By Sam E. Stone
Love, Laughter and Leadership: The Ministry of Wayne B. Smith
By Rod Huron
Host Communications (Lexington, Kentucky); $17.95; 276 pages
What do you get if you combine one of the best writers in the Christian churches with one of the best-loved preachers in this fellowship? The answer—a wonderful new book! Love, Laughter and Leadership is the recently released biography of Wayne B. Smith, longtime minister with Southland Christian Church of Lexington, Kentucky.
Smith is known for his effective use of humor. Some have called him “the Bob Hope of the Christian churches.” When you read his life story, you’ll understand why. It’s not that he is always reading joke books; he doesn’t use them (page 86). People tell him their favorite stories and he remembers them. Moreover, he has a bright outlook on life, looking for things to enjoy and for ways to make others happy. When you see him chuckling over a story he’s telling (long before he gets to the punch line), you can’t help but smile. When he laughs, you laugh.
The book includes many of his favorite stories. Sprinkled throughout are some of his favorite sayings and quotations (e.g. “You can’t make good decisions on an empty stomach.” “When the horse is dead, get off. Some methods need to be put to rest.”) Many of his one-liners are included (“Don’t ever go to a Baptist hospital. They believe ‘once sick, always sick.’”) You come to understand that a lot of his humor comes not from telling jokes, but simply from being funny.
The book takes you from Smith’s boyhood (growing up near the Ohio River in Cincinnati), to study at Cincinnati Bible Seminary, his first ministries, and how he came to be the founding preacher of Southland Christian Church. You learn about places he often mentions—Starlight Restaurant, Myrtle Beach, and his weekly sermon study group meetings.
You meet many who have blessed his life; you also read powerful testimonies to his influence from major figures in Kentucky—people like Gov. Ernie Fletcher, former Gov. Martha Layne Collins, and legendary basketball coach Joe B. Hall.
You find out how his good friend Bob Russell first met him. In 1964 Smith took time to talk with two discouraged Bible college students. Russell explains, “He did not know us, but he got up and had breakfast with us. I’ve admired him ever since” (page 102). Another longtime friend, Jack Ballard, wrote, “Wayne believed that he could build the Lord’s church with shoe leather, automobile tires, and an abundance of genuine love. And he was right!” (page 32).
Rod Huron introduces the reader to Marge, Wayne’s wife of 53 years. You get to know his daughters, Jana and Judy, and their families. The book is a behind-the-scenes look into his life. You see the serious side of this funny man. Quick to laugh, he is also quick to weep. His transparency and humility are genuine (page 135). His generosity is legendary.
When he retired from Southland, he stepped away completely from leadership in the church. Smith wrote, “It is time to turn the page and move on. Rearview mirrors have value, but they make terrible windshields” (page 228).
The book includes 16 pages of pictures chronicling his experiences, along with a list of his “favorites,” his “mosts,” and his awards and highlights. A chart shows that in his first eight years after retirement, Smith preached or spoke for an event nearly four times a week, and he continues to do so as opportunity and health permit (page 234).
All who have been blessed by knowing Wayne Barron Smith and enjoying his preaching over the past 50 years will treasure this book. Those who don’t know him will feel like they do because of this well-written account of his ministry.
Sam E. Stone is retired editor of Christian Standard.
To order the book, contact Joseph-Beth Booksellers (800-248-6849 or 859-873-2911), or the bookstore at Cincinnati Christian University (513-244-8134) or Kentucky Christian University (606-474-3239; email@example.com).