James Bryan Smith joins Chapel Hill

Acclaimed writer and teacher James Bryan Smith joins Chapel Hill

Worship and Theology with James Bryan SmithOn September 9, we welcomed acclaimed writer and teacher Rev. Dr. James Bryan Smith to the pastoral staff at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church. A best-selling author and nationally recognized teacher, Smith is executive director of the Apprentice Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends University. Previously an honorary pastor-in-residence, now a teaching pastor, Smith teaches Wednesday nights at Chapel Hill and preaches monthly beginning September 23, with subsequent sermons on the second Sunday of the month.

A Joyful Reunion

Church Shooting in Texas by Pastor Jeff Gannon IMG_8693 copy

Rev. Jeff Gannon, Chapel Hill Senior Pastor

Enjoying an affiliation with Chapel Hill that dates back to the church’s foundation, Smith has workshopped several books in classes with the congregation over the years, including his best-selling The Good and Beautiful God series. “This reunion takes us back to our beginnings in 1995, when my friend Jim Smith and his wife Meghan helped us start Chapel Hill,” says Senior Pastor Rev. Jeff Gannon. “I am excited to team up again with a man whose spiritual vision and clarity of expression have done so much to shape the ‘faith DNA’ of our congregation over the years.  I am especially grateful that Smith’s appointment is made possible by the generosity of an anonymous donor. This is just one of countless examples of God’s providential care for our church and its mission.”

Embracing the Love of God

Therefore, in conjunction with Smith’s appointment at Chapel Hill, we return to our roots this fall with a sermon series based on an early book by Smith: Embracing the Love of God – The Path and the Promise of the Christian Life. “The first nine weeks of Chapel Hill’s existence was a sermon series based on this book,” recalls Gannon. “Every fall, I like to focus back to the mission of Chapel Hill. We welcome ‘all people to experience and share the extraordinary grace and love of Jesus Christ.'” The series runs September 9 through November 4. Learn more.

Monthly Preaching

As part of his appointment, Dr. Smith begins preaching regularly at Chapel Hill beginning September 23. He returns on the second Sunday of the month thereafter, including October 14 and November 11. Services at 9:30 and 11 AM.

Magnificent Journey Book Signing

Smith’s Magnificent trilogy debuted last fall with the The Magnificent Story: Uncovering a Gospel of Beauty, Goodness and Truth (InterVarsity Press, 2017). In what has become a tradition, Smith will preach and sign copies of his latest book, the second work in the series, The Magnificent Journey, Living Deep in the Kingdom, at Chapel Hill on October 14 at 9:30 AM and 11 AM. (The book goes on sale November 6.)

Wednesday Night Teaching

As a teaching pastor, Smith offers a free course through Chapel Hill’s Wednesday Night at the Hill program. This fall, he leads a 10-week course on Worship and Theology:  How worship shapes our view of God and ourselves. Dr. Smith unpacks the significance of worship, not only on our theology, but our spirituality and mission. Wednesdays, 6:30-7:30 PM.


A New Return to a Traditional Form of Worship

In fact, Smith’s class on Worship and Theology paves the way for a shift in worship practice and culture at Chapel Hill, based on a vision shared by Pastor Gannon and Smith. Beginning December 2, the first day in the season of Advent, Chapel Hill will begin a “new” style of worship, a return to an older liturgy from the Methodist lectionary, with ancient roots in the Christian tradition. Details coming soon!

The Things Above Podcast

Smith is host and creator of The Things Above, a new podcast from The Apprentice Institute at Friends University​​. Offering “Heavenly Thinking for Earthly Engagement,” the podcast offers “mind discipleship” for listeners to set their minds on “things above” (Colossians 3:2). Each week, Smith offers a glorious thought—something good and beautiful and true, something excellent and praiseworthy—to fill our minds with heavenly truths. Things Above.

Apprentice Gathering, October 25-27

The Apprentice Institute for Christian Formation presents a three-day discipleship workshop and spiritual formation retreat from October 25 through 27 at Friends University. Conceived and developed by James Bryan Smith, founding executive director of the Apprentice Institute, the Apprentice Gathering is an annual gathering of like-minded individuals on a journey into Christlikeness. Smith presides over an incredible roster of presenters seeking to uncover a Gospel of beauty, goodness and truth. Through a partnership with the Apprentice Institute, Chapel Hillers receive a discount to attend. Learn more.

About James Bryan Smith

Associate Professor of Religion and Dallas Willard Chair for Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends University, James Bryan Smith is founder and Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends. A nationally recognized teacher and a New York Times best-seller, he is the author of the popular “The Good and Beautiful” and “Magnificent” book series. His spiritual podcast The Things Above debuted in August. The Magnificent Journey, Living Deep in the Kingdom, his latest book and the second in his Magnificent series, releases October 6 on InterVarsity Press. B.A., Friends University; M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; D.Min., Fuller Theological Seminary.