BOGART, Ga. – If you ask J. Josh Smith how God is using him to significantly impact 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.”
Dr. Josh Smith, a fourth-generation pastor on both sides of his family, became pastor of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Bogart on January 18, 2018. He succeeded the beloved Pastor Bill Ricketts, who had served the church for 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 harmonious succession experience. Smith has honored Ricketts in a magnanimous fashion and Ricketts is very likely Smith’s biggest cheerleader and prayer warrior. Their relationship is an example of mutual love and admiration.
Bill Ricketts led Prince Avenue to relocate and set the stage for a new era of ministry and growth; and it is obvious to the most casual observer that God’s hand is upon Josh Smith and the church is benefiting from his leadership, compassion, and strong preaching ability.
One of the things that Smith has prioritized is a personal ministry to men. In his previous church in Irving, Texas, he saw a generation of men die who were servants. He commented, “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. 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.” Smith’s book is entitled The Titus Ten: Foundations for Godly Manhood. The Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete to set things in order. Paul’s epistle to Titus was written to help him know how to help the dysfunctional church in Crete and provide a framework to show men how to fulfill their calling in the church, the home, and the workplace.
Smith’s book explores the foundations of manhood as reflected in the book of Titus and emphasizes the importance of intergenerational collaboration in the church.
In 2008 Smith began his mentoring ministry for men at his church in Texas, using material he had developed from his study of Paul’s epistle to Titus. He personally met with ten men for a semester and carefully taught them what the Bible says about being a man of God. He reported, “By 2017 I had taken 120 men through that mentoring ministry by focusing on ten men at a time.”
At Prince Avenue, Smith has completed three semesters, equipping and encouraging 150 men. He currently has 22 tables with 6 or 7 men at each table. They meet once a week at 6:15 AM, and have 15 minutes to eat breakfast, 30 minutes for the teaching period and then 30 minutes for discussion.
He explained, “I have never announced from the pulpit what we are doing regarding this mentoring program for men. 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 at their tables. 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 declares. “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: (1) kneeling in prayer and obedience to God, and (2) standing in authority. Many men feel ill-equipped to walk in authority. When men are passive and do not exercise spiritual authority, they are yielding to the wiles of the devil. But when men are on a mission, they are dangerous – the devil’s worst nightmare.”
Smith continued, “Men are often more effective in their vocation than in their home. 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. When men become spiritual leaders in the church, harmony, purpose, and effective ministry occurs.”
Dr. Smith has seen Prince Avenue experience substantial growth in recent years with 420 new members since July 2020 and a growing number of college students involved in the life of the church. Sunday worship attendance now reaches 1700-1800. Good things happen when men are discipled and challenged.
The Prince Avenue pastor exhorts pastors with these words, “Invest in the men of your church. Get ten 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.
“When I left my church in Texas, I had men who hugged me and thanked me for the study in Titus. I believe the time I was able to spend with them was extremely profitable to them. I have observed that the men who have been through this study are more serious about their faith and more engaged in spiritual conversations. If we can get men talking about Christ in their workplace, during their recreational activities and in their home, it will make a profound difference for the cause of Christ.”