FLINT—Julio Arriola is returning to a very familiar landscape.
Once he officially puts his feet back on Texas soil, he will find the need for the gospel is greater than it has ever been.
Arriola, 45, has accepted the call to serve as the first director of Send Network SBTC – a church planting partnership between the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC). The SBTC Executive Board voted unanimously to approve the partnership with NAMB in August and Arriola was introduced to the board at Wednesday’s Executive Board meeting.
Arriola will be employed by NAMB but will work out of the SBTC offices in Grapevine. The new partnership will allow the SBTC to lean on NAMB’s extensive knowledge and experience in the areas of church planting coaching, care and training for planters and funding.
“We are incredibly excited to welcome Julio to the NAMB family. His extensive experience and leadership in church planting will undoubtedly add momentum to Send Network and SBTC’s church planting efforts,” said Kevin Ezell, president of NAMB. “In order to produce high-capacity planters, we need high-capacity leaders — like Julio — who will do whatever it takes to ensure church planters are adequately prepared, trained and mobilized.”
Arriola will lead a partnership that will allow the SBTC to extend its church planting efforts by utilizing NAMB resources in the areas of assessment, training, coaching, caring for and supporting church planters statewide.
“We are very excited to be back in Texas,” Arriola said. “We love Texas. But as great as Texas is, it also has a great need for Jesus, and planting churches is still the most effective way to reach people with the life-giving message of Jesus — the gospel.”
The Mexico native brings an impressive – and practical – set of tools to the SBTC’s growing network of church planters. Arriola has vocational experience at churches of varied sizes, he has planted and pastored a church that is now the largest in Guadalajara, Mexico (a city of 1.5 million people), and he is considered an influential leader among a Hispanic population that is one of the fastest-growing demographics in Texas.
Arriola most recently served as Executive Director for Hispanic Relations and Mobilization for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee in Nashville, a post he held since December 2019. While there, he worked to develop and implement strategies for maximum involvement and participation of Hispanic churches and church leaders across the SBC and its network of cooperating churches. His duties also included mobilizing Hispanic churches in key areas, including evangelism and church planting — in harmony with NAMB’s Send Network and Send Relief strategies.
“In this monumental moment, God is bringing the world to Texas,” SBTC Executive Director Dr. Nathan Lorick said. “We are incredibly excited that God led Julio Arriola to come alongside of the SBTC through the Send Network SBTC. I believe we are going to see more churches planted than ever before.”
The need for church planting in Texas is immense. Of its 30 million residents, it is estimated that 19 million are lost. According to SBTC figures, 1,000 people move to Austin weekly, nearly 2,000 move to Houston weekly, and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex sees nearly 3,000 new residents each week.
These new residents are increasingly diverse. Texas is home to more than 400 people groups that speak over 300 languages, making the state one of the most diverse clusters of people in the world. Arriola said he recognizes that the harvest in Texas is plentiful, and yet the workers are still far too few. All the more reason, he said, to “call out the called” and get all ethnicities involved.
“Church planting is challenging – it requires lots of prayer, work, money, planning, training and committed people to do God’s work,” Arriola said. “So having this partnership will allow us to stand alongside our churches and their planters to provide a path to plant healthy, biblical churches. NAMB has developed assessments, training and strategies that are second-to-none and we are ready to make all of this available through this partnership.”
Arriola’s Texas ties are already strong. He and his wife, Carla, were married here and his three children (ages 19, 17 and 15) were born in the Houston area. Arriola was ordained at Segunda Iglesia Bautista in Rosenberg in 2003 and, following a nearly two-year stint serving there as youth pastor, became worship leader at Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land. He also became a U.S. citizen while living in Texas and earned his Master of Theological Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in May 2020.