Gary Smith has deep roots in Kansas. He grew up in Dodge City, Kansas. He attended South West Baptist in Boliver, Mo and graduated from Ottawa University in Ottawa Kansas. He married Sue Gandy 19 years ago at First Southern, Topeka. Before attending Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Smith served as youth minister at Scott City, Kansas. He also served in Dodge City, and Omaha before moving to Canada .
Before coming to Topeka, Gary served with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as a church planter and missionary in eastern Canada. For 12 years he planted churches, pastored and later served as Senior Church Starter Catalyst. The needs in Canada are tremendous. Smith says “only eight percent of all Canadians are connected to an evangelical church, compared to 28 percent in the United States.”
Gary and his family had not given any thought to leaving Canada and had recently purchased a home in Toronto. A call from a “trusted mentor” concerning the pastorate at First Southern led to much prayer and the wise council of trusted friends. Once he gave his resume to First Southern, it all happened very quickly and January 1, 2013 he became Senior Pastor at First Southern.
Gary is very excited about being at First Southern. His vision is to “help the people to be on mission and minister outside the walls.” The “success of the church will become our sending capacity rather than out seating capacity.” He says that “most church growth plans talk about how to close the backdoor but we plan to create a large front door and large back door to train, disciple and send out.” As individuals come through the door, “we want to be able to equip them and release them as missionaries to share the gospel. First Southern is a mission minded church and I ‘m excited about building on the foundation that Clark Johnson built for the past 22 years.”
Gary and Sue are very much at home in Topeka and First Southern. They have four children: Caleb, Joshua, Sarah and Andrew.