The Rev. Keith Smith takes his place this day at the pulpit of Faith Community Church in Massey Hill.
He’s served as a lay minister for the past 18 months.
But today, Smith will deliver his sermon as a fully ordained minister.
“The Lord put this all together,” says Smith, 72, “and he said, ‘You need to do God’s work.’”
Randy White, director of missions for the New South River Baptist Association, and a committee of pastors would agree after they were convinced of Smith’s knowledge of the Bible and his uncompromising faith.
“For the last year, I had been attending the Baptist State Convention in Greensboro,” Smith says. “And at Fort Caswell and the New South River Baptist Association. I took a course there. I had a lot of training at Fort Caswell and the New South River Baptist Association.”
Finally, Smith would find himself in the presence of White and New South River Baptist Association pastors for a final review of his faith and his ability to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“So, then I sat in the hot chair,” he says. “I felt like a longtail cat in a room of rocking chairs. They drilled me with questions. I finally went out of the room, and the pastors discussed if I am worthy.”
You can only imagine his angst.
But you have to know something about Keith Smith.
He grew up in Mount Elam Baptist Church in Spivey’s Corner, where his late father, Harvis Smith, taught Sunday school for 40 years. His father and his mother, Mable Smith, were devout in their faith. He would earn a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1972 from Campbell University, teach at Lakewood High School for a while and then graduate from East Carolina University in 1981 with a master’s in biology. He would teach anatomy and physiology at Fayetteville Technical Community College from 1983 until retiring in 2008.
He had other interests, too.
Call him a renaissance man.
He raced cars in local speedway competitions and won 11 times. That would lead to skills as a photographer and meeting NASCAR up-and-comers Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott long before they would become motorsports legends. He photographed sports legends such as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Arnold Palmer.
And by the way, if you are in need of yard work, Keith Smith has owned Smitty's Botanical Maintenance lawn care service since 1994. He can mow your grass and trim your hedges. And after the work is done, if you are willing, he will share some scripture and a prayer.
Smith says he has between 80 and 90 customers.
“Anybody I see, I tell them about our Bible reading,” he says.
For all of Keith Smith’s years as a teacher, race car driver, photographer and lawnmower man, the ministry has been a calling. He took over his father’s Sunday school class and has served as a lay pastor at a number of churches, including Mount Elam Baptist and Faith Community Church.
“I met Archie Barringer a couple of years ago,” Smith says. “He said, ‘I know a church that needs a preacher at Faith Community Church.’ The previous pastor was the Rev. Mike Taylor, who retired to the mountains of North Carolina. They allowed me to preach a sermon there.”
That, he says, was in May 2021.
Apparently, lead elder Larry Bragg liked Smith’s sermon. So did Katherine McLeod, 93, and the oldest member of the congregation. So did her sisters, Alice Faye Davis and Mae Osborne.
“I came back the following week,” he says.
He’s been at the pulpit since, and this Sunday it will be as an ordained Baptist preacher in the nondenominational church.
‘Holy Spirit was alive and well’
Smith was ordained on Nov. 20 at Mount Elam Baptist Church in Spivey’s Corner.
“They deemed me worthy,” Smith says. “The service was last Sunday night, where deacons and pastors laid hands on me. I told them after the ordainment that my heart is full. I told them I am just overwhelmed. There were 15 deacons and seven pastors there. They said, ‘God will lead you.’ The Holy Spirit was alive and well in that sanctuary. This coming Sunday at Faith Community Church will be my first as an ordained minister.”
The Rev. Archie Barringer says Smith is perfect for Faith Community Church.
“They love him over there, and he loves them,” says Barringer, who has been in the ministry 55 years and calls Smith a committed Christian. “It’s a match made in Heaven. He is a very smart man, and he really loves the Lord.”
The Rev. Keith Smith says God knew this day was coming long ago, and from the day Keith Smith was born.
“The Lord knew I was going to do this,” Smith says. “Teaching was just a preparatory course for me to do his will. We never retire from God’s word.”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.