Carlos Smith.

I love pastoring Refresh Community Church because each day I am reminded of the power of the gospel to renew, restore, and rebuild people, relationships, and communities. While I love pastoring, my first ministry is my family. I am blessed to have married my college sweetheart, Monique, who is the love of my life. I also have 4 beautiful & energetic children: Carlton, Nia, Maia, & Langston and they are the light of my life.

My story starts in Detroit, Michigan where I was born and raised. Though Detroit is home to many prominent churches and is the epicenter of gospel music, I was not raised in the church and had entered very few by the time I was a teenager. This would all change one Friday afternoon after school when I would have a supernatural encounter with the Lord and be led to faith by one of my childhood friends. The transformation was immediate and lasting and I have never been the same. I immediately committed myself to diligent study of the word of God and sharing the gospel with others through witnessing and street preaching. As time went on, this passion to share the gospel led to me to get involved with ministries to at-risk youth in juvenile detention centers throughout Detroit. I could see myself in the young men who had gotten caught up in negativity and the legal system and I was eager to share with them the hope of the gospel.

Carlos and his wife.

Not only did I have a passion for sharing Jesus through word, but I also loved to share Christ through music. I would eventually serve multiple churches as Minister of Music, as well as serve my community as an artistic educator. I would go on to graduate from Indiana University-Fort Wayne with a Bachelor of Music Education with hopes of becoming a music teacher. But God had other plans…

While student-teaching, I began to be burdened to not only preach the gospel to youth & musically, but to the wider body of Christ. The Lord was calling me to preach. And though I was terrified by the weight of the call, on Sunday, October 18, 2009 I preached my first sermon to a church filled with family & friends. This would begin my formal ministry journey, one which would lead me to seminary. So, in June 2010, Monique and I relocated to St. Louis, Missouri to attend Covenant Theological Seminary, where I would earn my Master of Divinity.

Since moving to St. Louis, our roots have grown deep. All of our children have been born in St. Louis. I was ordained to gospel ministry in St. Louis at the First Baptist Church of Chesterfield, where I would serve first as Youth Pastor and later as Associate Pastor. My passion for serving the community and youth would continue in St. Louis, as I led First Baptist & other congregations to form church/school partnerships.

Carlos and Monique at his doctorate graduation.

After graduating from Covenant, I continued to have a passion for learning & study, though I would take a break from school to focus on our growing family & ministry responsibilities. After a few years, I was able to return to the academy and in 2017 I began attending Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in pursuit of my Ph.D. While my educational goals were academic, they were motivated by my life as a parent of a child with special needs. I had observed that most churches were ill-equipped to minister to non neurotypical people and I wanted to make a contribution that would help churches think through this critical ministry from a theological perspective. In December 2022, I earned my Ph.D. in Systematic Theology, as well as a Master of Theology. My dissertation is entitled, “The Image of God & Cognitive Disabilities: Dignity, Dominion, & Dependence” and affirms the multifaceted imago Dei in neurodivergent people at all stages of life, from the womb to the tomb.

In late 2017, I would get a call from The Journey asking if I would consider coming to lead their Hanley Road church that they were planning to relocate from Clayton to University City. This plan was an ambitious one. The vision was that Hanley Road would reach across the Delmar Divide and unite a broad cross section of people under the banner of Christ. After much prayer and discernment, in June 2018 I accepted the call to shepherd The Journey Hanley Road. The Lord brought growth & flourishing to Hanley Road as the vision of becoming a reconciled church in the heart of UCity began to take root. As the church grew and flourished, so did my brotherhood with Pastor Kyle Hubbard of The Gate Church. This brotherhood and shared burden for U-City blossomed into a church merger and together we relaunched The Journey Hanley Road & The Gate as Refresh Community Church in 2023. Today, Refresh Community Church is a multiethnic, multigenerational, and transcultural congregation that stands as a testimony to the unifying power of the gospel.

Carlos with his wife and children.

That’s the “Reader’s Digest” version of my story and God isn’t finished writing. I’m eager to see what else the Lord does! If you’re checking out Refresh Community Church, I would love to connect with you and hear your story as well! Feel free to introduce yourself one Sunday after service & let’s chat!