InterVarsity Alumni - Chris Smith

Chris Smith has always had a passion for the written word and the Word of God. He has freely shared that passion with others since he was a student. It led to an invitation to join the editorial committee of a new International Bible Society edition of the Bible.

As Chris was growing up in Connecticut, his parents fostered this love of Christ and literature. His father, a Congregational minister, taught Chris the beauty of a loving trusting relationship with Jesus and the value of God’s Word in that relationship. Chris’s mother was a professor of English literature at nearby schools such as Quinnipiac College and Fairfield University. From her Chris learned the power of the written word to convey the thoughts of the author.

Chris continued to build on his passion for the Bible and literature when he enrolled at Harvard in 1976. He majored in English literature and became involved in the InterVarsity chapter on campus. He coordinated small groups, served on the executive committee and was chapter president. He also learned to look at the Bible not only as a theology text, but also as a book written by human authors.

When Chris was a sophomore, his InterVarsity staff person invited him to do a manuscript study. (This is a Bible study method developed by InterVarsity that uses printed portions of Scripture with no chapter and verse divisions or even paragraph breaks.) Chris brought to this study the literary understanding that he was learning in his English classes. He came to see the books of the Bible as telling the story of God’s love through the agency of authors who used a range of chosen conventions to tell their part of the story.

Chris married and went on for further education at Gordon-Conwell Seminary and Boston College. He and his wife moved to Williamstown, Massachusetts, to pastor the First Baptist Church. In addition, Chris and his wife worked closely with the InterVarsity chapter at Williams College. He developed Bible studies for the students based on literary outlines indicated by the biblical authors rather than the chapter and verse divisions imposed on the Bible many centuries after its books were written.

After nine years the Smiths moved to East Lansing, Michigan, where Chris became the pastor at University Baptist Church.: He continued to teach manuscript Bible study to his congregation and to Michigan State University students.

Chris was invited to teach a summer course at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada entitled The Bible Without Chapters and Verses. He was encouraged to write up his lectures for publication, which he did, but he could not find a publisher. He and his wife decided use the electronic distribution method and publish the book online. They emailed friends the web address of the book (which has been subsequently published).

One friend familiar with the International Bible Society’s (IBS) plan to reformat the Bible was intrigued that IBS’s plans and Chris’s ideas were so similar. The friend encouraged IBS to contact Chris, resulting in a fruitful collaboration. The end product is the new IBS i>Books of the Bible edition of Scriptures. The look of the page and organization of the material make it more user friendly. The format eliminates the chapter and verse division. The order of the books has also been rearranged. For example the book of Acts follows Luke’s gospel.

God has used Chris’s passion for the Word of God and his interest in literature—fostered by his parents and deepened by his education and involvement in InterVarsity—to help advance his kingdom.