are good churches. Churches cross denominations to share interests. The approach to ministry, the philosophy of ministry and some theology is involved.
"There are a lot of different factors on why some churches grow and others don’t. Part of this is the pastor and the spirit of the church grows out of that, but there are no growth secrets. The Lord builds churches. Some grow and some don’t, but most are doing a good job even if they are not growing."
His years in Chattanooga have been good, he said with a smile. "I’ve not a single complaint. I’m grateful for the years here. We have wonderful volunteers, pastors and staffs. We have tried to do what the churches wanted to do, focusing on missions and ministry and staying out of politics."
Under his leadership the association has a strong English As A Second Language program and the Hacoba Center to provide help to those in need. Several African-American churches have joined the association, as well as Spanish and Philippean.
"Chattanooga is so diverse with strong independent churches, influential churches, colleges, Southern Baptist and Cooperative Baptist churches."
When asked why he is retiring, he grinned. "Several have asked me that," and then said, "It’s time. I’ve been thinking about it for the past year. I feel the association needs a different leader. Change will continue and the association needs new, fresher ideas."
After September 30, he said, he has no particular ideas, but does look forward to more time with his family. He and his wife have two children, Morley, a nurse practitioner who lives in Magnolia Springs, Ala., with her husband and two children and Andy, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Ky., who has three children.
"I enjoy preaching, so I may do interims or supply work, and we are very involved in our church (Signal Mountain Baptist)."