Month: December 2021

Jack MacGorman, long-time professor, SWBTS chapel namesake, dies at age 100

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)—John William “Jack” MacGorman, long-time professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and namesake for its MacGorman Chapel, died today at the age of 100, two days shy of his 101st birthday.

“Dr. Jack MacGorman was a legendary professor of New Testament at Southwestern Seminary for more than five decades,” said President Adam W. Greenway. “His influence in the lives of thousands of students and the churches and saints those students would go on to serve is beyond calculation. A Southwesterner with few equals, we grieve the loss of this great man of God with confidence that he is now worshiping his savior in heaven today. I request the entire Southwestern Seminary family across the world to join me in praying for the MacGorman family during this time of great loss.”

Born in 1920 in Nova Scotia, Canada, MacGorman moved across the United States border to Caribou, Maine, at age 7. From 1937 to 1938, he studied at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. These academic pursuits were hindered, however, by the onset of bronchiectasis, a severe lung disease. In May 1939, MacGorman checked into a hospital for one month’s observation. He stayed for more than two years.

In 1941, despite the aid of a renowned Harvard Medical School doctor, MacGorman was dismissed from the hospital as inoperable. Following the doctor’s advice to leave the Northeast for the “high and dry climate of Arizona,” MacGorman moved south. By the time he reached Austin, Texas, however, he had run out of money. Fortunately, it was there that he recovered from his illness, and in 1945, he enrolled in Southwestern Seminary.

In a journal entry from his first day of classes, Sept. 11, 1945, MacGorman wrote of his “deep, deep sense of gratitude” to God for His mercy, for sparing his life, and for bringing him to Southwestern.

This sense of gratitude led MacGorman to commit to attend chapel as often as he could, regardless of who was preaching or singing. He honored this commitment from his first semester as a student in fall 1945 all the way through the 2010s, more than a decade after his retirement.

MacGorman completed his Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Theology degrees at Southwestern by 1956. In 1948, he was added to the seminary’s faculty as professor of New Testament. Serving 53 years, MacGorman had one of the longest tenures of service in the history of Southwestern.

Following his retirement in 2001, MacGorman stayed connected to the life of the seminary, helping in classes and faithfully attending chapel services and other campus events. Southwestern honored him with a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1986 and the L.R. Scarborough Award in 2008. In 2011, MacGorman was present as Southwestern dedicated the MacGorman Chapel and Performing Arts Center, named in his honor.

MacGorman’s daughter, Linda, is pictured with with SWBTS President Adam W. Greenway during the transfer of MacGorman’s personal library to the seminary. (BP File Photo)

In addition to teaching at Southwestern, MacGorman taught and lectured throughout the world and wrote and edited numerous books and articles. He also served in pastoral positions at churches in Maine and Texas.

In 2020, ahead of his 100th birthday, MacGorman donated his personal library to the seminary. The donation included thousands of titles from MacGorman’s time as a student and faculty member, as well as many titles from his father, also a minister. Additionally, MacGorman donated many of his files, notes, and records from classes and sermons dating back to the 1940s.

MacGorman’s daughter, Linda, said there is no better home for her father’s books than the seminary he dearly loved. “Those books were so near and dear to him,” she said.

MacGorman was preceded in death by his wife of 71 years, Ruth, and their son Stephen. He is survived by their seven children, Donald, Robert, Linda, Deborah, John, Adam, and Timothy; 13 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

SANCTITY OF LIFE MONTH: SBTC churches taking ‘all-of-life’ approach to make a difference

SBTC Pro-Life

FORT WORTH—For nearly five decades, evangelicals have been pushing back against legalized abortion. And although Texas has recently celebrated the passage of a law effectively outlawing abortions once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, pro-life activists and pastors say churches still face significant hurdles—and opportunities—when it comes to caring for preborn babies and their mothers.

Amanda Stevens, who works part-time at Church at the Cross in Grapevine as the director of the church’s Life Task Force, said one of the most important things that has made their ministry a success has been the support of the church’s pastoral staff.

“It started with our pastor really caring about this issue and knowing he needed to delegate the task to other people to run with it,” she said.

For that reason, she stressed the importance of having an organized ministry to oversee a church’s pro-life efforts.

“There’s no way a church can really get traction on this unless there is a formal structure of some kind in place,” she added.

Stevens said that one of the most fruitful things a church can do is to focus on the relational aspect rather than simply meeting material needs.

“Giving stuff to people is not going to fundamentally change anything, but relationships will. Of course stuff is important, and people need diapers and wipes and car seats. But you have to be in touch with people’s needs in order to help them.”

According to Stevens, issues of life are regularly highlighted in corporate teaching, though “not necessarily abortion all the time, but caring for the marginalized,” she said. “Part of following Jesus is taking care of the vulnerable.”

Andrew Hébert, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, similarly stressed the importance of addressing issues of life from the pulpit.

“It sounds fairly basic, but it’s really important and shouldn’t be passed over quickly,” he said. “What you say from the pulpit matters, and any time you can talk about the sanctity of life from a text of Scripture and show how this is a biblical idea just in the regular, routine preaching of God’s Word, is important.”

Hébert noted that he recently preached through a passage that referenced Psalm 8, the text of which states that God has crowned mankind with glory and honor.

“I took a pastoral moment to talk about the fact that if it’s true that men and women are crowned with glory and honor from their creator, then it means that every single person you talk to has dignity and worth. And that’s true whether we’re talking about preborn lives, or homeless people, or Democrats—whoever we tend to marginalize.”

In addition to Paramount’s annual focus on Sanctity of Life Sunday each January, Hébert said the church partners with, promotes, and financially supports their local pregnancy center.

“They care about their clients’ entire life, so they’re not just trying to talk someone out of an abortion,” he added. “They also work preemptively on doing mentoring courses for preteen boys and girls, they do counseling for women, they help after the baby has arrived with training on parenting and supplies for their new baby. And they make it a priority to share the gospel clearly with everyone who comes through those doors.”

“Our pro-life commitment is not just about preborn babies but an all-of-life commitment,” he said.

Carolyn Cline, CEO for Involved For Life in Dallas, said that one unique challenge they face since the passage of Texas’ heartbeat bill has been the way it has changed their strategy of how to get women to rethink their decision to get an abortion.

“The conversation has had to change, because it used to be that we could encourage women to take a breath and tell them they have plenty of time to think it through,” Cline said. “Instead of using a sonogram machine to show life, now it’s being used to get an abortion. Tactics we’ve traditionally used are not proving effective in the conversation.”

One of the unique things about Involved for Life, according to Cline, is that they operate as a full reproductive health clinic, offering everything that a woman can get at Planned Pregnancy other than an abortion. They also offer women post-abortion exams, which Cline said has generated some controversy among those who say the practice justifies abortion.

“We never say it’s OK, but we do tell them we will be there for them no matter what they choose. Many women never do a follow-up exam, and some can’t stand to ever walk through the doors of the abortion clinic again,” Cline added. “To me, I believe it’s the most Christlike we ever are, taking a woman when she’s feeling the worst about herself, hating herself for what she’s done and believes she’s worth nothing, and we take her in and love her like Jesus does and help her understand how much he loves her.”

Cline and Stevens both emphasized that churches must be aware of the statistics regarding abortion and the inevitability that many of the women in their pews have had an abortion in the past.

“We have a lot of people who are suffering in silence,” Stevens said. “Abortion is not and cannot be the unforgivable sin, and we need to create safe spaces where people can talk about that.”

Cline said that the numbers in the church are nearly identical to those outside of it, which mean that at least one in four women in the church has had an abortion.

“There is something broken in our churches that we’re not talking about this more,” Cline said. “We just can’t stick our heads in the sand. If you have unmarried women in your church, abortion is happening.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which bears on laws like the Texas Heartbeat Act. An explainer is available at

Prayer conference brings unexpected salvation at FBC Rowlett

FBC Rowlett prayer conference

ROWLETT—With a Great Commission focus, First Baptist Church Rowlett’s “Let Us Pray” Sunday church service and evening prayer conference Oct. 18 signaled the church’s desire to ask God to “do amazing things” within the heart and life of the congregation and community, Pastor Cole Hedgecock said.

God did.

After hearing Gordon Fort, International Mission Board executive vice president, preach on the importance of prayer and having a relationship with the heavenly Father through Christ, Hannah, a Chinese migrant recently relocated to Rowlett, responded.

Hannah and her friend Amy, also from China, had been attending FBC Rowlett services and an adult Sunday school class for a few weeks, where they met church member Maria Covolan. The women exchanged phone numbers and Covolan texted Hannah about church events, including the Bible conference. Amy and Hannah came, and after Fort asked the congregation to pray, Covolan approached Hannah.

“Do you want to pray?” Covolan asked.

“I don’t know what prayer is,” Hannah replied.

Covolan explained that prayer is “talking to God.”

“I don’t know God,” Hannah said. So Covolan continued.

“I started explaining to her about salvation, Jesus and God,” Covolan said, asking Hannah if she understood and if she wanted to receive Jesus as her Savior. Hannah said yes, so Covolan led her in a prayer for salvation.

“We prayed and finished by asking Jesus to come into her heart and save her,” Covolan said.

“That’s it?” Hannah asked, surprised, after praying. “I want to know more.”

By this time, the pastor’s wife, Christy, had noticed what was happening and approached the women. She motioned for her husband to come over.

When Hannah told the group she did not have a Bible but could “manage it on her phone,” Cole remembered something.

After determining that Hannah spoke Mandarin, the pastor rushed to his office and returned with a Chinese/English Bible that “just happened” to be on his shelf. He gave it to Hannah, explaining how to start reading in the Gospel of John.

Hannah’s joy was evident as she opened the scripture for the very first time.

“This is how God works. When we humble ourselves and ask God to show up and do amazing things, he goes completely off script and does things that only he can get the glory for,” the pastor said

“Think about it, what are the odds that a Chinese immigrant would attend our church on a Sunday night when we have the IMB executive vice president leading a prayer conference … we don’t normally have Sunday evening activities … where she would receive Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior and get a Bible in her Mandarin language collected on an IMB mission trip years ago?” he told the Texan.

That shows the “true power of prayer,” he added.

Maria has since invited Hannah and Amy to church events and also fellowshipped with them in their home. The women continue to attend the church.

Hannah is active in a connect group, ESL classes and weekly church events. She participated as a helper in the fall festival and collected items for needy families at Christmas. She continues to read her Bible and have gospel conversations regularly, the pastor said.




Litton, Wright visit storm-ravaged town, see Southern Baptist cooperation ‘at its best’

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (BP) – Southern Baptist leaders prayed with pastors and residents last week as they continued recovering from the deadly line of storms that stretched across the Midwest and South leaving more than 75 fatalities. According to the National Weather Service, at least 41 tornadoes with winds of up to 190 mph cut a 200-mile path across Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee on Dec. 10 and 11.

“It shocking to see the devastation,” said Bryant Wright, Send Relief president. “I can’t imagine what those folks experienced by going to bed one night and having the storms pounce on them.”

Jamie Ward, co-lead pastor at Hillvue Heights Church in Bowling Green, took Wright, Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton and Sam Porter, national director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief with Send Relief, to an area where two entire families were killed on one street and dozens were left homeless.

“We just appreciate Send Relief, the Southern Baptist Convention and the help you all are bringing,” Ward said. “You all are certainly bringing physical help, but you’re bringing spiritual help as well.”

Litton said reaching physical needs opens the door to speak to spiritual needs.

“The Gospel impact of relief is amazing because satisfying an immediate need helps to open the heart,” Litton said. “This is something we’re proud of as Southern Baptists, in the right sense, and we should be.”

Litton hopes Southern Baptists will be encouraged to continue to give and support those affected by the storms.

“This is our life together as Southern Baptists at its best,” Litton said. “Out here, everyone knows we need each other from the associational, state level to the national level.”

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Director Ron Crow finds hope in knowing that Southern Baptists will continue to respond as the recovery moves forward.

“We’re expecting the recovery process to be several months and the rebuild process to last several years,” Crow said. “Our disaster relief teams will keep coming, and then the rebuild teams will begin coming. That is seeing the Cooperative Program lived out in real life.”

Todd Gray, Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer, is overwhelmed by the support pouring in from across the SBC.

“The ministry and compassion is just incredible,” Gray said. “Right now in Kentucky, DR workers from all across the country are wanting to come in. They’re ready the minute they get the word go. All we can say is thank you.”

Litton said tragedies can show what’s truly important.

“It reminds us that material things are easy to destroy, but the basic necessities of life – which are emotional and spiritual – matter most,” Litton said. “My hope is and dream is that people will look on Southern Baptists and say, ‘Oh, how they love one another and how they love others.’”

Wright said it is the love of Christ that opens the door for the Gospel of Christ.

“All of this is about us working together as brothers and sisters in Christ to share the love of Christ tangibly,” Wright said, “but also to share the Gospel as opportunities arise.”

To donate to Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts, go to

Additional evidence of Roman crucifixion identified in England

CAMBRIDGESHIRE, England (BP) – Additional evidence for the ancient practice of Roman crucifixion dating back to the time period of Jesus has been identified in a skeleton found in Cambridgeshire, England.

The skeleton, originally discovered in 2017, belonged to a male believed to be aged 25 to 35 at the time of this death and contains a heel bone with a nail going through it. It was found in a cemetery around a newly discovered Roman settlement located in Fenstanton, a village in Cambridgeshire.

The nail, which sticks out a few centimeters on each side of the heel bone, was initially noticed shortly after the discovery, but media reports say the association with crucifixion was not determined until recently.

The crucifixion determination was made by scholar Corinne Duhig, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge. The details and explanation of the conclusion was published in British Archaeology magazine on Dec. 8.

Jim Parker, professor of biblical interpretation at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, described the determination as an “important, legitimate find,” that dates about 100 years after the life of Jesus (somewhere between A.D. 130 and A.D. 360).

Parker also serves as the executive director of the Michael and Sara Moskau Institute of Archaeology at New Orleans, and has been on many archaeological digs throughout the world.

Although he praised the great work of the archaeologists associated with this find, he disagreed slightly with some of the conclusions made regarding it.

Some concluded the discovery is the greatest physical evidence of crucifixion in the world. Parker said although the find provides great additional evidence for Roman crucifixion, other older discoveries provide even stronger evidence.

In addition to this current find, there are two other examples of documented and verified evidence for crucifixion. One example is a heel bone discovered in Gavello, Italy, in 2018 with a hole in it, but Parker says the strongest evidence comes from a 1968 discovery in Egypt.

A heel bone with a nail in the exact same position as the one found in Cambridgeshire, was found in Israel in 1968 and is now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Parker explained the heel bone discovered in 1968 is well preserved, contains an actual inscription of the man who was crucified and has more overall detail than the Cambridgeshire find.

Regardless, though, he said this recent determination in Cambridgeshire helps reinforce the idea that Roman crucifixion likely resembled what is described in the Bible.

“It’s more evidence of crucifixion and it’s consistent with what we’ve already found,” Parker said. “This is just another piece of information we have that shows us that what we have in Scripture is very accurate.”

He elaborated that the concept of killing a human using a tree or wooden cross by piercing their hands and feet is talked about in both the Old and New Testaments.

In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, a reference is made to capital punishment in the form of hanging someone on a tree, and Paul later references this same passage in Galatians 3:13.

Additionally, Parker added he and many theologians interpret Psalm 22 to be King David vividly describing a prophetic vision he is seeing of Jesus on the cross.

He concluded that no archaeology discovery could ever eliminate the need for faith within Christianity, but such discoveries do provide us with more confidence in the accuracy of Scripture.

“Much of what we have in the Bible is theological, which by its very nature is ideas, and you’re never going to go out and excavate ideas in the sense of empirical evidence,” Parker said.

“But when take the historical and biblical account and begin to put that in an archaeological context, direct evidence that is found can support the text and verify it with empirical data.

“It helps Christians as they read the Word and see the Word to be able to do that.”

Connections build mission partners, says IMB missionary to Panama

NASHVILLE (BP) – Tim Louderback sees connections as a key means to taking the gospel throughout the world. For 12 years, the International Mission Board missionary and his wife, Tina, have been serving in Panama to tell others about Christ and see them grow in a relationship with Him.

The Louderbacks have also worked toward that end through America’s Connect, an effort that helps American churches become more familiar with missionary opportunities in Panama. Potentially, those short-term opportunities can result in long-term commitments to the region.

Louderback recently shared one story illustrating those possibilities in an interview with Baptist Press editor Brandon Porter.

“Three years ago, a pastor led his team to serve alongside us,” he said. “Now, he’s on the field with us in the Americas, all because he stepped out and was obedient to take his church and serve on the mission field. He walked through the doors as God led [him].”

Every bit of assistance helps in sharing the gospel with the 1.6 million people in the Louderbacks’ ministry area. The family was featured on Day 1 of the Week of Prayer for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and is extremely appreciative of Southern Baptists support for their work.

“Thank you for giving,” he said. “Whether that is through your praying or giving as an individual, family or church, thank you.”

Those contributions helped support the Louderback family in raising their four children on the mission field. Three of them are grown and living back in the U.S., while their youngest, at 17 years old, still serves with them on the mission field.

America’s Connect, he said, can be beneficial for those wanting to ease into a missions experience. Going on an international trip can be difficult, depending on the location. Panama, however, is a place where many of those challenges don’t factor.

There is always some level of culture shock with international travel. But in Panama, there are no worries about parasites in the drinking water, according to Louderback. Also, commerce takes place with U.S. money. Close proximity to the U.S. also helps.

“We can take a volunteer team that arrives on a Saturday and flies out on [the following] Saturday and engage in seven or eight different ministries in that week,” Louderback pointed out. “Taking in the culture means they utilize what they’ve learned and plug it back into their own neighborhood, into their own backyard and into their own ministries.”

Missions brings a reciprocal benefit for those taking part, he added.

“When we go and serve, we leave the four walls of our church … and always look at how we can make an impact. But it really comes down to [that] we are impacted as well.”

Louderback has witnessed tremendous results when Southern Baptist groups have connected with local Christians, such as the 42 new believers he saw come forward in a week’s time. Stateside Christians have already scheduled trips to the country in 2022.

Teams that serve alongside the Louderbacks will get an opportunity to take part in various ministries during their time in Panama City. At the end of the week, Louderback has asked for members to write down the one that connected with them most. Typically, the answers vary greatly.

“One ministry may impact a person in a certain way,” he said. “Another impacts someone else differently. That’s God working in our lives. As we step out of our four walls and say, ‘Hey, let’s go serve,’ we get in on what He’s doing.”

Pew: Third of U.S. adults ID as ‘nones’ as Protestants decrease

WASHINGTON (BP) –Nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults are religiously unaffiliated, 10 percentage points higher than a decade ago, Pew Research Center said in its latest survey.

Protestants suffered the greatest decrease in affiliation, as Catholics held steady.

“The secularizing shifts evident in American society so far in the 21st century show no signs of slowing,” Pew said in releasing the findings Dec. 14. “The recent declines within Christianity are concentrated among Protestants.”

Specifically, 29 percent of U.S. adults identify as religiously unaffiliated, or “nones,” including atheists, agnostics or those who consider themselves “nothing in particular” religiously. Nones are up 6 points from five years ago.

Fewer Americans consider themselves Christian – whether Protestant, Catholic, Church of Latter-day Saints or Orthodox Christian – accounting for 63 percent of the population this year, down from 75 percent as recently as a decade ago. Christians outpace nones at a ratio just over two-to-one, a substantial decrease from the five-to-one ratio in 2007 when Pew began surveying religious identity.

In 2007, 78 percent of U.S. adults identified as Christians, compared to 16 percent who identified as nones.

Protestants comprise 40 percent of U.S. adults, down 4 percentage points from five years ago, and 10 points lower than a decade ago, Pew said. Nondenominational Christians, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and many other denominations are categorized as Protestant.

Catholics, who decreased between 2007 and 2014, have held steady the past seven years. Catholics comprise 21 percent of U.S. adults today, identical to the share in 2014.

In a closer look at Protestants, Pew found that 24 percent of U.S. adults described themselves as born-again or evangelical, down 6 percentage points from 2007. Concurrently, the share of U.S. adults who identify as Protestant “but not born-again or evangelical” decreased from 22 percent to 16 percent.

In other survey findings, Pew said:

– Americans are praying less. Fewer than half of U.S. adults, 45 percent, said they pray daily, compared to 58 percent who said they prayed daily in 2007.

– Nearly a third of U.S. adults, 32 percent, said they seldom or never pray, up from 18 percent in 2007.
Four in 10 U.S. adults, 41 percent, consider religion very important in their lives, compared to 56 percent in 2007. The percent of adults who consider religion very important to them has decreased 4 percentage points since the 2020 survey.

– Church attendance has not changed substantially over the past year. This year, 31 percent of U.S. adults said they attend religious services (aside from weddings and funerals) monthly or more frequently, compared to 33 percent in 2020. A quarter, 25 percent, attend service at least weekly, compared to 26 percent last year.

– More than half, 51 percent, of Protestants attend church services at least monthly or more, compared to 35 percent of Catholics.

Pew conducted its National Public Opinion Reference Survey (NPORS) May 29-Aug. 25 online and by mail, including a cross-section of the population. Additional details of the survey sample are available here.

SWBTS alumnus Carter following God wherever he leads

SWBTS Matt Carter Sagemont

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Southwestern News.

“God, wherever You want me to go, whatever You want me to do, I’m Yours.”

These are the words Matt Carter (’06) recalls praying in the cab of his truck somewhere on the side of the road between Texarkana and Dallas. The words may seem simple, but for Carter, who had been wrestling with God and resisting a call to ministry, they represented a future and a direction in his life for which he would never be able to take credit.

“I didn’t know what it was going to look like,” he said. “But I surrendered.”

A college sophomore at Texas A&M at the time, Carter, originally from Athens, Texas, was working a summer job for a construction company and trying desperately to run from a call to ministry. Spending time in prayer while he was driving, Carter remembers specifically telling the Lord, “I don’t want to answer this call.” A moment later, he turned on the radio in his truck and the song playing on the local station was one by Christian artist, Al Denson, titled, “Be the One.”

He heard these words:

Will you be the one
To answer to His call
And will you stand
When those around you fall
Will you be the one
To take His light
Into a darkened world
Tell me will you be the one

Carter didn’t know what his ministry would look like, but he knew, in that moment, he needed to answer the call.

“Wherever You want me to go, whatever You want me to do, I’m Yours.”


While he continued working on a Bachelor of Arts in history at Texas A&M, Carter saw firsthand the power of the Word of God faithfully preached from the pulpit by his pastor, Chris Osborne (’77, ’19). Osborne, who now serves as professor of preaching and pastoral ministry at Southwestern Seminary, spent 33 years as the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Bryan-College Station, Texas, and throughout his ministry he has mentored many who now stand in pulpits around the state and the nation, weekly walking their flock verse-by-verse through the Word of God. Osborne would also be instrumental in pointing Carter toward Southwestern Seminary for his theological training.

“I had never heard really anointed, biblically-based expositional preaching,” Carter said, reflecting on his four years at Central Baptist. “[It] profoundly changed me. So, when I’m thinking about moving to Austin, going near a university, how am I going to preach? I’m going to do it. I’m going to do the same thing.”


Carter planted The Austin Stone Community Church with his wife, Jen, in Austin in 2002. They recognized the strategic value of planting a church in the artistic, cultural, and capital of Texas and had a deliberate focus on what Carter called a built in “mission sending agency” represented by the college students coming into Austin to study at the University of Texas.

“Every four to five years, you’ve literally got 60,000 people that are coming in, some of the best and brightest. And then they’re going out.”

He remembers being a young church planter, “scared to death and poor,” who would often pray, “God, would You do something so significant that when we look back on it, years from now, that the only explanation for how it happened is that You did it?”

The Lord answered that prayer.

The Austin Stone, which began in the Carters’ apartment in south Austin, now meets in six locations around the city. In its nineteen-year history, the church has sent more than 300 full time missionaries out to unreached people groups, baptized thousands of new believers, launched a training institute for church leaders, and faithfully exposited the Word of God to an average weekly gathering of nearly 8,000 people.

“People told me I was nuts,” Carter remembers when he launched “The Stone” with a plan of preaching expositional sermons and simply explaining the texts of Scripture. “[They] said, ‘There’s no way you can go into a city like Austin and just preach verse-by-verse through the Bible and reach the culture.’ And they’re wrong.”

Impacted by the model of expositional preaching at Central Baptist, and undergirded by the preparation for ministry he received while he was earning his Master of Divinity degree at Southwestern Seminary, Carter saw no better thing to bring with him to reach the city of Austin than the truths of Scripture.

“There was actually a lot of movement in that time of people saying, ‘Hey, you don’t need to go to seminary,’” Carter recalls. “But somebody told me that they thought the best of both worlds was not to go to seminary alone, or not to just have a job and never go seminary, but to go to seminary while you have a job.”

The world is here and it needs churches that preach the Bible and live on mission.

Carter grew up a Southern Baptist and admits that many of the men who influenced him over the years helped him narrow down the choice of where he would pursue his theological training. “A lot of the guys that were the previous generation that I respected and loved went to Southwestern and Chris Osborne went to Southwestern, so that just was the natural choice for me. If you’re going to go, you’re going to Southwestern.”

A strong emphasis on expositional preaching at Southwestern Seminary made the choice a natural fit for the preaching style he wanted to cultivate at The Austin Stone.

“I’m convinced that the Bible is the most relevant book that’s ever been written. If it’s true, that it is living and active, and it is, then it’s living and active for every culture, and for every generation,” Carter said. “I really believe that the only guarantee that our preaching possesses the power of God is when we’re preaching the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God and I don’t care what culture you’re in, or what city; I’m convinced that that’s the way to go.”

Carter served as lead pastor of The Austin Stone for 18 years, but one night after a worship service, he sensed a stirring in his heart and the Lord asking the question, “Matt, are you ready if I ask you to do a fresh work somewhere else?”

His answer was the same as the day he surrendered to ministry, “Wherever You want me to go, whatever You want me to do, I’m Yours.”


On November 24, 2019, John D. Morgan (’66) addressed Sagemont Church in Houston for the last time as the senior pastor. His message to those in attendance, watching online, or listening by radio was the same message he had preached for more than 53 years in the church he helped found: follow Jesus.

“I learned a long time ago,” Morgan said, “if Sagemont is going to be in the future what it needs to be, all of us have to get on board to the fact that we will follow Jesus.”

The stately pastor stood behind an ornately carved wooden pulpit with the words “Jesus is Here” adorning it, and, with his soothing, unhurried south Texas accent, implored men and women within the sound of his voice to give their lives to Christ. It seemed the most appropriate way to bookend his ministry at the church that had grown from a few dozen people when he was called there fresh out of Southwestern Seminary in 1966, to more than 21,000 members in 2019. He also reassured his flock that God had a great future for Sagemont Church if they continue to follow Jesus.

“God is up to something right now. I wish I could get up here with boldness and tell you what’s going to happen. I don’t have a clue. I don’t know what another day is going to bring,” Morgan shared. “But I know this: God has a plan.”

God’s plan would ultimately lead the pastor search committee at Sagemont Church to call Matt Carter as the church’s second pastor in March 2020.


Denny Autrey (’84, ’87, ’13), a retired dean and professor of Southwestern Seminary, chaired the pastor search team at Sagemont Church where he has served as a faithful member for 17 years. Speaking to the church when the announcement was made that Carter was the pastoral candidate for Sagemont, Autrey referenced countless “God moments” that occurred between the search team and Carter.

One such moment was in relation to the search team’s first meeting with Carter in Austin. They selected a hotel for the interview and booked a conference room for Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Restrictions and shut-downs related to the COVID-19 pandemic began to take place on that same day in the state of Texas. But, the search team and Carter had the exact number of people in it to still be eligible for their meeting in the conference room under mandated COVID-protocols.

Another notable “God moment” Autrey relayed to the church came when the search committee heard Carter share the story about his call to ministry and the Al Denson song that played on the radio in his truck. While he was telling the story, Autrey reached over and calmly placed his hand on Carter’s shoulder. When he had finished telling the story, Autrey asked him a question: “Matt, do you realize that Al Denson grew up in Sagemont Church?”

Denson came to faith as a sixth-grader in the youth service at Sagemont and was one of many called to ministry under the guidance and leadership of Morgan and others on staff at Sagemont.

“Sagemont had a part in your story before you ever had a part in our story,” Autrey told him.


When he accepted the call to pastor at Sagemont Church in March 2020, Carter told the church that his entire philosophy of ministry could be summed up in this: “I live my life to exalt Jesus Christ. I want the name of Jesus to be exalted above my name, above the name of our church. I want Him to be the star of Sagemont.”

Carter points to Ephesians 3:20-21 as a life verse that he has kept at the forefront of his ministry all the years he has served. His hope and prayer for Sagemont in the years to come is that God will continue to do “far more abundantly” than all they ask.

One of the many core values of Sagemont Church that resonated with Carter as he was seeking the Lord and praying about accepting the invitation as senior pastor was their commitment to being debt-free as a church. As Sagemont Church grew in its early years, the church initially took on debt to build new buildings. Ten years into their existence as a church, Morgan was convicted by the Lord that they should cease all borrowing and work to get out of any debt. The church paid off all its debts in 14 months and moved forward using a cash-only method for all future construction projects.

Sagemont Church is one of the top contributors to the Cooperative Program and the top-giving church in the state of Texas. Carter sees the correlation between their commitment to be wise financial stewards and their gracious generosity to local, national, and global missions.

“There’s a direct connection between being debt-free, not having to spend an enormous amount of money paying down building debt, and your ability to be Spirit-led in how you direct your finances,” Carter explained. “When we’re debt-free as a church that really creates a very clear pathway from the giving of the dollar into the offering plate into the Kingdom of God.”

Giving through the Cooperative Program, Carter recognizes the distinctive nature of the Southern Baptist Convention and notes that it has the “greatest seminaries in the world. You’ve got the greatest missions structure and organization in the world. You’ve got, in my opinion, the best national missions organization in the world. And you’ve got a theological document that is precise enough to keep us together, but broad enough to let us have some freedom there.”

Looking forward to the future Carter recognizes Sagemont Church’s location in Houston as one that God has uniquely positioned and prepared as the population booms all around them. The Houston Metropolitan area is projected to overtake Chicago as the third largest U.S. city in the next 8-10 years.

According to recent census data, 1 in 4 Houstonians were born outside the U.S. and it reflects greater ethnic and racial diversity than the nation as a whole. Sagemont Church and its leadership are already making an impact in their city and around the world for Jesus. “The world is here,” Carter said. “And it needs churches that preach the Bible and live on mission.”

Carter is poised to see God do “far more abundantly” than they can ever imagine at Sagemont Church as they continue to follow Jesus.

Adam Covington is senior editor of Southwestern News.

GuideStone working to help storms victims

DALLAS (BP) – GuidStone is working to give greater support and access to Southern Baptist churches, pastors and retirees affected by the storms that swept across the Midwest and south over the weekend.

“During this time, GuideStone has made it easier to obtain prescription refills, even if a refill would not normally be authorized. Participants in GuideStone’s PPO health plans are already able to access Teladoc at no charge, which may be a benefit to those displaced by the tornado outbreak. Any members who need to speak to a doctor for acute, non-emergency care can,” the entity released through a press statement Wednesday.

Churches served by GuideStone’s life and health plans that are unable to pay premiums, remit contributions or payments should contact 1-844-INS-GUIDE (1-844-467-4843) for more information, according to the release.

Mission:Dignity staff have reached out to all participants in the affected states to determine needs. They are asking Southern Baptists to contact them by email if a participant needs help.

“At GuideStone, we exist to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “During times like these, we seek to serve as Christ’s hand extended to our participants and the churches we serve across these states and are joining with our Southern Baptist family in praying for all affected by this storm.”

The release also offered help for additional benefits:

Where applicable, full Protection Section benefits will be continued, and the requirement that retirement contributions must be made for continuous months will be waived for individuals whose church has been impacted. While GuideStone encourages churches to resume making retirement plan contributions, in the event of a death or disability, up to 12 months Protection Section credits will be granted, even if there are no retirement plan contributions. GuideStone does not need to be contacted for this relief, as it will be applied when the applicant’s death or disability is determined by GuideStone.

Distributions, rollovers and loan repayments will be handled in accordance with IRS guidance.

Wire transfer fees and overnight mail fees to expedite payments to the affected areas will be waived.

Participants should call the GuideStone Customer Solutions Center at 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433) in order to expedite plan distributions and loans.

“All of us at GuideStone are joining with others throughout the Southern Baptist Convention to lift up the millions affected by this tornado outbreak,” said Hance Dilbeck, Guidestone president-elect. “We are committed to serving our participants during these days.”

‘Culture of evangelism’ precedes massive harvest at Champion Forest

HOUSTON–Champion Forest Baptist Church is having a remarkable Christmas season.

The week of Dec. 8-12 the church hosted between 25,000-30,000 people for eight performances of its Christmas Spectacular pageant. The presentation of the Christmas story was put on by performers and crew of about 600 church members and featured sheep, donkeys, a camel, and an elephant bearing a wise man from the East.

The week-long event also turned out to be an evangelistic harvest. Of the 30,000 or so people to attend the Spectacular, more than 1,100 made a first-time decision to trust and follow Jesus.

“The church has been doing the Christmas Spectacular for years, but this is my first one,” CFBC pastor Jarrett Stephens said. “It’s just amazing. When we put out on social media that there were more than 1,100 decisions, those are people who actually gave us their information and we were able to put a gift bag in their hands.”

After giving a gospel invitation, the pastor invited people to show their cell phone lights in the darkened auditorium to indicate they had accepted Christ during the evening. Those who responded were then invited to bring a decision card included with the program to a collection table manned by staff members who had prayer with them.

The attendance alone was notable, perhaps reflecting a desire on the part of church members and neighbors to resume Christmas traditions after a year off. The church preceded the Spectacular with 25 days of prayer, asking for lives to be touched during the pageant.

“I met so many people who wanted to introduce me to friends, to neighbors, to clients that they brought,” Stephens said, “The biggest thing [regarding attendance] was our people inviting people who didn’t know Christ. There is a can-do spirit in our people, and there is an evangelistic fervor in our people.”

One unusual aspect of the presentation was that two of the eight performances were in Spanish. The choir learned the music in Spanish as well as English for those two performances. The church recorded 430 professions of faith in the Spanish-language performances.

Even the dress rehearsal was a harvest.

“We invited all of our widows, as well as partner ministries such as a special needs ministry and a ministry to save girls out of trafficking,” Stephens said. “Five young women accepted Christ during this dress rehearsal presentation.”

Within days of the final performance, the church was following up with those who professed Christ. Each of them received a call from a ministry team member within 48 hours.

But Christmas isn’t here yet; the work continues.

“This morning [Dec. 14]; we met as a staff and went and canvassed neighborhoods, passing out 3,000 door hangers inviting people to our Christmas Eve service,” Stephens said, “That’s the heart of our church,” he added, “I told our staff today: If you go after people that you’ll never get, God will give you the people you never went after.”

"If you go after people that you’ll never get, God will give you the people you never went after."

Responses such as that at the Christmas Spectacular flow out of the church’s established culture of evangelism; Champion Forest is celebrating a record number of baptisms in 2021.

“Right in the middle of COVID, we’re having more baptisms than ever before,” Stephens said. But even before he assumed the pulpit one year ago, the church long had a missional focus.

“The church has always been evangelistic at heart,” Stephens said, praising his predecessors.

Even so, Champion Forest is currently experiencing an uptick in baptisms of adults, youth and children of historic proportions. Until 2021, the highest number baptized in a year was 577 in 2017. By early December 2021, Champion Forest had already baptized 628 and expected the number to swell to more than 700 before the new year, Stephens said.

“Coming out of COVID, I think we reached a lot of new people,” he explained.

A special baptism service scheduled for Dec. 26 is expected to draw many, as people are together in town for the holidays and those baptized will likely want to share the experience with loved ones.

The service illustrates a Champion Forest philosophy: “You replicate what you celebrate.”


Champion Forest Christmas Spectacular
A child marvels at Santa's flying sleigh as it enters the stage during Champion Forest's recent Christmas Spectacular. CHAMPION FOREST PHOTO

“We celebrate life change around here. Our people are very receptive. If someone comes forward at the end of a service to receive Christ, our church is applauding them. If somebody is being baptized, when they come up out of the water, it’s like you are at a concert. They are clapping, applauding, whistling,” Stephens said.

All baptism candidates are even given a “Never the Same” t-shirt for the service that they can keep and wear in the community.

“The Bible says all of heaven rejoices when one sinner comes to repentance. That’s what we tell them. We want to join heaven and celebrate these life changes,” he added.

The church encourages a culture of evangelism, Stephens noted, commending not only the church members who invite people who don’t know Christ to church, but also staff and volunteers who work with those who make decisions.

Church members know their unsaved friends will hear a clear presentation of the gospel at each service and will have the opportunity to respond. Teams of volunteer encouragers answer questions and pray with those wishing to make decisions for Christ, while church staff follows up to encourage baptism and participation in life groups.

Ultimately, however, the glory for the increase in baptisms goes to God, Stephens said: “No question. It is God’s hand of favor and blessing. We give him all the glory truly.”