“How do I say goodbye to what we had?”
If you recognize these lyrics then you may be a fan of the 1990’s chart topping group Boyz II Men. The song “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday” launched the group to stardom and saturates my memory as a teenager. Today, I am saying goodbye to a great friend. No, this isn’t a eulogy. It’s a tribute—a celebration of the Lord’s calling on behalf of so many at Southwestern who call Steven Smith friend.
This morning, Dr. Steven Smith was called to pastor the historic congregation of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. As he walks out the door to serve the local church, I reflect on three years of having served at his side. Dr. Smith has faithfully waived the banner for Southwestern in his writing, preaching, and teaching. His influence on a younger generation of preachers has grown remarkably, particularly with the release of Recapturing the Voice of God. His work with the School of Preaching on PreachingSource.com will bless pastors for years to come. His legacy at Southwestern is one of faithful service; a legacy that will continue as he teaches adjunctively.
I celebrate Dr. Smith for the indelible mark he leaves on the character of the faculty, staff, and students of Southwestern. Micah 6:8 permeates his life and leadership. As a Vice President, he administrates justly, leading with kindness and humility. As a thinker, he loves the Lord with his entire mind. As a preacher, he heralds the text with winsome bravery. As a family man, he ministers graciously to his wife and children amidst the deepest of waters. In every way, I am a better man for having served with him.
Many may not have seen this coming. If I’m truthful, it caught me off guard. But isn’t that how the Lord works? And if I take a step back, it becomes clearer that the Lord has been grooming him to lead this sweet church at this very moment. As a ring-side observer, I can see the Lord’s hand all over this. There is a bright future for Immanuel Baptist!
As with the song, I know where we’ve been and what we’ve been thru. And it is hard to say goodbye to yesterday. But I’m not losing a friend—I’m just saying goodbye for now. And unlike the song, I do know where the road leads. It leads northeast on Interstate 30 and is paved with a clear calling from the Lord—a calling to the people of Immanuel Baptist and the city of Little Rock.
The growth from ministerial boyhood to manhood is difficult. And at Southwestern, that often means saying goodbye to great friends and trusting the Lord with their care as they are commissioned to the four corners of the earth. And so on behalf of my family, the employees of Student Services, and your friends at Southwestern, we express our deepest gratitude for your service, leadership, and friendship. May the Lord bless you and keep you Dr. Smith. Fair winds and following seas my friend.