The broken truth: Scotty Smith’s story of redemption

9 months ago Triangle 0

Written by: Samatha Burgess, Editor in Chief

Scotty Smith greets everyone with a warm smile and a firm handshake. He doesn’t just ask for your name and move on, he gives you his full attention as he listens to what you have to say. When he responds, it’s in an open and authentic voice. When he speaks about God, he speaks quickly, eager to share what is on his heart. He believes that the Gospel can change everything and everyone, even him. Scotty Smith is no longer the same North Carolina boy who grew up in a broken home with a distrust of the Gospel and a closed off nature. He is now a Christian, writer, public speaker and pastor of a large church.

Born to Martha and Tom Smith on Feb. 1. 1950, Scotty Smith was raised in a small home in Graham, North Carolina. His father, a professional photographer, was distant and cold. But his mother, a children’s clothing store owner, was always kind and loving towards everyone. Scotty’s mother taught him what it meant to care for others. But, when Smith was eleven his mother died in a head-on car crash. 

His father came in from work that afternoon and asked, “Did you hear about your mother?” 

Smith gave a dismal nod and his father disappeared into another room, never to speak of his wife again. 

Smith couldn’t believe that the bright, bubbly person he called Mom was gone. He refused to visit her graveside and dismissed that her death had even happened. 

Smith struggled a lot in school, hardly able to focus on the teacher or his lessons. As soon as he got home from school he’d click on the TV and sit in front of it for hours, drowning everything else out.

“I had ADHD before people even knew what it was. I hated reading because it took too much focus, I didn’t even pick up a real book until college,” Smith said. “Surprisingly, the one thing I was good at in school was vocabulary and so, ironically, even though I hated books, I had a love for words.” 

In highschool, Smith portrayed himself as charismatic and outgoing. He constantly put on a mask that hid his despair and hurt. He didn’t see any hope for himself. However, during his senior year of highschool one of his close friends, Steve Crotts, became a Christian. Crotts told Smith that the Bible was truly different from anything he’d ever imagined and convinced Smith to come to a Billy Graham movie. At the end of the movie Billy Graham came onto the screen and for the first time Smith realized that the Bible was truly for the living, for those seeking a loving relationship with Christ. That night Smith prayed Graham’s prayer of salvation and came to know Christ.

After graduating from Graham High School in 1968, Smith then went on to graduate from UNC in 1972. Around this time Smith met Darlene Eakin, who he married on May 5, 1972 (they have two children, Kristin and Scott who are both married). Smith also went on to get a degree at Westminster Theological Seminary (Pa.) in 1977.

 During his time at Seminary, Smith’s mentor Jack Miller began to open his eyes to the beauty of God’s grace and his ability to pastor a church. Smith’s wife further encouraged him towards the pastoral route and he began serving as a youth pastor in Winston Salem, North Carolina. 

In 1979 Smith got a call from the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville who asked if he’d be interested in being their youth pastor. Smith and his wife were unsure at first, but they felt it was where God was guiding them and so Smith accepted the position. 

A few years later, in 1986, Smith and his family helped open Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tenn. just south of Nashville. What started with five couples quickly grew into a diverse congregation of 3,000.

“I had no idea that we’d see so much growth,” said Smith. “At that time people were hungry for the Gospel and desperate to escape the growing legalism and performancism in the area.” 

Unfortunately, after a few years at the church Smith suffered from burnout. In his weakness Smith began to wrestle with his mother’s death again. He built up the courage to visit her graveside where he finally grieved and wept. Smith finally allowed himself to feel the full weight of his loss and, as a result, God was able to heal his heart. 

Around the same time his wife, Darline, came forward to tell her sexual assault story and later working with victims of human trafficking. Smith then came face to face with his own repressed memory of being sexually assaulted by a neighbor at the age of eight. As Smith began to open up to people about the two traumas he’d faced as a child, the carefully crafted facade he’s held onto for so long split at the seams.

Before coming to terms with his trauma, Mrs. Smith said, “Scotty was a good man who lived from his head more so than from his heart. He was pretty shut down emotionally in our home.”

Smith had similar sentiments, comparing his preaching to the Great Wizard of Oz behind the curtain.

 “I’d preach a bit emotionlessly and when people came to me I’d present them with Scripture as if I knew everything,” said Smith. “After I saw that there was a safe community for those who’d experienced traumas like mine, I realized it was okay to be openly broken.” 

Smith was more open about his emotional struggle not only to his wife and kids, but to everyone. He realized that letting others see his authentic self and sharing the story of how God had restored him from his brokenness allowed those he spoke with to seek out the restoration of the Gospel as well.

In 2001 Smith released his first book, Objects of His Affection, which centered around the loss of his mother. Just like being a pastor, becoming a writer seemed like a joke to Smith. But he felt like the story of his mother’s loss was something he needed to write about.

 “Writing about my mother was so therapeutic, it’s almost like the book wrote me,” said Smith. “It freed me and showed me that I could share the Gospel in yet another way.” 

The purpose of writing for him is not only to open people further to the Gospel, but also to open their eyes to a new, unique perspective. 

In Smith’s recent visit to Bryan College Aug. 21-23, he spoke about his brokenness and the freedom that can be found in the Gospel and serving God. His time on campus allowed him to reflect on his own college experiences and he gave some advice for current college students. 

“Develop deep friendships, find a professor who you look up to, immerse yourself in the Gospel and dream big enough to need God to fulfill those dreams,” said Smith. 

For Smith, it’s all worth taking a risk for.

Samantha Burgess is a senior communication major with an emphasis in digital media and is editor in chief for the Triangle. Her interests in writing include profiles and feature articles. Burgess can often be found curled up with a good book, writing, listening to music or watching Netflix.