REV. DR. CRAIG MELVIN SMITH is the Senior Pastor of the Freedom Baptist Church of the Greater Chicago Area in Hillside, Illinois. He was called to preach the Gospel in February 1972 in his junior year at the University of Illinois. He was ordained in April 1974 by his home church, the Morning Star Baptist Church of Peoria, Illinois, where the late Reverend Calvin Hightower was pastor.
Rev. Smith earned the Bachelor of Art Degree (B.A.) in June 1973 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in finance and banking. In June 2003, he earned the Master of Divinity Degree (M.Div.) from the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. He was honored at the graduation ceremonies with the Distinguished Presidential Award for exemplary leadership in the seminary community. In December 2009, he earned the Doctor of Ministry Degree (D.Min.) from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. In October 2013, Pastor Smith sat for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and scored successfully acheived admission status. He hopes to enter John Marshall School of Law in the near future. His previous professional and pastoral assignments have been:
· Personal Banker, Commercial National Bank of Peoria, 1973-74
· Crime Analyst, Peoria Police Department, 1974-78
· Pastor, Providence Baptist Church, Rockford, IL, 1978-87
· Pastor, Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago, IL, 1987-2000
On April 9, 2000, the Holy Spirit led Reverend Smith and over 300 faith-fueled, progressive-minded and serious saints in the first worship service of the Freedom Baptist Church. The first worship service was held at the former Hillside Theater which continues to be Freedom’s church location. Since then, over 2,000 persons have joined the church.
In July 2001 Freedom purchased the Hillside Theatre and embarked upon a project to convert it into a house of worship. After a 56 week period of worshiping in the nearby high school while renovation took place, on Palm Sunday, 2003, Freedom celebrated the ribbon-cutting ceremony, on the $1.6 million newly renovated facility which includes a 1,200 seat sanctuary. Since then, an additional $750,000 dollar enhancements have been made (heating, air-conditioning, state of the art audio-visual systems, lighting, electrical enhancements and continual exterior and interior improvements).
The Rev. Dr. Craig Melvin Smith has been married to Patricia for 42 years. Together they are the parents of 4 adult children. His wife serves with him as one of the 8 associate Pastors of Freedom.
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