In December 2020, Mercy members voted to ratify Gary Dawkins as Lead Pastor of Mercy Vineyard Church. Read the December 23 announcement from the Mercy Board.
Gary Dawkins is a gifted pastor and leader coming from the Vineyard NY–Syracuse where he has served as the site pastor of their largest campus. He is passionate about evangelism, discipleship, community outreach, and social justice.
In addition to being recommended to the Search Committee by many Vineyard pastors with existing relationships to Mercy, Gary Dawkins was given the strongest endorsement of the MVC Search Committee, Board, and Regional Vineyard Leadership.
His love for Jesus and spiritual depth and Kingdom-vision can move Mercy Vineyard into a new season of loving and blessing the Twin Cities. We look forward to welcoming Gary and his wife, LeKita and their 8-year-old daughter Grace to the Mercy community.
The Mercy Board hosted Zoom gatherings for the Mercy community to connect and interact with Gary with your questions and wonderings. If you weren’t able to attend the meetings, watch the December 13 Meet-and-Greet Webinar:
Frequently Asked Questions
Would you briefly describe your background?
- I am a pastor, public communicator, leader, and native of ‘Charm City’ Baltimore, MD. I currently serve as Site Pastor at the Syracuse Vineyard Church in Syracuse, NY.
- I am passionate about justice for the marginalized and uplifting communities across the globe so that they flourish in every area of life. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I partnered with the Sankofa Wellness Center to supply fresh groceries to residents on the Southside of Syracuse, a food desert. I have also worked with Freedom Commons which provides housing and services for individuals and their families to reduce recidivism and improve public safety and served on Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today’s economic development committee. I am a board member for Hopeprint, a refugee resettlement organization that focuses on unifying diverse communities rich in culture and connectedness to prosper in place.
- I am a former media professional and educator who is now captivated by helping people grow in their faith and relationships. Additional passions of mine include developing a lasting discipleship culture and working to educate people on issues of social justice and cultural competency.
- Most importantly, I am a follower of Jesus Christ, the husband of the beautiful LeKita Scott Dawkins, and father to the brilliant Grace. We love cooking together and playing Monopoly! See more of us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
- You can also check out the Meet-and-Greet video on the Lead Pastor Search webpage. I provide additional background information starting at 37:18.
What is your theological training and preaching background? Could you expound on your theological and pastoral education. Are you considering getting further education in this area? What has prepared you for this role?
- First and foremost, I am a student of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the holy scriptures, in addition to the life experiences the Lord has allowed me to learn from. I currently serve as Site Pastor at the Syracuse Vineyard Church in Syracuse, NY. It has been my pleasure to work with a gifted team for the past six years and to be guided by long-time Vineyard Pastor and Eastern Regional Leader, John Elmer.
- In 2013, I completed the most difficult of my degrees. I earned an MBA from Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management. Business, in my humble opinion, is one of the most important knowledge bases necessary for any church leader to competently direct an organization with success. Unfortunately, many theological institutions do not offer this education. I also have earned a graduate degree in Communications Management and a BS in Communications Production, both from Morgan State University. My formal theological education has come from Capital Bible Seminary and Northeastern Seminary. One day, I would love to find the time to complete my theological degree.
- From 2005-2009, I served as Discipleship and Evangelism leader and teacher at New Mount Zion Baptist Church in Orangeburg, SC, and as Minister of Discipleship at Progressive First Baptist Church (now Word of God – Baltimore) in Baltimore, MD in the late 90s and early 2000s. In my current role as Site Pastor at the Syracuse Vineyard, I oversee pastoral staff and directors, facilitate pastoral care, preach or teach weekly, and grow and diversify an 800-member congregation. In these roles, I have been shaped, mentored, and prepared to lead a congregation, staff, and community.
What draws you to MVC/Minneapolis in this season?
- “Racial justice is a central part of our spiritual formation and discipleship…” is a foundational statement from the Mercy website that clearly expresses my heart and ministry for over a decade. I have never experienced a church that so vividly believes what I believe. This is assuredly a light from the Lord directing me to where He wants me to serve.
- Additionally, the staff, the search committee, and board conversations that I have engaged in over the past six months have been more than interviews. These conversations have been familial. I have felt like each conversation has been open, honest, emotional, and relational. We have grown to know each other over this period and that has given me a taste of the love and hope shared in the Mercy Vineyard family.
What are your views on LGBTQIAA inclusion in the church?
- My heart is to tear down walls and build bridges. I am a firm believer that the scriptures are the divine word of God and they are our final authority. All Christians must hold them in high regard. The most valuable of these is Jesus’ teaching on the greatest commandment – Love God and Love others. We all need to get better at this. When we do, we can grow closer to one another and have valuable conversations about unity and growth.
- We all have room to grow closer to Jesus.
- To be a part of this church is to participate in this church. Romans 15:7 states, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” We want everyone to come as they are and be loved. More importantly, we want everyone who comes to commit to growing to be more like Jesus every day no matter where we are on our individual journeys. We are a Vineyard Church and we hold to the standards of the national leadership.
- For more on my perspective, check out the Meet-and-Greet video on the Lead Pastor Search webpage. I provide additional information at 11:15 and 49:09.
How do you plan to balance the needs of new and mature believers alike, especially from a scriptural/preaching perspective? What will be your priorities when you come to MVC?
- My number one priority is to build relationships, both outside and inside of the Mercy family. Building relationships helps us to understand each other and speak the same language. For the church community, this is valuable for clear communication and spiritual growth. In the broader community, this helps us to better understand the needs and take steps toward being more effective neighbors as a church.
- In terms of balancing teaching and preaching, I need to develop a knowledge of our community. When I am aware of the needs of those that I am leading, I can craft messages that provide content for each person to grasp. Additionally, I look forward to working with Mercy’s staff and leaders to provide resources, including a well-balanced offering of classes, groups, and service opportunities for every person’s area of growth.
- I offer a little more insight into my thinking in the Meet-and-Greet video on the Lead Pastor Search webpage. Check out the segment starting at 43:13.
How can we support your transition?
- My wife and I would love to hear from those of you who have relocated to the Twin Cities from other states. We are unsure of what to expect, so it would be helpful to understand what was most useful during your transition.
- I speak a little more about this in the Meet-and-Greet video on the Lead Pastor Search webpage. Check out the segment starting at 14:37.
Learn more about Gary Dawkins
- Read the 12.6.20 Congregational Letter
- Gary Dawkins website and selected sermons
- Ferment Podcast – Black Voices in the Vineyard – Gary Dawkins
For questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.