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50 years of sermons and not a single repeat

Minister and his wife honored for a half-century of service to congregation in the Texas Hill Country.

Martin Smith has preached nearly 2,500 Sundays behind the same pulpit — and he’s never repeated a sermon.

That’s because he starts from scratch every time. 

“I’ll make detailed notes, but I’ll throw them away (after) every service,” said Smith, 78, who has spent the past half-century preaching for the Bandera Church of Christ in Central Texas, about an hour northwest of San Antonio. 

The system has its drawbacks, the preacher said. 

Bandera County Judge Richard Evans presents a proclamation to the Smiths for their service.

Bandera County Judge Richard Evans presents a proclamation to the Smiths for their service.

“Sometimes I get mad at myself for that because I think, ‘You know, where did I find that information?’ But then I disposed of it,” Smith said. “So I don’t know where it is, but that’s part of how I study, so I can start all over again. So you don’t ever hear the same sermon twice.”

Multiple generations have passed through the pews of the Bandera congregation, which now has about 70 members, since Smith was named minister in February 1970. 

The church isn’t slowing down, said Charles Wilson, retired minister for the nearby Bandina Church of Christ and a friend of Smith’s for the past 60 years.  

“I’m glad that I’m here, but I don’t think they have to have me.”

“The church is doing better than it ever has in its entire history,” Wilson said of the Bandera congregation, which experiences baptisms routinely. Its members have a spirit of service to each other and to their community, Wilson said. 

That’s partly because Smith has led by example, serving as everything from emergency medical services technician to school bus driver. 

 Smith, for his part, credits the church’s success to the strength of its members’ faith.

“If I were to disappear, I think it would go right on,” he said. “I think we’re that stable. 

“I’m glad that I’m here, but I don’t think they have to have me.”

‘IT HAS HAD ITS UPS AND DOWNS’

Smith grew up attending the East Side Church of Christ in Stephenville, Texas, about 200 miles north of Bandera. The church’s leaders encouraged its young men to develop their speaking and preaching skills. The congregation no longer exists, Smith said, but its legacy lives on in him. 

He preached for several churches in the Stephenville area before the Bandera church hired him. He and his wife of almost 60 years, Mary Ann, had two young daughters at the time, Debbie and Joy. A third, Penny, was born in Bandera in 1972.

Martin and Mary Ann Smith arrived in Bandera, Texas, in 1970.

Martin and Mary Ann Smith arrived in Bandera, Texas, in 1970.

The family grew alongside the town and the church — and witnessed many milestones.

“It has had its ups and downs, but we’ve survived all of them,” Smith said. One of the more difficult times came in 1978 when a catastrophic flood engulfed central Texas. More than 40 inches of rain fell over several days, and 15 people died, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Smith said the church lost some members in the flooding.

More encouraging memories from Smith’s time include many marriages and baptisms.

One of those was a young girl who started attending the Bandera church youth group. A former Catholic, she didn’t have any connection to the congregation or other Churches of Christ, but because of the youth ministry, she converted and married a young man who is now a youth minister at another congregation. 

“I think we’ve been a pretty solid congregation,” Smith said, “and we can help missionaries, and we can help children’s homes and things like that.” The church supports missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand, the Cherokee Home for Children, Southern Africa Bible College and students at the Memphis School of Preaching and Southwest School of Bible Studies.

Ministry involves more than preaching, Smith said. It means being a part of the community and connecting with people outside of the church.

Ministry involves more than preaching, Smith said. It means being a part of the community and connecting with people outside of the church.

“That’s how you relate to people,” he said. “That’s how you make them not afraid of the Church of Christ, you know? Because some people are.”

Smith “has been everything in the community that a man could be,” Wilson said. He’s been a chef for the Parent Teacher Association, an emergency medical services coordinator, a livestock show judge, a Boy Scouts volunteer and a cemetery manager. 

One of his favorite jobs was school bus driver — something he did for 41 years.

Martin and Mary Ann Smith arrived in Bandera, Texas, in 1970.

Martin and Mary Ann Smith arrived in Bandera, Texas, in 1970.

“You relate to a lot of children, you know. Therefore, you relate to a lot of parents, and that puts you in the community,” Smith said. 

The Bandera church recently honored Smith and his wife with a celebration for their 50 years of service. More than 150 locals, longtime friends and people from surrounding areas attended. Bandera County Judge Richard Evans gave a proclamation to the couple for their contributions to the community.

Martin and Mary Ann Smith with their daughters at the 50th anniversary celebration.

Martin and Mary Ann Smith with their daughters at the 50 years of service celebration.

“We had people from all walks of life, actually, that came to the event,” Smith said.

Looking forward, Smith doesn’t plan to step away from the pulpit anytime soon, but he said he’ll prayerfully consider what’s in the best interest of the congregation.

Filed under: 50 years Bandera Church of Christ Church of Christ Martin Smith National News Top Stories

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