This fall, Judah Smith will speak live at the Bellevue broadcast location for the 2013 Resurgence Conference. In this Q&A, he talks about growing up as a pastor’s kid and serving in the church from an early age.
Over the years I have had the joy of building a friendship with Judah Smith. We first met some years ago when his father, Wendell, reached out to me to offer his encouragement and friendship. Upon Wendell’s passing, God impressed on my heart to love and serve Judah, who took on leadership of The City Church where his dad had preached every week for many years.
I genuinely love Pastor Judah, and I praise God he was called to reach people here in the greater Seattle area. Over the years I have preached and taught at The City Church on occasion, and I have a lot of friends there who love Mars Hill. I believe it makes Jesus happy that two of the largest churches in our region are genuinely for one another, love one another, encourage one another, and care for one another. I am thankful that Pastor Judah has agreed to speak at our upcoming Resurgence conference, and I wanted you to get to know my friend a bit better.
Mark Driscoll: What was it like growing up in the Smith household?
Judah Smith: I think I had a pretty normal childhood, actually, for a pastor’s kid, and credit is due to my dad and mom. While spiritual things were definitely the priority growing up, they also made sure we were involved in normal childhood activities like sports and hobbies. I think that’s served me well, especially being a preacher in this culture trying to translate this gospel to a generation that is looking for something real.
MD: What was 19-year-old Judah Smith like?
JS: Very much like the 34-year-old Judah—I haven’t changed much, actually. Ha!
MD: What was going on in your life when God called you to be a pastor?
JS: I was an intern in our church program, working as a janitor on staff and cleaning toilets for the glory of God. I was already preaching, and I was starting to understand the privilege it is to do this thing called preaching. It still amazes me that people let us speak into their lives for 30 minutes or so and that we have the opportunity to impact them for good. I’d say I’m still pretty much that same guy.
“It still amazes me that people let us speak into their lives.”
MD: Are there any particular verses that you’ve found to be especially meaningful to you over the years?
JS: Second Timothy 2:1 is really a life verse for me. It has always been kind of a plumb line for what I hold myself to in terms of just being who I am in Jesus, doing what he’s graced me to do, and staying in my lane, so to speak, regarding who he’s called me to be. It keeps things simple for me, which I need, because I’m not smart enough to be complicated!
MD: With so many stories of ministry leaders that fail as fathers, the relationship you enjoyed with your dad is very encouraging to me personally. What did he do right?
JS: Wow. That’s a great question. Dad did so many things right as a father, and I think what he and my mom did best was to encourage me to be who God called me to be from a very young age. Dad told me all the time how much people liked me and wanted to hear what I had to say. And I believed him. That was a huge confidence booster for me in my gifts and calling when I started to preach at a young age. I only hope I can build into my own kids that same certainty and confidence in the grace of God. It really was a wonderful gift from my dad that carries me even now.
MD: You’re seeing more and more opportunities to write and speak all around the world. How does that affect your sense of calling to lead The City Church?
JS: Growing in influence definitely brings a unique set of challenges, but I believe I will be the lead pastor here until I pass the baton, either to one of my sons or to someone else, decades from now. The day-to-day schedule can be a bit of a juggling act, but we all face complex pressures and responsibilities. You just have to keep the main thing the main thing. In my case, I know that leading this local church is at the forefront of my priorities, and nothing has changed in that regard even as my influence in other areas has grown.
Judah Smith is the exclusive live speaker for the Resurgence Conference broadcast location in Bellevue, WA. Buy your tickets for R13 in Bellevue for only $99, or see the main event live in downtown Seattle with Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, Matt Chandler, and more. Click below for details.