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In the early hours of February 2, 2017, former Open Bible president Ray Smith, age 84, was ushered into heaven.

From the time he was in high school, Ray knew he was called to ministry. Upon graduation from high school Ray, a multi-letter athlete, enrolled at Open Bible College, where he met and married Helen Norris. Early on Ray thought the Lord might have been calling him to be a missionary, but came to realize that was his brother Don’s call.


Ray-and-Helen-Smith-young-2Ray and Helen planted the Open Bible church in Billings, Montana, in 1953. They pastored there until called to the Open Bible church in Rapid City in 1959, where they relocated the congregation to a newly constructed building. After a stint as the South Dakota district director from 1959 to1963, Ray then served as Mountain Plains Regional Executive Director from 1963 to 1967, while continuing to serve as the Rapid City pastor.

In 1967, at age 35, Ray was elected to serve as President of Open Bible Churches. Upon his election and in humble recognition of his young age, Ray stated to convention ministers and delegates, “I feel like a puppy put in charge of the kennel!”

Ray’s first years were occupied with the relocation and construction of the national office building at 2020 Bell Avenue. During his year’s World Evangelism, a system to raise money for missions, church planting leadership training, and evangelism, was implemented. The church “Five Percent Plan” was established as well.

In 1976 the Smiths assumed the pastorate of Lighthouse Temple, in Eugene, Oregon, where they served until Ray was re-elected as Open Bible president in 1979. During these years Open Bible’s Ministerial Ethics were developed. Another milestone was the decision for national conventions to meet biennially instead of annually, which saved a considerable amount of money for both the movement and for individual pastors.

Ray served as president for a total of 25 years. He served on the Open Bible National Board of Directors for 36 years and retired from Open Bible service in 1995. While serving Open Bible, Ray Smith also carried a number of responsibilities outside of Open Bible, from the National Association of Evangelicals and Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America to a number of causes he launched in pursuit of evangelism, righteousness, and fighting pornography. His number one focus was on prayer and intercession, a practice he modeled consistently.

After retirement to Arizona, Ray remained active in ministry at his local church, the prospect of which he relished when announcing his retirement, “I look forward to continuing to serve the Lord, but without official portfolio.”

President Randall A. Bach said, “Ray Smith was a personal mentor and friend, a man with a deep and abiding faith and walk in the Lord who loved people and loved Open Bible. I will always cherish his profound influence in my life.”

Ray is survived by Helen, his wife; Danene, his daughter; Stephen, his son; and Autumn Dawn Bryan, his granddaughter. He is also survived by a brother, Robert (Bob) Smith; and two sisters, Marian Smith Albert and LaVeta Olson.

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