Live Oak —
Westwood Baptist Church of Live Oak will be celebrating Pastor Dr. Jimmy Deas on Sunday for his 20 years behind the pulpit.
“We have been blessed by his teaching and preaching of God’s Word, his encouragement to grow spiritually, and to live daily as Christ’s followers,” a press release from the church stated. “He prays, comforts, and cares for us in sickness and in sorrow. He and his wife, Sherry, enjoy time spent with their daughters’, families and their grandchildren."
Deas is senior pastor at Westwood and grew up in Hamilton and Madison counties.
Then a few years later, Deas and family moved to the Orlando area and had been there for sometime when they felt God beckoning them to move, but not to Suwannee County.
“This was not our plan,” said Deas. “We actually thought 20 years ago we were talking to a church in North Carolina and thought that was where we were going.”
Deas said the North Carolina-based church committee kept asking and urging him and Sherry to come up there, and for him to be their pastor, but God had other plans.
After several months, Deas and wife Sherry felt God wanted them in Suwannee County instead.
“That’s how we got here,” said Deas. “We really thought we were going to North Carolina.”
Deas said that he and Sherry have always had a total assurance that this is where God wanted them to be.
“I didn’t come here saying I was going to stay a certain amount of time,” said Deas. “It was always like, God whenever you’re ready to move me, you’ll take care of it.”
Deas said that over the years, there would be opportunities to move on that came to him and his family, but after serious prayer and soul-searching, they knew to stay put.
“God would just close the door,” said Deas. “And reconfirm, ‘This is where you’re supposed to be’, so we just stayed.”
Deas said that after 20 years, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long at all.
“I posted about it on Facebook a few days ago,” said Deas. “And have been looking at that sign out there for the last week and a half and everyday I wonder where did the time go?”
Coming from the very rapidly growing Orlando area and quick pace, Deas thought that coming to Live Oak was going to be really slow and laid back, but learned differently.
“Coming out of Orlando, we thought that this would be a less-busy ministry,” said Deas. “It doesn’t have that hurried pace that a larger place does, but I quickly found out that there was a lot to do and I’ve never lacked for anything to do,” he smiled.
Over the years, the congregation has grown and yet he admits conducting quite a few funerals too. Deas concern is not for numbers so much as spiritual growth for those who are currently there.
“My concept of church growth is not necessarily to build a big, local congregation,” said Deas. “I’m not opposed to it, a church needs to grow, but I believe if a church is spiritually healthy, it will be sending people out to do things and that’s one of my blessings.”
Deas said that through the ministry they’ve been able to send quite a few people out to become foreign missionaries. He said currently they have a couple from their church who are in Richmond, Virginia meeting with their International Mission Board to determine where they’ll go overseas to minister.
“We’ve sent out a number of folks,” said Deas. “That to me, is part of church growth.”
And what about 20 years from now?
“At my age, I’m not sure,” laughed Deas.
His face grew serious.
“My wife and I have just learned in recent months that she has a serious illness,” said Deas. “We have been reminded you live life one day at a time. We’re really looking at that.”
Deas talked of a young man that was leaving Westwood on a baseball scholarship and in his last two years of college, he’ll be going to Liberty University, to seminary to be a minister.
“That’s the real joy to see God work in people’s lives like that,” said Deas.
Deas concluded, “The ministry here has not been so much about me, it’s been about the people. This is a wonderful congregation and I’m so proud.”