Mar 31, 2009

Professor Profile: Randy Smith

by Camille Smith

Randy Smith sat in his tan Ford Explorer waiting on Wards Road at an endless traffic light. His brown hair flopped down on his forehead, and he brushed it away for what seemed like the 50th time on this six hour drive. He reached for his WaWa coffee cup from the middle console only to find it lifted with a little too much ease — it was empty.
“Great,” he muttered. Aghast, he reached for his phone from the passenger seat and accessed his Twitter page. He typed his frustrations.

“Can … someone … please … introduce,” he read as he typed, “Virginia … to … REAL … coffee … I… need … a … WaWa!”

He looked up to find that traffic had continued without him and stupefied, he accelerated through the light to catch up with the idle cars in the distance. He saw Liberty’s welcome sign coming up on his right hand side before he was forced to stop again. Squinting through his glasses, he tried to read the running red letters. Giving up on the useless straining, he refocused his attention back to the traffic light that was still red.

“I’m catching all the reds today,” he said to himself. His phone rang beside him and he lifted it to his ear.

“Hey Dad … yeah, I’m in traffic just outside the school,” he began. Traffic continued again, and he followed the line of cars like a fatigued game of follow the leader. His car approached the entrance at a turtle’s pace and the red letters on the sign, welcoming arriving students and teachers caught his eye.

“Randy Smith, Ministry Convocation, January 30.”

“Hey Dad, some other guy with the same name is speaking too, wait, that’s me, I’m on the sign,” He said, startled at the realization. “Don’t tell anyone I got that excited, ok?”

This was not the first time Randy drove onto the campus of Liberty University. He came to Liberty as a student. He remembers when he was first introduced to the idea of going to a small Baptist college. His parents, Bob and Joan Smith of New Jersey, made a deal with their four children. If they went to Liberty, they would get their college paid for.
Randy headed in his own direction for a while before he finally transferred in to Liberty. His mother remembers this time in her son’s life.

“We told all of our four children we would pay for Liberty, and they all went but him. He was the only bad one,” she joked
Randy only sampled Rutgers University in New Jersey for a year before he joined his brothers and sisters at Liberty, ready for a fresh start.

“The grass is always greener on the other side, but at Rutgers that wasn’t the case, in fact it was brown,” Joan said. “But it didn’t take him long to get back to his roots.”

This time around he reached out and was reached out to in return.
“Back then Liberty was such a small college, 400 maybe 500 students. People became your family,” Randy said. “Gordon Luff, Denis Henderson, these men helped me change my life.”

He got involved with the youth group at Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC) and was appointed team leader of the traveling singing team, Youth Aflame.

“The mountain was in the beginning stages still: chapel was in a huge circus tent. We lived in warehouses off campus, and we were chartered by bus to and from the island where we slept,” Randy said.

That was when the island was above water of course, he said. The island was evacuated three times, two for flooding and one for a fire, which he quickly stated he had “nothing to do with,” Randy said.

To say that Randy was a trouble maker during his time at Liberty would not be a stretch from the truth.

“We were good kids,” he said, laughing. “The worst we ever did was taking flowers from tombstones for our girlfriends on Valentine’s day.”

“Oh, but then there was the time we took up all the man hole covers and rolled them down Main Street,” the laughing continued.

After graduation in 1981, Randy headed to St. Petersburg, Florida where he was ordained, and co – founded Calvary Chapel – St. Petersburg and Single Purpose, a single adult ministry. This choice of profession came as a shock to him, but it awakened a desire for church planting that has carried through today.

“I had been involved in a very large church, and I saw how it had become institutionalized,” he explained. “That’s when we started Calvary Chapel – St. Petersburg to return to a biblical model of church.”

In June of 1984, Randy headed back to Jersey and took a position at a Gloucester County Community Church (GCCC) in Washington Township NJ as an outreach pastor and discovered he had a talent for writing and directing productions. In the years that followed, he ‘introduced the use of drama, video, media and the creative arts’ to the church, becoming one of the first pastors in the Delaware Valley to regularly use the creative arts in church services.

It was the separation from GCCC that brought Randy back to church planting. He began thinking about what the Bible said a church should encompass. According to his biography, Randy “founded Discovery Church with the goal of using a balance of the Arts and anointed teaching to reach ‘every person, in any way possible, today’.”

The use of ‘balanced arts’ on a typical Sunday morning at either of the two campuses in the Delaware Valley includes the smell of donuts and coffee greet each visitor. Friendly people milling around sipping happily on their morning “power juice” are there to greet, converse and “love on” anyone who walks through the door.

As the service starts, upbeat music fills the room and an energetic worship band and team take the stage. Throughout the service, video, drama and biblical teaching hold the attention of the faithful attendants who, following the service help take down what was carefully set up early that morning, stage and sound equipment.

Old habits die hard in Randy’s case, and his antics continue at his home church. Recently, Discovery Church posted a billboard advertising an upcoming series at the church titled, “” The title stretched across the bottom of a picture of two sets of feet poking out of sheets at the end of a bed. Pushing the envelope in a positive way to get the attention of nonbelievers just happens to be the church’s specialty.

Randy’s passion and dedication to church planting has been noticed by many pastors across the country including Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., who has brought Randy on as a featured speaker at the Purpose Driven Church conferences.
All of this brought him back to Liberty.

“Liberty has a growing interest in church planting,” he explained. “Jonathan Falwell has recently unveiled TRBC plan to plant churches throughout Virginia.”

This new vision of TRBC has opened doors for Randy to return to Liberty to speak at ministry chapels and serve as a guest lecturer for many seminary classes. Discovery Church also welcomes many Liberty interns, hoping to train them to go out to reach beyond the boundaries of the Liberty and Discovery campuses.

Giving back to Liberty has been a rewarding experience for Randy as he looks forward to preparing young men and women to plant churches across the world.


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