As he’s done throughout his ministry, the Rev. Byron Smith, Sr. heeded the direction of the Lord, which resulted in his recent installation as the new pastor of Gethsemane Christian Love Missionary Baptist Church in South Los Angeles.
Excited about serving as the spiritual leader of the mid-size congregation, Smith considers the appointment as a great opportunity to serve the people of God as well as spread the Gospel message to those without a church home. Also, he aims to help all who attend to develop a stronger relationship with Christ – spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
“Gethsemane Christian Love is more than just a fellowship,” explained Smith. “It’s a church that offers spirituality as well as psychology to help the totality of a person to build healthy relationships, to build healthy families and to build a healthy life.
“God has given us a commission to win souls to Christ, to win families to Christ, to build marriages and build healthy relationships so that people can not only join a spiritual institution, but they can also receive therapeutic services,” he said.
Smith’s holistic approach to ministry stems from the experience he gained during his nearly 25 years as a pastor. Ordained and licensed in the CME Church, his first assignment was at a small mission in Bloomington, Illinois.
After growing that parish from two to more than 100 members, Smith was appointed to other churches including Curry Temple CME Church in Compton. Later, he followed the command of God and launched Lifting the Veil Ministries, where he continued to teach the importance of good spiritual and mental health.
Another factor influencing Smith’s desire to minister to the whole person is his many years as an adjunct professor and mental health clinician along with his involvement with Drew Child Development Center and Chabad Residential Treatment Center for Men. In addition, professors at Claremont School of Theology, Azusa Pacific University, Argosy University, and Antioch University provided considerable guidance and instruction in strategies to aid both believers and nonbelievers.
“God has really allowed for me to acquire the skill set to deal with congregations, not only from the spiritual side, but also from the emotional and mental side,” Smith said.
“And so the vision that I have is to use those gifts in a collaboration with the vision that God has given me to meet people where they are and encourage them to develop a relationship or closer walk with God through Christ Jesus,” he shared.
Even though he’s been a pastor for a quarter-century and faced a range of ups-and-downs, Smith remains enthusiastic about his calling to the ministry. In fact, he said that his deep connection with God continuously motivates him to tell others about the goodness of the Lord.
“One of the things that really keeps me going is my relationship with God. God has shown me what He will do if I put him first and that’s always embedded in my heart and in my spirit,” said the pastor.
“And I truly believe that God blesses us in multiple phases of our lives to be a blessing to other people and that keeps me grounded and inspires me to always seek to meet the greater need as it relates to God’s people, as a relates to the community and as it relates to our society.”
Gethsemane Christian Love Missionary Baptist Church is located at 9616 South Avalon Boulevard in South Los Angeles. For information, call (323) 779-6493.