If you asked Josh Smith how God is using him to significantly impact Georgia’s Clarke and Oconee Counties for Christ, he would likely say, “The Lord has led me to invest in men and to help them cultivate faithfulness in every aspect of their lives.”
Smith, a fourth-generation pastor on both sides of his family, became pastor of Prince Avenue Baptist Church Bogart, in January 2018, succeeding Bill Ricketts who had served the congregation more than four decades.
When a new pastor follows a senior pastor who has had a long tenure, it is frequently less than successful — but the transition from Ricketts to Smith is a model for churches seeking to have a smooth succession. Smith has honored Ricketts, and Ricketts very likely is Smith’s biggest cheerleader and prayer warrior. Their relationship is an example of mutual love and admiration.
One of the things Smith has prioritized is personal ministry to men.
In his previous church in Irving, Texas, he saw a generation of men die out, saying, “They were teachers. They cleaned the church. They encouraged the younger generation. They always looked for ways to be of service.
“In previous years they had paid the preacher out of their own pockets when there was not enough money to meet all the needs,” Smith related. “With these godly men passing on to glory, I realized that we needed to raise up a new generation of servant-leaders.
“So I wrote a book to help train and equip men to be spiritual leaders,” he noted. The book. entitled “The Titus Ten: Foundations for Godly Manhood.”
The book explores the foundations of manhood as reflected in Titus and emphasizes the importance of intergenerational collaboration in the church.
In 2008 Smith began his mentoring ministry for men, using material he had developed from his study of Paul’s epistle to Titus. He personally met with 10 men for a semester and carefully taught them what the Bible says about being a man of God.
“By 2017 I had taken 120 men through that mentoring ministry by focusing on 10 men at a time,” Smith recalled.
At Prince Avenue Smith has completed three semesters, so far equipping and encouraging 150 men. They meet once a week at 6:15 a.m., and have 15 minutes to eat breakfast, 30 minutes for the teaching period and 30 minutes for discussion.
“I have never announced from the pulpit what we are doing regarding this mentoring program for men,” Smith said. “This equipping ministry has just spread by word of mouth. We have had 15 men who have been to every semester and invited others to come and sit with them. We are now making plans to make this equipping ministry available to a larger number of men in the Oconee/Clarke County area.
“Men cannot be what God wants them to be outside a local church,” Smith declared. “You really can’t have a healthy family unless you have a healthy church, because that is where you learn how to live right, how to have a healthy marriage and how to teach your children to walk in righteousness.
“There are two postures for the man of God,” Smith asserted: 1) kneeling in prayer and obedience to God, and 2) standing in authority. Many men feel ill-equipped to walk in authority and are yielding to the wiles of the devil, Smith said. “But when men are on a mission, they are dangerous — the devil’s worst nightmare.
“Men are often more effective in their vocation than in their home,” he said. “They work diligently in their office or business or factory to succeed but are sluggards at home.
“When men become spiritual leaders, the families will have structure, the children will be safe and happy, and the next generation will learn to lean on God,” Smith stated. “When men become spiritual leaders in the church, harmony, purpose and effective ministry occurs.”
Smith has seen Prince Avenue experience substantial growth in recent years, with 420 new members since July 2020 including a growing number of college students. Sunday worship attendance now is 1,700–1,800.
Exhorting fellow pastors Smith said, “Invest in the men of your church. Get 10 men around you and personally challenge them to be extraordinary men of God. Too many men come to church every Sunday and remain the same forever, but I believe men are hungry for a deeper walk with God.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by J. Gerald Harris and originally published by the Christian Index.