Rev. Dr. Craig Melvin Smith

REV. DR. CRAIG MELVIN SMITH is the Senior Pastor of the Freedom Baptist Church of the Greater Chicago Area in Hillside, Illinois. Born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, the third of seven children, Rev. Smith was called to preach the Gospel in 1972 in his junior year at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He preached his first sermon at his home church, the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church of Peoria in February 1972, where the late Rev. Dr. Calvin Hightower was his pastor. Rev. Smith was ordained in April 1974 at his home church.

Rev. Smith’s structured academic and pastoral-theological preparation has earned him the following degrees: B.A., University of Illinois (1973); M.Div., Northern Baptist Seminary (2003); D.Min., United Theological Seminary (2009). Pastor Smith passed the LSAT (Law School Admission Test in 2013 and hopes to pursue a law degree.

His previous professional and pastoral assignments have been: Personal Banker, Commercial National Bank, Peoria (1973-74); Crime Analyst, Peoria Police Department, (1974-78), Pastor of Providence Baptist Church, Rockford, IL (1978-87); and Pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church on the Westside of Chicago (1987-2000).

On April 9, 2000 the Holy Spirit led Pastor Smith and over 300 faith-fueled, progressiveminded, serious saints in the starting of the Freedom Baptist Church. Over 2500 persons have called Freedom Hillside their church home since the first worship service was held in the Hillside Theater. One year after starting in the theater, Freedom purchased the theater and that site continues to be their worship facility. During a 56 week renovation, the church worshiped weekly at the Proviso West High School. On Palm Sunday 2003, Freedom celebrated the ribbon-cutting ceremony on its $1.6 million newly renovated house of worship. Since then an additional half million dollar enhancements have been made.

Freedom Forward was unveiled in the spring of 2019 as the three-phased project of renovation and expansion: a renovated sanctuary, reception area, restrooms, offices, café, conference center and a three-story addition for ministry and community uses. Phase One is scheduled to begin in May 2020.

The Rev. Dr. Craig Melvin Smith is in his 20th year as senior pastor and teacher; he preaches both Sunday worship services; and he regularly teaches three bible classes weekly, MOB (Men of the Bible) and WOW (Word on Wednesday at noon and 7 p.m.). He has been married to Patricia Ann for 48 years.

"Heart Work Is Not Hard Work"

Rev. Dr. Craig Melvin Smith