Editor's Note: Oklahoma Baptist University alum Dr. Elbert Smith, a 1980 graduate, is a 2014 recipient of the OBU Alumni Association's Profile In Excellence Award. The award is given to a former student who has "demonstrated recognizable accomplishment in his or her profession, business, avocation, or life service in such a way as to bring pride and honor to the University." Each year, Profile In Excellence recipients are featured in OBU Magazine.
While walking on the OBU campus during a visit, Dr. Elbert Smith, '80, said he realized there was no other place that seemed right for a Southern Baptist from Oklahoma to prepare for the pastorate. Born in Claremore, Oklahoma, Smith was called to the ministry at a young age while growing up at First Baptist Church, Verdigris.
"Choosing OBU exposed me to professors that challenged me to academic excellence while keeping me close to the local churches in Oklahoma," he said. "OBU provided a balanced view of academic excellence plus practical devotion and ministry that have remained with me these thirty-five years of ministry."
Smith recalls two professors that impacted him deeply, Dr. Rowena Strickland and Dr. Warren McWilliams.
"As Dr. Strickland walked through Scripture, her love for the Bible and her love for the author were unmistakable and very contagious. Dr. McWilliams provided a healthy balance of historic, evangelical faith and contemporary theology while modeling a personal walk with God, "he said. "I remember the impact it made on me as a young student to have Dr. McWilliams speak on prayer at a BSU retreat."
Following graduation, he began work on his Master of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. While there, he renewed a friendship with Kay Casey which had begun during their freshman year at OBU. The couple was married August 14, 1982. Since that time, they served as pastor of churches in Eufala, Perkins and Checotah, Oklahoma, and planted a church in Ft. Wayne, Ind. Smith later completed his Doctor of Ministry in 1990 from Southwestern and his Doctor of Philosophy in 2013 from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 1984, while listening to a representative from the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board or IMB) speak at the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, God called Smith and his wife to missions. They spent the better part of the next 15 years planting churches in Mexico, holding different positions and responsibilities along the way.
In 2004, after serving briefly in South Asia, they moved to Richmond, Va., where he was named director of field personnel orientation for the IMB.
"Since that time, we have had the privilege of investing in over 6,000 personnel during the two months before they go to the field. They have all patiently endured my OBU coffee mug I carry throughout the day," Smith laughed.
"I am always challenged by the diversity of the groups and the desire to connect with as many as possible in order to speak into their lives in a way that will impact their service overseas," he said. "I am very passionate about God's faithfulness and His Word, about how His Word should be our guide for faith and practice -- including missionary practice. The challenge is to connect with each group in such a way that they go out very confident in Him, conforming to His ways."
Smith credits OBU with a major impact on his ministry.
"My experience at OBU combined academic excellence and active ministry in the churches. That balance is continually needed as we attempt to prepare new workers with content that reflects sound missiology and theology in a way that relates to their learning styles and worldviews."
Click the following link to view a full list of previous Profile in Excellence recipients.