NEW ALBANY • Every Tuesday night, a group gathers for Bible study at “Brew Albany,” a coffee shop at the terminus of the Tanglefoot Trail in downtown New Albany. The study is led by 21-year-old Potts Camp native Jacob Smith.
Smith, a biblical studies major in his junior year at Blue Mountain College, said he loves the weekly gathering at the coffee shop owned by his brother.
“It’s my favorite thing,” he said. “It’s the highlight of my week.”
Smith said the study began when he was a senior in high school, during a period of spiritual self-discovery.
“I’d been studying the Bible really deeply on my own for about a year, and it had been so helpful,” he said. “The study started as just five or six guys from school. We loved it. We did that for five or six months and then it was time to go to college.”
"Some people just accept (faith) and don't think too critically about it. That's not me. I love reason, order, and logic. It was like water for my soul, not having to just blindly accept it. I highly recommend that process to anyone."
A National Merit finalist with a natural gift for math, Smith was awarded multiple scholarships to attend Mississippi State University. After his high school graduation, he said ‘goodbye’ to his Bible study group and headed to Starkville to study engineering. But he said from the beginning, something was telling him that wasn’t where he belonged.
“I knew the second I got there that engineering wasn’t right for me; not even close,” he said. “I started out in civil engineering. I hopped around a bit trying to find an area that was right for me, but I couldn’t.”
Smith said even while he was still in high school, he was starting to experience a tug in another direction.
“I felt like the Lord was calling me to invite other people into what I had experienced,” he said. “After a year-and-a-half at State, a friend from high school said, ‘I know you feel pressure to stay here and get a practical job. But maybe you just need to trust the Lord and do what he’s wanting you to do.’”
Following what he sensed was a calling from God, Smith left Mississippi State, his scholarships, and a potentially lucrative future career in engineering behind and transferred to Blue Mountain College in Ripley.
When he made the change, Smith said he felt an instant wave of relief.
“It felt like a veil lifted,” he said. “The day I walked onto campus I felt so much at peace. I left a bigger school with lots of scholarships, but I’ve never regretted my decision. I could see that teaching is what the Lord wants me to do.”
After college, Smith said he hopes to take his biblical studies to the next level.
“I’d love to go to seminary,” he said. “Teaching would ultimately be my goal, whether it’s teaching biblical languages or the content or the history. I’ll narrow that down as I keep going.”
When he transferred to Blue Mountain to take up biblical studies, Smith didn’t abandon his love of math. In fact, he said his background in math dovetails nicely with his newfound love of biblical languages.
“With the kind of work that I want to do with biblical studies, math is really helpful,” he said. “Greek feels so similar in some ways to math. They go hand-in-hand.”
Smith said leading the Tuesday night study group gives him a chance to connect scholarship with the real world.
“I try to keep it casual and conversational,” he said. “We used to pick a book of the Bible and study it, but now we’re doing more topical studies. Surprisingly, people comment so much that you don’t even really need a guide. They’re an incredible group of people.”
Since moving into its new home at the coffee shop, Smith said the group has increased both in size and in diversity of viewpoints.
“It used to be mostly Baptists from the same area,” he said. “We’re a bit more diverse now, and they’re all very open-minded. Part of my hope bringing it to the coffee shop was to include people who don’t fall into the same mold; people who just need a place to talk honestly about their faith.”
Smith said he encourages those wrestling with questions to “dive deep” and find their answers.
“Some people just accept it and don’t think too critically about it,” he said. “That’s not me. I love reason, order, and logic. It was like water for my soul, not having to just blindly accept it. I highly recommend that process to anyone.
While the group that meets on Tuesdays for study is mostly composed of college-aged adults, Smith said the invitation is open to any who want to attend.
“It’s a 100 percent open invitation,” he said. “For anyone who wants to come and wants to understand.”