The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, also known as the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, has called seminary professor Kevin Smith as its executive director.
Michael L. Trammell, president of the network’s General Mission Board, announced Smith’s election after a called board meeting June 7.
Smith, 49, is assistant professor of church history and Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS); teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville; and president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and chairman of its Mission Board.
Trammell said Smith was “thoroughly vetted by our Executive Director Search Committee, the Administrative Committee of the General Mission Board and by the full membership of the General Mission Board” in “acting in accordance with [the board’s] bylaws.”
“Simply stated, we believe Dr. Smith is the man God has chosen for us,” said Trammell, senior pastor of Mt. Airy (Md.) Baptist Church. “Dr. Smith is a scholar and is a tremendously gifted leader. He has outstanding people skills, and has a deep passion for reaching the lost. We are excited that Dr. Kevin Smith has accepted the call of our board to serve alongside Mid-Atlantic Baptists.”
Smith is the second African-American elected as executive director of a state convention that cooperates with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), according to Baptist Press research, following Jeffrey Haggray, who led the District of Columbia Baptist Convention from 2001-2009.
Search committee chairman Victor Kirk said, “We reviewed, vetted and interviewed many candidates and through our process. Dr. Kevin Smith emerged as the one that God has chosen for our state convention.
“[Smith’s] credentials, his personality, his love for his family, his love for God and his love for and command of God’s Word were determining factors in our decision. His report within and without was without scrutiny,” said Kirk, pastor of Sharon Bible Fellowship in Lanham, Md.
“We further believed that what our convention needed going forward was not only a leader and administrator but someone who has a shepherd’s heart,” Kirk said. “Our staff, leadership team, pastors and churches need healing and unity. We believe Dr. Smith who previously has been a pastor for over 15 years was the right person to aid in that mandate. His relational skills are exceptional, and he has the heart to bring the body of Christ together.”
Kirk said the search committee is “honored and grateful to God for the assignment He placed in our hands in regards to finding our next executive director” and “we look forward to what God has in store for us.”
Presenting Smith, a native of Washington, D.C., to the General Mission Board, network President Bill Warren said, “We need a leader who is filled with the Holy Spirit. We need a leader whose walk with the Spirit yields God’s vision for our network. We need a leader whose heart yearns to make disciples for the Lord. We need a leader who walks humbly with our God and with man. We need a leader who preaches the Word of God with excellence and anointing. We need a leader with skills to create faithful relationships and powerful partnerships.
“We will have that leader if today we select Dr. Kevin Smith as our new executive director. I endorse him without a single reservation,” said Warren, pastor of Allen Memorial Baptist Church in Salisbury, Md.
At SBTS, Smith was named to the faculty in 2006 and is completing his doctoral studies. He previously was a presidential scholarship recipient and served as the Martin Luther King Jr. Fellow at the seminary.
Since 2013, Smith also has served in the preaching/teaching ministry at Highview Baptist Church, a multi-site church where he was charged to bring multi-ethnic leadership to the mostly-white congregation founded 60 years ago. Prior to joining Highview’s staff, he served as senior pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville for eight years.
Smith has been a member of the SBC Committee on Resolutions on five occasions, most recently in 2014. SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page appointed him to the SBC African American Advisory Council, which met from 2012-2015. Smith also is a member of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Leadership Network Council.
Smith earned an undergraduate degree from Hampton University, a historically black college in the Tidewater area of Virginia, where his father is an alumnus.
It was there that Smith met Christ.
“I have the most boring testimony,” Smith said, noting he had grown up in church but not in a Christian family. His grandmother picked him up every Sunday and took him to church, but it wasn’t until he was a student at Hampton that God became real to him.
“My life was changed my freshman year at college … in the chapel there,” he recounted, crediting a chaplain’s sermon. “My life really changed when he was preaching John 3:16!”
Later, after serving in New York City as an auditor, Smith moved to Kentucky to study tax law and sat under the ministry of Elder D.J. Ward, pastor of Lexington’s Main Street Baptist Church. There, he was discipled and called into ministry – and he met his wife Patricia.
They soon married and moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., where Smith studied at the Church of God Theological Seminary, now called Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tenn., earning a master of divinity degree in historical studies in 2001.
While in Chattanooga, Smith served as associate pastor of Olivet Baptist Church and then as senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church before planting Love Fellowship Baptist Church, a mission church in a housing development/low-income area.
In the Kentucky convention, Smith served on its Great Commission Task Force, encouraging church leaders to increase Cooperative Program giving, and on the Committee on Committees (2006-2009), Administrative Committee (2007-2010) and Committee on Credentials (2012-2015).
He additionally has been a visiting professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and an instructor at Simmons Bible College in Louisville and Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn. He has led short-term missions trips to the Caribbean and Africa.
In the Washington, D.C., area, Smith grew up in Prince George’s County, where he attended DaMatha Catholic High School and now tells of fond memories of weeks spent at the YMCA summer camps in Edgewater, Md., as well as many teenage nights at the Inner Harbor and the Woodlawn Mall. From 1990-1992, he was a research assistant for the U.S. Senate.
The Smiths have three children, JeMichael, Dane and Keturah, and two adopted nephews Timothy and Josiah.
Paul Chitwood, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, noted in a recommendation for Smith to the Maryland-Delaware network on May 18 of this year that he “may not be a name familiar to some members of your board but his is a name above reproach in the Kentucky Baptist Convention.” In his various roles within the convention, Chitwood wrote, “Kevin has been used of God as an agent of reconciliation.”
Chitwood added, “Kevin is a very gifted preacher, being among our most sought-after for speaking engagements in Kentucky and beyond. He connects effectively with churches of every size and in every setting. Kevin knows how to ‘speak pew’ with an energetic delivery that the Spirit of God is using to encourage saints and convict sinners. He is also an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Great Commission and the Cooperative Program. He is Southern Baptist ‘through and through’ and maintains strong relationships with leaders across our state convention and in the broader Southern Baptist Convention.”
At SBTS, Smith formerly worked alongside former administrators Russell Moore, now president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Danny Akin, now president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
“Kevin Smith is an excellent preacher who handles the Scripture with care and communicates its truth with power,” Moore wrote in a letter of recommendation for Smith, dated Aug. 17 of last year. “He has years of experience ministering to the church and is a convictional, committed Southern Baptist. He is a natural leader and has an exceptionally godly character.”
Moore added, “His family is a key asset to his ministry and the way that he loves and shepherds his wife and children exemplify his ability to lead God’s church. Beyond his own family, Kevin Smith is committed to discipling and mentoring pastors and leaders, helping them grow in both their leadership abilities and their personal devotion to Jesus.
“Kevin also has an exceptional understanding of the issues in the culture and how to address them from a Gospel perspective,” Moore wrote. “He is a faithful guide in changing times, anchored to God’s Word.”
Akin, in a recommendation dated Aug. 14, 2015, said Smith is “one of the finest and most outstanding men I’ve ever met” and “a phenomenal preacher! He is godly, convictional, and has a passion for the gospel and the church. He would bring many gifts and talents to the position of Executive Director.”
Smith, in joining the two-state convention based in Columbia, Md., and thus resigning as Kentucky Baptist Convention president, will be replaced by Andrew Dyer, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in London, Ky., the state convention’s first vice president.
In addition to Victor Kirk, members of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network search committee were Charlie Arnold, pastor of Seaside Church in Lewes, Del., vice chairman; Helen Corrothers of Georgia Avenue Baptist Church, Silver Spring, Md.; Keith Corrick, director of missions for the Potomac Baptist Association, Hughesville, Md.; Michael Mattar, pastor of Hope Fellowship Church, Loudoun, Va.; Brad O’Brien, pastor of Jesus Our Redeemer Church, Baltimore; and Thomas Winborn, pastor of Welsh Memorial Baptist Church, Frostburg, Md. Curtis Hill, pastor of Ogletown Baptist Church, Newark, Del., and James Pope, North Arundel Church, Glen Burnie, Md., also served early in the process.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, formerly known as the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, in Columbia, Md. Todd Deaton, editor of the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, contributed to this article.)