Southeastern remembers Bailey Smith for his evangelistic legacy

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On January 14, 2019, beloved evangelist, pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president, Bailey Smith, died from pancreatic cancer at 79.

“So grateful for this faithful evangelist and his marvelous family,” wrote Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) President Danny Akin in a tweet Tuesday morning. “Thankful he will be honored at @SEBTS until our Lord returns through the Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism.”

Smith was honored for his commitment to evangelism in 1994 at the dedication service at SEBTS where the school’s first endowed chair was established in his honor: the Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism.

During the 1994 service in which Smith preached, he passionately spoke on the importance of the Christian call to share the gospel to everyone, no matter their background, emphasizing the heartbeat of the Great Commission focus of SEBTS.bailey smith

“Noting Jesus’ love for all people, Smith said, “There is only one kind of person in the world: those for whom Jesus shed his precious blood — red, yellow, black, white, rich, poor, illiterate and educated,” said Smith, who was quoted in a 1994 Baptist Press article reporting on the dedication service.

The Bailey Smith Chair of evangelism was established with a one-million-dollar endowment to honor the passion and pursuit that Smith dedicated to sharing the gospel.

Smith followed Adrian Rogers as the second SBC president after the Conservative Resurgence and was the youngest SBC president when he assumed the role as the 42nd president from 1980-1982. During his lifetime, Smith also served simultaneously as president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference. 

Smith served as pastor in Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico until, at 34, he was called as the lead pastor for First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Oklahoma, where the church saw tremendous growth under his 12-year leadership.   

In 1985, Smith left his church in Del City to pursue his calling as a crusade evangelist, the only former SBC president to do so. His ministry comprised of Bailey Smith Ministries and his 30-year evangelistic crusades called Real Evangelism Conferences.

Smith was born in Dallas, Texas on January 30, 1939 to Rev. Bailey E. Smith and Francis Lucky Smith and later received degrees both at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas in 1961 and at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas in 1966.

Smith has written numerous books, including “Real Christianity,” “Real Christian Excellence” and “Taking Back the Gospel.”

Smith is survived by his wife Sandy Elliff, whom he was married to for 55 years, along with his three sons: Bailey Scott, Steve Wayne and J. Josh. Steve, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and J. Josh, pastor of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Bogart, Georgia, are both graduates of SEBTS.

A graveside service for immediate family will be held at First Baptist Church in Warren, Arkansas. The memorial service will be held at One Heart Church in Norcross, Georgia at 10:30 a.m. on January 30, 2019, the day Smith would have turned 80 years old.

To listen Smith’s sermon from the 1994 chair dedication service at SEBTS, click here.

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