Pastor looks back on year in Victory Life Church pulpit
It’s been a year since South African native Craig Smee was installed as Lead Pastor at Victory Life Church in Brownwood, and the 47-year-old said he’s “completely” in the right place.
In a recent interview at the church, Smee said he and wife, Leanne, who have two sons and a daughter, “feel vey much like Brownwood has definitely become home. The friendly city has definitely befriended us."
A friendly and engaging man, Smee reflected on his first year at Victory Life — with his mischievous sense of humor never far away. Smee joked about his South African accent, saying he’s taught the Victory Life congregation to speak “proper English.”
“I think we’ve certainly begun to find our new identify in the county,” Smee said of the church. “We’ve certainly run hard at helping people in the community and getting very involved in the lives of those we want to serve. We have run very hard at supporting the law enforcement officers in our county. We’ve been blessing them with date nights as well as an emergency law enforcement fund that has begun to be used by law enforcement officers all through Brown County.
“It’s been radical. We’ve completely changed the nature of our services. We’re reaching a much younger audience. Our Kids Church is outgrowing our facilities and we are seeing an increase in numbers at our youth services. We have dedicated offerings that go straight into community outreach. We’ve begun reaching out to Howard Payne to have students engage with our internship programs. One of the most exciting areas of change has been with the school on our property. We’ve re-engineered and rebranded the school to make it more accessible to anyone that prefers a Christian education for their children. So yes, it’s been a busy year.”
Smee seeks out people, and he’s been asked to pray at public events including a Brown County Commissioners Court meeting and the observance in January of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Anybody who wants to meet in the city about how we can help, I’m up,” Smee said.
Sunday attendance at Victory Life, counting those who view the services online, is just over 1,000, Smee said.
There has also been a growth in the church’s Wednesday evening service, which is called Wednesday Night Live. The format includes an in-person and online audience.
“It’s an open discussion,” Smee said. “We have a subject matter. We get expert panels in. We’ve had an atheist on the panel. We’ve had a Hindu on the panel. We’ve had all different sorts of people on the panel just so that we can get to understand people better. We need to understand those that we desire to reach.”
Questions are taken from both the in-person and online audiences.
Smee described the church’s annual four-night Jubilee celebration in August.
"Jubilee is a time of reflection of what God has achieved and what He has for us to do for the next year to come,” Smee said. “It’s a celebration. We’re a multi-service church so many of our members never get to worship together. So once a year at least, we can come together. This celebration happens at all Victory Life churches around the United States.
“Jubilee this year was very well attended. We had multiple food trucks out. We had many new people. In fact over 60 percent of the congregation here now have joined us in the last year.”
One of the events of Jubilee included taking up an offering to give as a tip to a pizza delivery person who brought pizza to the church on the Friday night of Jubilee
Smee said he wants to see the church as “a place where mothers and fathers can come for healing, marriages can come for healing. Brown County’s families need to be restored.
“Our vision for 2022 will be to support and rebuild families in Brown County.”
Smee said he wants to make sure the Victory Life building “is useable 24/7. You can’t change a community in two hours on a Sunday. I want anybody in our community to be able to realize their own purpose and to be able to work that purpose out — our own Christ-given purpose.”
The church is planning a one-day seminar on Sept. 25 called Purpose Path, which will consist of six “very reflective” sessions, Smee said.
“Everybody will get somewhere, but not everybody will get somewhere on purpose,” Smee said. “We highlight your core values, your past experiences and your spiritual gifts. When these three collide, you will understand your unique purpose.” The free seminar is open to all and you can find out more by texting BROWNWOOD to 97000.
Victory Life has opened up its media department to help businesses with social media and digital marketing, and is looking at starting an adult education program for people who did not complete college degrees.
The church wants to be “irrationally generous to the community,” Smee said. “We absolutely love random acts of kindness.”
Victory Life Church is at 901C.C. Woodson in Brownwood. The church's website is https://brownwood.vl.church and email is firstname.lastname@example.org.