SBTS prof Smith elected Kentucky Baptists’ first African-American president

Communications Staff — November 11, 2015

Tom James, left, hands off the president's gavel to Southern Seminary professor Kevin Smith, who was elected the first African-American president in Kentucky Baptist Convention history. Smith is teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. (Photo by Robin Cornetet/Kentucky Today)
Tom James, left, hands off the president’s gavel to Southern Seminary professor Kevin Smith, who was elected the first African-American president in Kentucky Baptist Convention history. Smith is teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. (Photo by Robin Cornetet/Kentucky Today)

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. – The Kentucky Baptist Convention elected a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as its first African-American president at its annual meeting, Nov. 10.

The election of Kevin Smith, teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville and assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Seminary, comes at a time when Kentucky Baptists are trying to reach out to people of all ethnicities.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention, with 750,000 members, is the state’s largest religious organization.

The newly elected 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 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, 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.

Smith served as pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, for eight years, where he taught the church about the Cooperative Program and led it to become the top KBC’s African-American congregation in Cooperative Program giving.

Since Smith became teaching pastor at Louisville’s Highview Baptist Church, Cooperative Program giving has increased more than 300 percent.

Smith was nominated by Lincoln Bingham, pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights in Louisville.

“The Kentucky Baptist Convention is ready for the first African-American president,” Bingham said. “Smith is a Cooperative Program champion and has proven that he is quality, committed leader.”

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 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.

During the KBC, Southern hosted an alumni luncheon Nov. 10 with keynote speaker Hershael W. York, Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern. York emphasized the significance of Southern’s gospel impact.

“Southern is committed to the inerrancy of Scripture, it is committed to the revitalization of the church, and, may I say contrary to what some believe, Southern is committed to a whosoever-will gospel,” York said. “That we believe what the Word says, that whosoever-will may come.

“I am grateful for an institution that is leading the way in missions commitment, in going and planting churches, in theological education, and in teaching people,” he said.

York asked for the support and prayers of the alumni present, stating that they could help Southern through their prayers for President R. Albert Mohler Jr., for the students, and for the faculty. He said alumni could continue to encourage future students by speaking well of Southern and recommending it as a solid institution.

York also extended an invitation to Southern’s Alumni Academy, which allows alumni an opportunity to continue learning outside the classroom. The next event is Jan. 7 – 8, 2016 and will feature Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju discussing “The Pastor and Counseling.” York also encouraged alumni to get current students involved in their churches.

“We don’t think the classroom is sufficient, we want [our students] to be plugged into a church. You can help with that,” York said. “Nothing will get your people more burdened for what God is doing at Southern Seminary than falling in love with Southern Seminary students.”

Southern Ph.D. student Joshua Hutchens shared how SBTS is one of the three major influences in his life.

“There are many schools who pose as partners, but they undermine the teaching of the church rather than undergird the teaching of the church. And that has not been my experience at Southern Seminary,” Hutchens said. “I have been deepened. … This is what we want for [those in our church who feel a call to ministry]. We want them to go to a school that is not going to contradict what we have taught them, but is going to deepen what we have started. And that is the great legacy of Southern Seminary.”

Hutchens indicated that the opportunity to study at Southern and get to know the professors is one he doesn’t take for granted.

“I get to sit down across the table and talk about my life with Tom Schreiner. I mean goodness sakes! A gem of gems. Every Thursday this semester I debate theology with Bruce Ware. I mean, what world is this where this is a reality? Jim Hamilton prays for me,” he said, referring to three Southern professors. “This is an amazing opportunity and this is an amazing privilege that we have as Southern Seminary alumni.

“We have this deposit invested in us, and that is a privilege of burden. That is a privilege of responsibility that we have been given this one day we will have to answer to the Lord Jesus Christ for how we invested what others have invested in us,” Hutchens continued. “And that is what gets me going every day of my life. That is what I wake up with on my shoulders. That by the grace of God, He has poured out upon me this privilege.”

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