WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–In 1953, Roy Smith’s ministry was spawned under the leafy canopy of oaks, magnolias and dogwoods blanketing the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary campus.
Now at the close of a career of denominational service spanning four decades, the head of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina returned to his training grounds March 26 to deliver the keynote address for the second consecutive year at the seminary’s annual “N.C. Baptist Day.”
Citing Romans 1:14, Smith said: “As I contemplate coming to the end of my employment with the Baptist State Convention at the end of the year, if there is one word of confession which I would offer, it would be with the apostle Paul, I can say I am a debtor to so many people.”
Smith, 67, a father of three and grandfather of seven who retires at the end of the year, has served as executive director-treasurer of the state convention since 1984.
Describing Southeastern as “hallowed ground,” Smith expressed his appreciation for what he experienced on the campus where he attended college and seminary.
“I am a debtor to the college and seminary I was privileged to attend,” Smith said, referring to Wake Forest College originally housed on the Southeastern campus in Wake Forest, N.C.
“I am indebted to literally thousands and millions of North Carolina Baptists I will never know this side of heaven who gave of their means week by week in the church to make it possible for me to attend these Baptist schools and receive what education I got. I am a debtor to those dear unseen friends.”
Saved at age 12, Smith surrendered to God’s call to the ministry six years later. A native of Franklin, N.C., Smith’s first pastorate began in 1954 at Union Hope Baptist Church, Zebulon, N.C.
After a three-year stint there, Smith pastored Jersey Baptist Church, Lexington, N.C., where in 1962 he was recognized by Emory University as North Carolina’s “Rural Minister of the Year.” During that same year, Jersey Baptist Church was recognized by the North Carolina convention as “Church of the Year.”
Smith, who has been married to wife Doris Elizabeth Pearce more than 46 years, embarked on a career in state denominational work in 1962 in western North Carolina as a regional associate in missions work. In addition to serving as regional associate in missions, Smith also served as director of seminary extension in the region.
From 1967-77, he served the convention as secretary of town and country missions and the seminary extension department.
In 1978, Smith became associate general secretary-treasurer for the convention until 1984 when he filled the executive director’s post.
During his introduction of the speaker, Southeastern President Paige Patterson welcomed Smith home by stating he opposed Smith’s decision to retire but consented to “bend to whatever he (Smith) says is the will of God for his life.”
Reflecting on his 35-year career in North Carolina Baptist work, Smith said accomplishments achieved for the cause of Christ under his leadership were attained only by God’s power.
“No one of us can boast about anything in our spiritual journeys and our spiritual ministry,” Smith stated. “For none of us has anything that we have not received of God.”
Smith admonished seminary students preparing to take the torch of Christian ministry to not place their trust in their own abilities.
“Your personality and whatever ability you have is the gift of God,” Smith said. “You did not generate that among yourselves. Your salvation and your calling in ministry is a gift of God. It is not something you can muster up. Your opportunity to come to this place and study and the ability to learn is the gift of God.”
Smith exhorted students training for a career in full-time Christian service to never forget where their strength originates.
“The spirit of indebtedness and gratitude and thanksgiving is a spirit that should characterize every minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Smith said. “The people where you serve will not long remember the great sermons you preach. They will never forget the attitude you demonstrate in your ministry before them and to them and with them.”
As part of the seminary’s annual “N.C. Baptist Day,” Patterson recognized more than a dozen associational directors of missions from across the state who took part in the special event.
Describing directors of missions as potentially a pastor’s greatest asset, Smith said the associational directors can steer pastors away from making a lot mistakes.
“Some issues are worth fighting for and worth dying for,” Smith said. “There are other issues that are simply self-defeating. Blessed is the person who has the good sense to know the difference and to act thereon.”