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Pastor believes in getting back to the basics

The Rev. C. Lee Smith is shepherding his new church, which was formed in January, with a refreshing perspective.

Smith, married and the father of two young children, believes churches have gotten away from teaching what God says and moved toward teaching what people want to hear.

Christ Church of Metro Atlanta was founded to be a "biblical church without baggage, without politics and without walls," according to the founding documents.

Q: How long have you been a pastor?

A: Almost 15 years.

Q: How and when did you know that this is what you wanted to do as your life's work?

A: I started as a pastor when I was 25. I knew it was what I should do because of the joy that I had in serving the church. Members of the church were an encouragement as they recognized God's work in my life and through me.

Q: Did you ever consider a different career?

A: I have always supplemented my ministerial income with other ventures - real estate, investments and, most recently, my wife and I began an insurance business. It is so expensive to live these days, by my willingness to work outside the church it helps our church put more money in other areas of ministry.

I suppose this idea is a little odd these days, especially as the perception of the general public is tainted by the news stories of abuses by famous pastors. I am often frustrated and saddened when I hear of gross misuse of the gifts to the church. There are so many preachers who are in ministry for the wrong reasons. I hope the public will realize that most pastors are not very highly paid like the TV evangelists and that most are not in ministry to 'fleece the flock' but to serve and love the people.

Q: Who would you say was the greatest influence on you and your choice?

A: I have had many Godly people inspire me, but I suppose the biggest motivation to be a pastor is the love I have for people.

Q: What would you say is the most challenging thing about your job?

A: The hardest part is the load of responsibility that any conscientious pastor feels. I feel like a parent. When the kids are hurting, I hurt. When they are making good decisions, I rejoice. When they are sick, I pray and sometimes weep for them. The hard part is not any single thing of the ministry; it is the collective weight of loving and caring for a lot of people.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing?

A: I love preaching. I love it because I love people.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to a young person considering entering the ministry, what would it be?

A: I would say plan to be a servant. Take the lowest seat at the table. Do not promote yourself, but allow God to promote you if he chooses to do it. I would say love God, not the ministry. I would say to stand for truth, even if you stand alone. If you're thinking about entering the ministry, avoid thinking that ministry is prestigious or that you will be respected.

Q: Who would you most like to meet, and why?

A: I would, frankly, like to have some face-to-face time with Jesus. I would not spend those moments asking him 'why,' because I trust God's character. I would like some clarification on some of the 'hows,' because I don't entirely trust my knowledge of how to practice the faith and ministry.

Q: If you had to name one thing that's changed the most in Gwinnett's religious trends over the years, what would it be?

A: Many churches, especially in a large area like metro Atlanta, have become what I call 'stadium churches.' The members come and watch the pastor speak on the jumbo-tron screen, but they don't know him. He is a stranger. This is a newer thing in Christianity, and I don't believe it is such a good thing.

We have moved slowly but surely toward a compromised church. What is called 'church' would be better labeled a social club. A true New-Testament church exists to carry out the commands of Christ. The average church today is so obsessed with growth that they don't teach the whole truth about God or human sin. Too many churches worry too much about what people want and not enough about what God says.

Q: What is your favorite scripture?

A: 'He made him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him' - 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Christ Church of Metro Atlanta is located at 5875 Peachtree Industrial Blvd. in Norcross. For more information about the church or for service times, visit www.christchurchma.com.

Each week, the Daily Post profiles a different religious leader in Gwinnett. If you have a suggestion on who we should profile next, e-mail features@gwinnettdailypost.com.