Elizabethtown–The election of Kevin Smith, teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, comes at a time when Kentucky Baptists are trying to reach out to people of all ethnicities.
The newly elected convention president has a strong track record as a gospel preacher, a long history of personal evangelism, and a strong conviction that Christians should be engaged in the political process.
Smith, who also serves as assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he wants to encourage Kentucky pastors and churches to be “all in” with the cooperative approach to fulfilling the Great Commission.
“Many of our pastors are single-staff or bivocational, and they could really benefit from the encouragement and fellowship of others who are pursuing faithful gospel ministry,” Smith said.
Smith was not raised in a Christian home, but was exposed to the church at a young age by his grandmother. However, it wasn’t until college that Smith heard a sermon on John 3:16 and put his trust in Christ.
“I clearly realized I had been ‘bought with a price’ and Jesus was Lord and I ought to follow Him,” he said.
Smith, considered one of the strongest preachers in the Southern Baptist Convention, has been active at the state and national denominational levels. He is a sought-after speaker at church conferences across the country.
“We’ve seen history being made,” said Richard Nelson, a member of Edgewood Baptist Church in Hopkinsville. “This marks a new day for Kentucky Baptists. It signals a day of inclusion, and sends the message that Kentucky Baptists are serious about racial reconciliation.”
Ed Amundson, pastor of High Street Baptist Church in Somerset, said Kentucky clearly has more ground to cover regarding racial reconciliation.
“Kevin’s election says we’ve come a long way by the grace of Jesus Christ,” Amundson said.
After his conversion, Smith was discipled by his late pastor and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University in Virginia and a Masters of Divinity from Church of God Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tenn. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Southern Seminary.
Smith served as pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville for eight years, where he taught the church about the Cooperative Program and led it to become a leading African-American congregation in CP giving.
Smith currently serves as teaching pastor at Louisville’s Highview Baptist Church, where Cooperative Program giving has increased more than 300 percent since he began serving there.
As KBC president, Smith has promised to voice the concerns and convictions of Kentucky Baptists. He regularly speaks on college campuses and with the media.
“I always stand for the truth of scripture and the authority of the Bible in the life of a Christian,” Smith said.
“In public settings, I stand upon the Bible’s teaching in many areas, such as sexuality, the Trinity, greed, drunkenness, taking advantage of the poor, the exclusivity of Christ, the deity of Christ, … racism, classism, sexism and the image of God in humanity.”
Smith serves on the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Leadership Network Council and has expressed support for the organization’s president, Russell Moore, and Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, as they represent the concerns of Bible-believing Christians on the pressing social issues of the day.
“God’s people must be engaged in the political process and a voice of salt and light if we hope to see religious liberty preserved,” Smith said.
Smith has an active ministry among motorcyclists through the Christian Motorcyclist Association. He also served as a prison chaplain prior to his pastoral ministry.
“My greatest successes have always been with ex-offenders, because they are often feeling rejected as they seek to re-enter society,” Smith said. “Nothing sounds as sweet to their ear as Christ’s words: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.'”
Smith said the greatest challenges facing Kentucky Baptists today are the same as those the Israelites faced in the promised land and the early Christians faced in the Roman Empire.
“I don’t think the challenges ever change,” Smith said. “How do we live faithfully and obediently as we seek to love the only true God with our all hearts and love our neighbor as Christ commanded?
“That’s the ever-present challenge of the godly,” he said. (KBC)
Kristen Lowry & Roger Alford