SBTC’s Missional Ministries leader is longtime Texas pastor with ‘heartbeat’ for missions

“I wake up each morning thanking God that I was given an opportunity ... to serve as senior strategist for Missional Ministries—which is my heartbeat,” said Tony Mathews, who pastored North Garland Fellowship for three decades. SBTC PHOTO

GRAPEVINE—In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, leadership at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention introduced a re-visioning of the convention. One of the prominent changes in that work was the merger of its missions and evangelism departments.

Though the work of these ministries was focused in one department at the convention’s founding, they existed in separate ministry areas for most of the past two decades. In 2021, each department was without a director after Shane Pruitt (evangelism) joined the staff of the North American Mission Board and Doug Hixson (missions) resigned to plant a church in Colorado.

The re-visioning of the convention called for a rejoining of missions and evangelism. As the outgoing executive director, Jim Richards, and his newly elected successor, Nathan Lorick, sought a leader for the new Missional Ministries department, both agreed that Tony Mathews—a 30-year pastor at North Garland Fellowship—was the man for the job. Mathews initially agreed to lead the ministry part-time, on an interim basis, starting in January 2021. He became the full-time senior strategist for Missional Ministries in March 2022.

In addition to being well-known and respected among the convention’s churches, Mathews’ heart to lead North Garland Fellowship to be a missional church made him a natural fit for the role.

“As a pastor, not only did I fall in love with missions, but I became a believer that every pastor (at some time in his ministry) should go on a mission trip,” Mathews said. “Doing so sets us on fire … to reach people in the state of Texas and globally.”

Mathews credits an SBTC trip to South Africa as being especially significant in his life. Through the trip, North Garland Fellowship adopted the “people of the thorns” people group from Madagascar. North Garland members have been extensively involved in other locations across the globe over the past decades as well.

Mathews (seen at right) takes a picture with pastors and others on a mission trip to India earlier in his career. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Mathews’ missionary heart continues to be evidenced as he leads the convention to engage in partnerships in the U.S. and internationally.

“We have recently entered into a cooperative agreement with the Nevada Baptist Convention and the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico,” he said. “Trips have been planned and SBTC pastors and leaders will be assisting the churches of these conventions as they fulfill their mission. Also, our Reach India mission is currently active, and we are exploring missional opportunities in Western Europe.”

Through his role in Missional Ministries, Mathews envisions encouraging and equipping the convention’s churches to reach the lost in Texas and around the world.

“Many of our churches are very involved in evangelism and missions,” he said. “They are doing a tremendous job. Our goal is to assist those churches that have little to no missional outreach program and to motivate the churches that are currently engaged to continue.”

Mathews’ department oversees a wide and diverse ministry area: missions mobilization, personal evangelism, interfaith evangelism, student ministry, collegiate ministry, people groups, disaster relief, Asian and Korean fellowships, and the Black Church Network. He also serves as needed as a staff liaison for the convention’s partnership with the North American Mission Board’s Send Network for the purpose of church planting in Texas.

“Our Missional Ministries support staff, ministry staff, part-time workers, and consultants are a group of amazing servants,” Mathews said. “They make leading at the SBTC fun and exciting, and without them, we could not and would not be effective. I’m grateful for each of them.”

Emphases spearheaded through Missional Ministries include a new evangelism resource, Who’s Your One? Advancing the Movement, written by Matt Queen, professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The tool is meant to move individuals from praying for someone’s salvation to sharing the gospel with that person.

Queen is one of four SBTC evangelism consultants—a group that also includes Carl Bradford (Southwestern Seminary), Ryan Fontenot (RAGE Ministries), and Nathan Lino (First Baptist Church of Forney senior pastor). Mathews says those men are “uniquely gifted” as they encourage, motivate, inspire, and train leaders in evangelism.

While Mathews has decades of service as a pastor in Texas, he describes missions as an engine that drives his ministry.

“It is such an honor to work under the leadership of Dr. Nathan Lorick and to serve alongside an incredibly gifted and talented team here at the SBTC,” Mathews said. “I wake up each morning thanking God that I was given an opportunity to be a part of the restructure and to serve as senior strategist for Missional Ministries—which is my heartbeat.”


Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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