November 19, 2002
CHILLICOTHE — Those who say they don’t believe in miracles would have a hard time convincing Kevin Smith.
Almost nine years ago, Smith left a church in north Missouri (Salem Baptist) to take the pastorate of a tiny church in a location the pastor describes as "on the wrong side of the tracks" in Chillicothe, a town of 10,000 people. But only eight were present his first Sunday in the pulpit at Highview Baptist Church.
Observers agree that what has happened at the church is miraculous, but miracle No. 1, according to Smith, is the fact that he is preaching.
"I grew up in a pastor’s home, but I was a tare," Smith explained. "I really don’t believe I was saved until the age of 25 when I hit rock bottom in life. I was deep in sin and facing the reality of losing everything in life, including my family. It was on Dec. 13, 1988, that I cried out to the Lord.
"I had it in my head, but it sure wasn’t in my heart. I told the Lord that if He wanted my life, He could have it. I know that’s when I was saved. He saved me and saved my home."
The Highview Baptist Church story is miracle No. 2.
Consider the numbers, for example.
Highview is now in the middle of its second building program during Smith’s pastorate. Under construction is an auditorium that will seat 800. The new building is needed because the auditorium now in use seats about 350 and is used twice on Sunday morning. Average worship attendance is now 425.
The pastor smiles now when he thinks back about those first days at Highview. "The eight that were there that day had a burden. They were just waiting to be led," he recallled.
Smith is a firm believer in soul-winning.
"My greatest inspiration was my dad. Even though I grew up a tare, I still remember the example he was as a soul-winner. He was faithful to share the Gospel. I suppose you could say my training has been the school of experience. Today, I definitely believe the pastor should be leading the way in being a soul-winner. He should be leading by example," Smith says.
That attitude began paying dividends quickly. During Smith’s first several years at the church an average of 10-20 people were baptized annually. But the pastor’s heart for souls became contagious and the church is now a pacesetter for churches its size.
Highview was recognized at the 2002 Missouri Baptist Convention Evangelism Conference as the leader in baptisms (89) for churches with 126-300 in Sunday School.
Smith says he would never want to leave the impression that it’s him or the people at Highview that’s responsible for the success.
"When I came to Highview I told the people that we needed to have a two-fold passion – a passion for souls and a great passion for prayer," he explains. "The eight people who were here when we started were retired folks. The only kids were my two, so we started praying for five new families with children. We saw that prayer answered and now much, much more. So we’re just continuing to pray."
Smith says they’re also putting feet to their prayers.
"We’re using the Southern Baptist FAITH plan, and we’re seeing people saved regularly with FAITH teams going to their homes. Right now, we’ve got a couple at Midwestern Seminary who were saved through the efforts of our outreach ministry. What we want to do is keep growing and close the back door."
Smith believes what is happening at Chillicothe can happen anywhere.
"One of the ways I challenge myself is to share the Gospel once a day," he explains. "I keep a little pocket calendar as a reminder. I believe God is in control of the harvest, but he holds us accountable to be sowers of the seed.
"Sometimes I step back and take a look at what God is doing here in Chillicothe, and it amazes me. I give God all the glory for sure. And I feel so privileged that He lets me be in on it."