Ready for His Next Assignment
Zollie L. Smith Jr. has announced his decision to retire at the end of his term this year as executive director of Assemblies of God U.S. Missions, a post he has held for a decade.
“I know my assignment here is complete,” Smith told PE News. “I’m so grateful for the privileged opportunity I’ve had here, but the Lord has released me.”
Since 2007, Smith has headed U.S. Missions, the umbrella over “seven windows to America”: Chaplaincy Ministries, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, Intercultural Ministries, Missionary Church Planters & Developers, Teen Challenge International U.S.A., U.S. MAPS, and Youth Alive.
As U.S. Missions executive director, Smith became the first African-American to serve on the AG’s six-member executive leadership team. Wherever he goes, Smith takes an effervescent personality, effusive optimism, infectious smile, and most of all, a passion to reach those untouched by the gospel.
Smith says bringing joy to the workplace has been a priority.
“The value of having a loving, gentle, kind working environment is crucial to output,” Smith says. “The greatest investment to humanity is humanity. Everybody is important. Everyone is significant. And everybody is a blessing.”
Smith, 68, also says he has enjoyed resourcing people so they could maximize their potential, and thus replicate themselves.
AG General Superintendent George O. Wood commended Smith in a letter to general presbyters.
“He has earned great respect for the work he has done,” Wood wrote. “He is loved by our Fellowship. AGUSM is stronger than ever and we are all grateful to the Lord for the great contribution Zollie Smith has made.”
The new executive director will be elected to a four-year-term at the upcoming biennial General Council in Anaheim, California, and assume office in October, 60 days after the election.
Smith’s single mother, Amanda, raised him and his five siblings in Dade City, Florida, and they attended a Church of God in Christ congregation. Two days after graduating from high school in 1966, Smith entered the U.S. Army. During the Vietnam War in 1967 he suffered back wounds from enemy fire and watched as one soldier died and another suffered severe head wounds in efforts to rescue him.
Awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his dedicated military service, Smith became a St. Petersburg, Florida, police officer after returning to the U.S. in 1969. He married his wife, Phyllis in 1970. But guilt and shame — along with post-traumatic stress disorder — kept Smith in a pattern of alcohol and marijuana abuse, even after Phyllis became a born-again Christian.
Nearing 30 years of age, Smith recommitted his life to the Lord. By 1982, Smith earned $46,000 a year as a federal agent in a U.S. postal inspector role. He heeded God’s ministry call, and became an ordained Assemblies of God minister, initially earning $6,000 annually. Smith served as pastor of Eternal Life Christian Center in Somerset, New Jersey, for 15 years ending in 2005.
In 1992, Smith began a 15-year stint as president of the AG National Black Fellowship. He also served as an executive presbyter representing AG ethnic fellowships. He became assistant superintendent of the AG New Jersey District in 1994, and executive secretary there in 2005.
In 2007, General Council voters elected Smith to the U.S. Missions post to fill the remaining two years of the term of L. Alton Garrison, who moved up to assistant general superintendent. Smith says devising methods to disciple various subcultures into the family of God has been the most challenging aspect of his tenure as executive director.
“That strategy is not easily developed because we’re dealing with diversities that also separate us,” Smith says. “It’s a challenge to raise up indigenous leaders within unique people groups and at the same time holistically incorporate them into the body of Christ so we don’t wind up with segregated groups.”
Unity is difficult in a nation divided by various classifications, Smith says.
“When people are separated by the pigmentation of their skin, their ethnicity, their education level, or their economic status, they tend to gravitate toward those of like kind,” Smith says. “That results in establishing silos of people groups organizing to survive because of uncertainties, and tends to reinforce separation.”
Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Florida State University and a master’s in business administration from Regent University. Zolllie and Phyllis have six grown daughters, and six grandchildren.
The Smiths plan to relocate to Panama City Beach, Florida. Smith hopes to travel the nation in a recreational vehicle, do some writing, and engage in ministry.