For the first two years of their marriage, Scott Smith and his wife, Scarlet, lived out of hotel rooms in city after city. For eight years after that, they lived in an RV with their daughter.
It was a crazy ride, Smith said.
The whole thing started with a call to preach when he was 16, then a call to itinerant ministry as a revivalist while he was studying at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1996.
“I had 40 speaking engagements my senior year, and I felt like that was God opening the door,” Smith recalled.
That began a ministry journey that’s lasted 26 years and allowed him to be in pulpits all over the country. It’s something he still enjoys, though it’s transitioned to a part-time ministry.
Identity in Christ
And though the sermons have been different, the theme has always been the same — finding identity in Christ, said Smith, now communications director for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
“It’s so important to know who we are in Jesus,” Smith noted. “Once we get saved, we aren’t just a mildly reformed version of ourselves with eternal fire insurance. We are transformed. We are to see all of life through the lens of who we are in Christ.”
That was true when he started preaching it in the 1990s and it’s still true today, Smith asserted. He feels the confirmation of that message through the way God has always provided as he served in ministry.
“I went into itinerant ministry at a time it was dying,” Smith said. “I came in when it was going out. But God has always taken care of us.”
He remembered one of the early years when he and Scarlet were staying in Tennessee as they prepared for their daughter’s birth. A summer camp asked him to be camp pastor for six weeks and Smith needed the work — they were living paycheck to paycheck — and he felt it would be following his calling.
But Smith also knew his wife wouldn’t want to get on the road again and move to a camp the week after the baby’s birth, or for him to be away for six weeks and leave her with a newborn.
“I remember praying and telling God that it was almost like His Kingdom principles were in conflict,” Smith said.
Not too long after praying that prayer he heard the camp had finally determined its location for the summer: a small college campus about a mile from the driveway of the house where they were staying.
“God has always given this ministry a way to function,” Smith said.
One church he visited regularly throughout his ministry was led by Joel Southerland, a pastor he met while preaching at a youth camp. Southerland invited Smith to preach revivals at his church once every couple of years and said he saw God move in powerful ways.
Southerland mentioned one specific sermon Smith preached on the topic of tithing — members’ gifts went up 100% that week and stayed 25% higher in the weeks that followed.
Smith said he preached that message a number of times over the years, noting it isn’t one of shame but of hope, faith and trusting God with resources. It went hand in hand with his other messages of following God with your whole life.
“God has given me messages that have helped people get unstuck in their walk with Christ and get into victory,” Smith said.
Blending two worlds
On one occasion when he visited Southerland’s church he spotted a stack of business books on a desk and the two started discussing them. They realized they both had a passion for helping churches use marketing principles to get the message of the gospel to more people.
That conversation brought another element to Smith’s ministry — digital outreach. The two men teamed up to produce a podcast called “The Sermonators,” before podcasting was really a thing, Smith said.
“It introduced me to a world of internet promotion that the church at that time had not scratched the surface of. Building an audience, getting more people interested — these were all principles that the church could use to attract guests and do outreach. Facebook was pretty new,” Smith remembered. “I started dabbling with that and helping churches with it.”
It aided in reaching people with the gospel and supplemented Smith’s revivalist work. Then in 2012 the scales began to tip toward the digital side.
By then Southerland had been hired as evangelism director for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, and he offered Smith a role helping strategize with digital and social media to reach more people.
Southerland said he and Smith shared a passion for using “business tools” for the church.
“Marketing and evangelism are both trying to get a message out,” Southerland explained. “If we can leverage the tools of marketing for the church, it helps us get the message of the gospel out.”
Over time, as Southerland moved on to serve as executive director of evangelism at the North American Mission Board, and now as lead pastor of Peavine Baptist Church in Rock Spring, Georgia, Smith has continued helping Georgia Baptist churches with digital outreach.
“It’s been a really good marriage, a good blend of two worlds,” Smith said of his work with digital outreach and as a revivalist. He still preaches often at churches and events, including The Awakening Jones County, scheduled for Laurel, Mississippi, April 22–24.
Making a difference
Smith said as a revivalist he often doesn’t know what happens in people’s lives after he leaves. But the beauty of doing the work for so long is that, as he revisits areas he’s been to before, he hears stories of long-term transformation.
“I was preaching at a little church in Enterprise, Alabama, and a guy walks in the back. He immediately came up to me, shook my hand and told me he’d heard me preach at Hillcrest Baptist Church down the street years ago,” Smith recalled.
The man told Smith the message he’d heard about identity in Christ was transformational.
“He said that was the paradigm shift, like he got a new pair of spiritual glasses,” Smith said.