Bailey Eugene Smith, a powerful preacher, devoted pastor, and faithful friend, graduated from his earthly home to his heavenly home on Monday morning, Jan. 14, 2019.
In April 2017 we had lunch at Rays on the River in Sandy Springs, and he told me he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was stunned and heartbroken, but he was calm and demonstrated an imperturbable peace at the threshold of the personal physical storm he was entering.
After receiving medical care from local oncologists and cancer specialists Bailey decided to go to the renown M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, TX, a medical facility known for cancer research and treatment.
Bailey and his precious wife, Sandy, remained in a Houston hotel for months for further diagnosis, chemotherapy, and observation. The doctors ultimately recommended that he have the complicated Whipple Procedure to remove the tumor even though there is only five-year survival rate of up to 25 percent. Although the skill of the surgeon and excellent care of the hospital was commendable, the surgery was not successful.
However, during those first months in Houston, Bailey preached at the Sagemont Baptist Church (where 100 people were saved), First Baptist Church in Galveston, and Southview Baptist Church in nearby Rosharon.
Through the years I found Bailey to be a gracious and generous Christian gentleman with a resilient spirit, deep convictions, and a love for the Lord and the lost.
Most Baptists have known Bailey Smith as both a successful pastor and an effective evangelist for more than six decades and his death has left a significant spiritual void in the 21st century church that seems to be struggling to keep evangelism a priority.
The book The Sacred Trust by Emir and Ergun Caner avows, “Without a doubt (Bailey) Smith is the ideal personification of a Christian who has an unwavering, single-minded commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission.
After a 21-month battle with his malignant foe, the former Southern Baptist Convention president and one of the champions of the SBC Conservative Resurgence died in his Duluth home just a few days before his 80th birthday.
Bailey Eugene Smith was born in Dallas, Texas on January 30, 1939, the son of the Reverend Bailey E. Smith and Frances Lucky Smith. He graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas in 1961 and from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth in 1966. He served as the pastor of churches in Texas, Arkansas, and New Mexico before being called at age 34 as pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Oklahoma, the second largest church in the denomination.
It was during his tenure as pastor of the Oklahoma church that he became the youngest man ever to serve as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In fact, at one point he served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference and the Oklahoma Baptist Convention simultaneously.
Time Magazine described Smith as “a formidable figure, a fiery, red-haired, old style prairie stemwinder.” Christianity Today referred to him as “an inerrancy superstar.” The Los Angeles Herald lauded his “oratorical skills.”
In 1980 the Del City church baptized 2,000 persons, an accomplishment unprecedented in Christian history. In the 12 years Smith was the pastor of the Oklahoma church the membership grew from 6,600 to more than 20,000; and in a convention that was known for thriving on growth and soul winning, Bailey Smith was known as a pace-setter.
In 1985 the Del City church was flourishing, but Smith sensed a definite call from God to become a vocational evangelist. He is the only former president of the Southern Baptist Convention to enter crusade evangelism. Bailey Smith Ministries became an evangelistic organization committed to the uncompromising proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization was designed to accomplish its intended purpose through area-wide crusades, church revivals, Bible conferences, ladies’ retreats, and overseas ministries.
Bailey’s Real Evangelism Conferences touched and changed countless lives for three decades. First Baptist Church in Woodstock was one of the churches that hosted the Real Evangelism Conferences and Pastor Johnny Hunt stated, “There is no finer Bible Conference in America than Bailey Smith’s Real Evangelism Conference. It will take heaven to reveal what has happened in the hearts of pastors since Bailey Smith allowed God to use him to begin these Christ-honoring events. I believe that time will tell that there has been no man alive any more passionate about winning souls for Christ than Dr. Bailey Smith.”
Smith authored the best seller Real Evangelism and has several books to his credit, including Taking Back the Gospel, Real Christianity, Real Christian Excellence, and The Grace Escape. He was working on his biography at the time of his death.
Bailey’s greatest asset on earth for the past 55 years has been his wife, Sandy Elliff Smith. The Smiths have three sons: Bailey Scott , Steven Wayne, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and James Joshua, who is pastor of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Bogart. Smith is not only survived by his wife and sons, but by eight grandchildren.
There will be a graveside service for the immediate family at First Baptist Church in Warren, Arkansas, where the former SBC president once served as pastor, followed later by a memorial service that will be held on what would have been his 80th birthday, January 30 at 10:30 a.m. at One Heart Church in Norcross. Family visitation will also take place at One Heart Church on Tuesday, Jan. 29 from 5-7 p.m.