LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Lawrence Smith, recruited to lead communications for the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC), finds inspiration in the biblical example of Luke.
“I’ve always tried to point to the first four verses of the Gospel of Luke,” Smith told Baptist Press. “I consider Luke to be a great journalist. He’s known as a physician of course, but I think he’s a great journalist.”
Luke 1:1-4 tells of Luke’s desire to write for Theophilus a truthful and orderly account of what eyewitnesses said of Jesus, accounts that Luke himself investigated.
“I take that to heart,” Smith said. “That is kind of my mission, is to do what Luke did, to write orderly accounts of Who Jesus is and what He’s doing. That’s what motivates me to do what I do.”
Smith, a two-time Emmy winner who has worked in journalism and Southern Baptist life for decades, didn’t realize he would be the first African American to direct communications for a Southern Baptist state convention when he began at the KBC in January.
“To be honest, that’s not something I think about. I’m just working with fellow believers and for a common mission,” he said. “It’s a good thing. But I hope that one day that is no longer a story in the SBC. I think we’re getting there.” He believes the SBC will enjoy greater diversity in leadership roles as the roll of Southern Baptists increases in diversity.
Smith was also the first African American vice president at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when he served as the vice president for communication there from 2001-2009.
“I hope eventually that I stop breaking ground that way,” he said. “It’s a common occurrence.”
In his new role, Smith directors KBC communications, edits Kentucky Today and manages a communications staff he praises for its legacy and award-winning work.
Smith came to the KBC after 10 years as a reporter at WDRB-TV, the Louisville FOX affiliate. He won Emmys for his coverage of the 2020 protests following the shooting death of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police officers, and for team coverage of the December 2021 tornadoes in Eastern Kentucky. Smith is a 2015 winner of the KBC Integrity Award for his news coverage of faith issues.
KBC Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Gray recruited Smith to the post after the departure of Brandon Porter, now associate vice president for convention news at the SBC Executive Committee.
“Lawrence Smith is a gift from God to Kentucky Baptists,” Gray told Baptist Press. “We knew when we started talking to Lawrence Smith about the position of communications director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention that he was highly qualified for the work,” Gray said, citing Smith’s lifelong career in communications. “Lawrence is a godly man, committed husband and father, and an active member and Sunday School teacher in a Kentucky Baptist church.
“He came into a highly demanding job in a challenging time and has performed even better than I could have imagined. Lawrence is a gifted leader and brings to our team an understanding of the industry along with a calm temperament and an excellent work ethic.”
Smith is modernizing Kentucky Today operations with the launch of a Kentucky Today app to make the website more accessible, newly available as the Kentucky Baptist Convention app in app stores. He expresses excitement in leading KBC communications in coming alongside churches to spread the Gospel. With a background in television news, he is adding video stories to Kentucky Today, recently highlighting disaster relief efforts in Eastern Kentucky.
“The thing that surprised me most when I got here was to discover how much the KBC does, and our department is responsible for communicating that and promoting that,” Smith said, “and also telling the stories of what the 2,300-plus churches are doing. When I first got here, I spent a lot of time just learning kind of what we do.”
Smith notes Kentucky Today Managing Editor Mark Maynard and Kentucky Today Content Strategist Chip Hutcheson are both members of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, and commends the staff for doing great work.
“I enjoy what I’m doing here,” he said. “I enjoy the stories we get to tell.”
Smith began working in Southern Baptist life shortly after his salvation in the mid-1980s when he was a Houston television reporter. He joined First Baptist Church of Houston, then under the pastorate of John Bisagno, and volunteered at the church television ministry. The church hired him fulltime to work in its TV ministry, which he did two years before reentering the Houston television reporting market.
He and his wife Garnetta, now married for more than 43 years, were drawn to their Kentucky roots and returned to the state. They are longtime active members of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. He is vice chairman of the deacon board, lead deacon for Highview’s East campus, a community group leader and teacher.
Garnetta Smith, also active in Southern Baptist life, is director of the Center for Student Success and women’s support coordinator at SBTS and Boyce College. The Smiths have two adult sons.
He applauds the Southern Baptist Convention and describes it as attractive to a great diversity of ethnicities.
“People know what the SBC stands for,” he said. “We stand on the truth of the Gospel. We stand on evangelism. We stand on missions. The Cooperative Program is one of the greatest programs ever launched for spreading the Gospel throughout the world; that is just a brilliant idea for combining our resources to spread the Gospel throughout the world, from Paduka to Peru. And that story needs to get out.
“I think the more people see that story of what the Cooperative Program is, what it does and how effective it is for spreading the Gospel, the more people of any ethnicity will want to be a part of that.”