Army veteran leads Alabama Baptist congregation to 'Get outside the church'


PINCKARD , Ala. — “I’ve taught Sunday school for a lot of years, and one thing I’ve always taught is we come to church for two major reasons. One is the corporate worship as saints. The other one is equipping the saints,” Chris Smith says. “But once you’re equipped, you get outside the church.”

When pastor Chris Woodall asked for a small team to take the lead in expanding the missions efforts of Pinckard Baptist Church, Smith was ready. Because if years in the Army and as a schoolteacher taught him anything, it’s this: no matter how limited your resources may seem, there’s always a way.

“Our church is a fairly small church—about 75 in the congregation right now,” says Smith. “But we have to get outside that door of the church and have an impact on the rest of the world.”

When Smith and a team of five other church members discovered Send Relief’s Serve Tour opportunities, he signed up for the event in Owensboro, Kentucky, for what he calls a “reconnaissance mission.”

“Sometimes you see an opportunity that looks nice on the website, and then you get there, and it’s just chaos. But that was not the case with the Serve Tour,” says Smith. “I had a phenomenal experience. I found that no matter how God equipped you with spiritual gifts, there’s a place for you within the Serve Tour. Regardless of your age, there’s a place for you to serve. It was just such a blessing to be part of that.”

Smith returned to Pinckard excited to implement more of Send Relief’s ministry resources and opportunities.

“I told the congregation; God is sending you. So, whatever we can do to help you, that’s what we want to do. And throughout this process, it’s become obvious that Send Relief gives us the opportunity to do that.”

Since his first Serve Tour experience, Smith has taken his wife, Joni, and their 16-year-old daughter to the Augusta Serve Tour stop. He and Joni also traveled to the Send Relief ministry center in Valdosta, Georgia, for a short-term mission trip serving at-risk boys. As a result of this experience, Joni now leads Pinckard Baptist Church’s new Family Advocacy Ministry (FAM)

“It had been an ongoing desire for our pastor to start up a ministry to children in foster care, which is very near and dear to him since he and his wife have fostered and adopted two children,” says Smith, “And with Send Relief’s FAM program, there’s just a ton of support every step of the way.”

A teacher at the school where Smith and Joni teach approached her to share about a family that had just received an emergency foster placement. Even though they hadn’t officially launched their FAM ministry yet, the church quickly organized meal deliveries and other assistance.

“My wife and this foster mom really had a connection right from the beginning, so it was a no-brainer that my wife would step in as the team leader role,” says Smith. “We’ve organized a care community around this family, supporting three children there, and that’s just since December we started that. So that’s been a phenomenal experience. It’s been a blessing for everybody involved.”

One of the couples who volunteered to bring meals is in their 70s.

“She told me, ‘You know, we can’t do much anymore, but we can provide a meal,’ Smith shares. “And it’s a blessing to have them be a part of FAM. They have so much wisdom and such incredible gifts that God still wants them to use to be the hands and feet—that’s what we’re called to do.”

Young or old, large group or small, Smith’s encouragement to the church has been, “Get out to the rest of the world. We have to get outside that door and be an impact to the rest of the world.”