Author: Jayson Larson

Creech retires after 3 decades of service to Jacksonville College

Creech Jacksonville College

JACKSONVILLE—Jacksonville College Director of Distance Education Michael Paul Creech was honored at a retirement reception held at the Central Baptist Church Youth Building in October.
The whole college community – including administration, faculty, staff, and alumni – attended the event to honor Creech’s 29 years of dedicated service to the college mission of “Challenging Minds and Transforming Lives.”

“We are so grateful for the tremendous contribution that Mike has made to Jacksonville College,” Jacksonville College President Joe Lightner said. “Mike’s choosing to invest his life into reaching students for Christ is an inspiration to our Jacksonville College family.”

“Mike truly left his mark on Jacksonville College,” said Mike Smith, the college’s former president. “He was more than just an employee; he was a friend and servant of our Lord. No one was more knowledgeable and possessed a servant spirit than him, working many hours behind the scenes and on weekends and late at night so that the college could have the best in technology.”

Creech joins a long line of Jacksonville College employees whose lives have left a legacy of sacrifice while fulfilling the mission of the college. He began teaching at the college in August 1992 and subsequently served as Business and Computer Science Department Chair, Chief Information Officer, and the first Director of Distance Education. In the latter position, he laid the foundation for the distance education program.

His significant contributions to the advancement of technology at the college include leading his students to create the first website of any college in the East Texas area. He guided the college in choosing and implementing the Empower student information system, which allows online registration and tuition payment. He also implemented the college’s first Learning Management System, paving the way for course materials to be made available online – an invaluable benefit when Covid-19 forced colleges to go online.

Creech served numerous other leadership roles during his nearly 30-year career at the college. He was on the leadership teams for the 1999, 2009, and 2019 Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College (SACSCOC), the regional association for the accreditation of degree-granting for higher education. Serving as the Quality Enhancement Plan advisor, he provided the QEP Leadership Team assistance for “Going the Distance with Distance Education,” a plan to guide the college’s educational focus over the next 10 years.

Colleagues expressed deep admiration for Creech, commenting on his patient instructions as he assisted faculty and staff with technological needs. “Mike never let me know that he was frustrated because of my technology deficiencies. I require much assistance and patience and Mike always seems glad to give both,” religion instructor Mark Rogers said.

Added Smith: “(Mike) wanted our students and faculty to have the resources they needed. He provided excellent training opportunities, so we were equipped to meet our responsibilities.”

SWBTS-themed license plates approved by Texas DMV

SWBTS license plate

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) granted approval for production of a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary-themed license plate, pending 200 pre-orders by May 9, 2022, the school’s administration announced.

“I’m delighted that we are on the cusp of the Dome having a home on Texas license plates all across the Lone Star State,” said President Adam W. Greenway. “I urge Southwesterners and friends of the seminary in Texas to show their support for our institution by pre-ordering their plates today.”

The license plates, which can be personalized with up to six characters, include the iconic dome of the B.H. Carroll Memorial Building on the Fort Worth campus on a blue background. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends and supporters of Southwestern Seminary with registered vehicles in Texas are eligible to pre-order the license plates on the Texas DMV website.

The plates were approved for production following a six-month process that included verifying interest through expressions of public demand and a submission of a license plate design that met the state’s standards of legibility, reflectivity, and graphics, and approval of the plates from the Texas DMV Board during a public meeting. Having been approved for production, 200 pre-orders are required within 180 days to start production of the plates.

The specialty license plates can be ordered for as little as $50 for a one-year term and personalized license plates can receive numerous discounts when pre-ordered for multi-year terms. If 200 Southwestern Seminary-themed license plates are not pre-ordered within the defined time period, the Texas DMW procedures dictate the process must begin again.

The Southwestern Seminary-themed license plates allow the school to have an enhanced presence throughout the state of Texas, where the seminary has served Texas churches and associations since its founding in Waco in 1908. The seminary moved to its present location in Fort Worth in 1910.

Pastor, sharpen your axe

Sharpen your axe Tony Wolfe

“If the axe is dull, and one does not sharpen its edge, then one must exert more strength; however, the advantage of wisdom is that it brings success.” — Ecclesiastes 10:10 (CSB)

My grandfather, Julian Burt McGee, was a strong and resilient man. He was fully ambidextrous whether writing a letter or swinging an axe—the kind of man who could chew up a few pennies and spit out a barbed wire fence. At least that’s how I remember him. I remember watching him chop wood out back, swinging his axe with the left side of his body and then the right: one fluid motion with no hitch of hesitation between his two-handed rhythm. He enjoyed manual labor. It was refreshing for him. And meaningful.

As the wood pile dwindled that day, his swings got heavier and more forceful. Eventually the swings took more out of him than he was able to put back in.

Left. Right. Left. Right. Left …

Then he stopped. The axe was dull.

He carried it to the shed and turned on his grinder. Sharpening the blade was something I believe he enjoyed as much as swinging the axe. He may have called it a labor of necessity, but he treated it like a work of art. He was precise. Careful. Steady. And the finished product was something to be admired. He headed back to the stack of wood and started swinging again. The rhythm was a little less forced this time. It seemed smooth. And calm.

Church leaders depend on tools of their trade, as well. For pastors, among others, our “axes” are mostly intangible. But they can still be—must still be—regularly sharpened.

Pastor, there are many things in ministry beyond your control that often necessitate the exertion of more strength than normal. But if you are not regularly sharpening your axe, you may be exerting more strength than is necessary. I’m as guilty as you are, often swinging away with painful dutifulness when a quick trip to the shed would promise both a more fluid rhythm and a better cut. Sometimes you need to stop and create space to sharpen your axe. If it is success in your calling you desire, capture the advantage of wisdom by sharpening your axe.

Educational Attainment

Formal education like Bible college and/or seminary is not a requirement for the pastor, but it is a great benefit. Be diligent in pursuing the sharpest edge possible on your Bible knowledge and practical ministry. It can save you precious time and energy in sermon preparation and theological dialogue. Enroll in that seminary class. Read that theology book. Join a cohort. Go to the shed and find a sharpening instrument that works for you. Never stop learning and growing in your understanding of the Bible and practical ministry.

Effective Delivery

I have preached or taught the Bible for more than 20 years. I am better in my delivery today than I was yesterday, but I need to be better tomorrow than I am today. With the gift of technology, we can watch our own sermons and work on one or two things at a time to become more effective in our delivery. If you go to the shed for a little while each week, you can work to eliminate those filler words like “umb” or “right,” refine your stage usage, or cut down on superfluous, distracting gestures. Sharpen that blade. Pick one or two things to work on, master them, then pick a couple more.



If it is success in your calling you desire, capture the advantage of wisdom by sharpening your axe.

Time Efficiency

One of the most common frustrations I hear from pastors is that there is just not enough time in the day. Sermon prep, team meetings, seminary, visitation, unexpected emergencies, and family life all stack on top of one another until the conglomerate log pile is more extensive than any one axe can hope to cut through. But the truth is, we all have the time we need for what God has entrusted to us. Talk to a trusted friend or a leadership coach about time management. Become a meticulous calenderer. Set and keep appointments. Build a regular rhythm into your day. If you keep swinging that dull axe, eventually it will take its toll on your body. Step away and get to the shed.

Leadership Acumen

Many pastors spend years of their lives studying theology, preaching, and practical ministry but never hone their skills in organizational leadership. In five years of state convention work, I can count on one hand the number of pastoral tenures I have watched end negatively because of theological issues. It is almost always a leadership (or a relationship) problem. Read leadership books. Work with a leadership coach. Pursue a business or leadership degree. Take time to map out the organizational structure of your church. Build teams. Empower people. Sharpen your leadership axe or you will not shepherd the flock or multiply the ministry to your greatest potential.

Relational Aptitude

For some pastors it comes naturally, and for others it takes work. That’s okay. We are all wired differently, and that is a gift from God. But no matter your skill set or your spiritual giftedness, you still must learn to love, work with, encourage, equip, and lead real live people. People are weird. Just like you. And it often takes some serious effort—intentional sharpening—for a pastor to raise his relational aptitude to the degree of effectiveness needed in ministry. Read books on relational skills, team-based leadership, and emotional intelligence. Take a personality test and pay attention to how you most naturally interact with others who are like you and others who are different from you. If you don’t sharpen your skills in this area, you will feel like you’re chopping at wood with the wrong end of the axe your whole life long, always swinging but never making a dent.

We all know guys who make pastoring look easy. It’s a smooth stroke from week to week—left, right, left, right. Their Sunday morning sermons are always on point. They have a team of capable leaders at their side whose coordinated synergy is something we have never known. When you see a pastor whose rhythm is good and whose cuts are precise, know two things: (1) he didn’t get there accidentally, and (2) he still has to work to stay sharp.

Pastoring is rewarding work, but it is hard work. Don’t make it harder than it must be. When you’re feeling dull, get to the shed and sharpen your blade. Take care of your tools and learn your own rhythm. This is not a novel concept, and it’s really not all that complicated. This is simply the advantage of wisdom. It brings success.

Cedar Hill church honors pastor, wife by paying off home mortgage

Mike and Beverly Simmons

CEDAR HILL—Luke 16:10 says, “The one who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much ….” Hillcrest Baptist Church feels their pastor, Mike Simmons, has been very faithful and recently showed their appreciation in a significant way.

At a banquet marking he and his wife, Beverly’s, 30 years of service to Hillcrest, church leaders honored the couple by paying off their home mortgage. Dr. Bruno Molina, representing the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, had the honor of presenting Simmons with an appreciation plaque recognizing his work in the community.

Simmons has served as a trustee for the International Mission Board for nine years. He has also led Hillcrest in numerous endeavors to reach the lost and bring them to Christ. He emphasizes church planting and has led his church to being known as a grandfather of various churches that have, themselves, gone on to plant in Romania, Egypt, and Thailand.

Under his leadership, Hillcrest has sent 95 missionaries to spread the gospel globally, including throughout North America. Hillcrest has received various awards for being on the list of the top 100 churches honored for giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Over the years, the generosity of Hillcrest has resulted in the giving of $650,000 to mission work via Lottie Moon and the Cooperative Program.

Hillcrest has been serving its community for more than 100 years (beginning in 1920) and is partnering with the Wyoming Baptist Convention to plant churches. Hillcrest is also planting a church in Southeast Asia among the Palaung people; has a growing Spanish-language fellowship which has an average attendance of over 100 people led by Associate Pastor Misael Rodriguez; and has a Chinese-language fellowship lead by pastor Eugene Zhang which is planting home churches all over the Metroplex.

Simmons has been faithful to God and to the members of the congregation he has been given. He has cared for the flock with love and integrity and has been an authentic shepherd, keeping track of the spiritual life of his sheep (Matthew 18:12). He is a continuous encouragement to the church by truly preaching the Word of God and urging church members to share the gospel, fast and pray, serve each other, give to missions, answer the call to missions, and send missionaries to the field. Simmons’ biggest burden is the urgency of calling the called.

“There is a shortage of pastors, the church needs revival, and we need to reach the lost because it is all about Christ,” he said.

The power behind all Simmons does is based on his love for Christ and his favorite Bible verse: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Simmons has been married to Beverly for 40 years. They have three grown children (also serving the Lord in different capacities) and two grandchildren. Simmons said Beverly has been “an incredible pastor’s wife.” He said she teams with him in everything and is so devoted to the Lord that she made sure each of their children were in church the Sunday after their birth. She is a school teacher, plays the piano, sings in the choir, worked in the children ministry, and teaches Bible studies.

Simmons received a Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Seminary and a Doctorate in Ministry from Newburg Theological Seminary and Bible College.

TERLC makes plea for urgent response against ‘unsuitable’ textbooks


The Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee on Thursday issued an open letter strongly urging the rejection of a handful of proposed school textbooks that include “unsuitable” content for children and teenagers.

The letter, signed by TERLC Chairman Nathan Loudin – pastor of Milwood Baptist Church in Austin – was released in advance of Texas State Board of Education meetings that begin next Tuesday (Nov. 16). The books in question are on the SBOE’s agenda for consideration of approval. Since the SBOE cannot order publishers to delete or change content, TERLC is urging a complete and total rejection of the textbooks in question.

One textbook, written for seventh and eighth graders, urges pregnant students to talk to a “trusted medical professional … if you think abortion is right for you.” The same textbook also offers contact information for Planned Parenthood, provides a web link to an organization that helps minors get judicial bypass for abortion without parental consent, and in a section on “Uses for the Reproductive System,” describes a graphic sexual encounter between two students.

Another textbook urges teachers to give students bonus points if they “recognize that fetuses grow in the uterus and are only called babies once they are born.”

“The question of individual freedom in our country is one matter. How the state educates our children with our own tax dollars is an entirely different matter,” Loudin told the Texan Thursday afternoon. “The material in question subverts parental oversight in matters regarding sexuality and identity, replacing a Christian worldview with a godless one. It is not neutral sexual or biological education in any sense.

“Likely, the vast majority of Texas parents have no idea that such material is on the verge of being approved for these ages, or any age for that matter, on a statewide reach. I’m convinced there are many concerned who would act, if so.”

Loudin said Texas parents and grandparents have reviewed the proposed materials and contributed to an analysis of each textbook. Those analyses yielded what they believe are 15 harmful elements of comprehensive sex educations rubrics for each publication. A copy of TERLC’s objections, including examples of objectionable content, can be found here (be advised that the examples contain descriptions of a strong, sexually explicit nature).

TERLC’s letter asks that anyone concerned with the content of the textbooks to contact SBOE members Will Hickman; Audrey Young; Keven Ellis; Tom Maynard; Patricia Hardy; Pam Little; Sue Melton-Malone; and Jay Johnson. Ellis serves as chair of the board and Little is vice chair. TERLC is also asking anyone willing to testify in person at the SBOE meeting in Austin. Registration is already underway and will continue through Friday, Nov. 12, at 5 p.m.

SBTC AM 2021: Messengers affirm Heartbeat Act, condemn sexual violence

SBTC Annual Meeting 2021

FLINT—The 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention met Nov. 8-9 at Flint Baptist Church, south of Tyler, to celebrate the many “But God” moments (referencing Ephesians 2:4-7) experienced by churches and individuals who have weathered challenging circumstances by the strength of God’s faithfulness over the past couple of years.

Messengers approved a 2022 total budget of $26,555,573, reflecting a 1.51 percent increase from the preceding year. The SBTC will continue its practice of forwarding 55 percent ($14,385,565) of all Cooperative Program funds to the Southern Baptist Convention, while retaining 45 percent for in-state ministries.

The 10 resolutions approved by messengers included ones encouraging the promotion of the Annual Church Profile, affirming the Baptist Faith & Message 2000’s definition of pastor as a position for men, and urging prayer and aid for refugees.

Resolution 8 condemned all forms of sexual violence and called upon church leaders to take proactive measures to prevent sexual violence in their churches and communities and to support victims.

Also approved was a motion by messenger Michael Criner, pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, calling for newly elected SBTC President Todd Kaunitz to form a team to work alongside convention leadership regarding sexual abuse prevention and response. Criner was careful to point out he was not asking for an investigation or formation of a task force, but rather, studying how the convention can “better serve and be steadfast in equipping our churches to righteously” handle any allegation or instance of abuse and preventing “to the best of our ability” any future instances of abuse.

Criner said his desire would be that messengers “speak with a loud and unanimous voice that the gospel demands we do everything in our power to care for those who have been sexually abused.”

An effort by several messengers to replace Resolution 9 “On the Texas Heartbeat Act” failed after a lengthy and lively discussion.

SBTC messengers also approved resolutions of appreciation for host Flint Baptist Church, outgoing SBTC President Kie Bowman, Executive Director Emeritus Jim Richards and his wife, June.

The 2021 meeting marked the formal passing of the mantle from Richards to Nathan Lorick, who assumed his new role this summer.

Monday evening, Richards delivered his “valedictory” address on Joshua 4 as the convention’s founding director and Lorick gave his inaugural message on the transition from the leadership of Moses to that of Joshua. Lorick urged messengers to both remember God’s past faithfulness and, as a new generation, to “rise up and advance” with the “mission that God has always had us on.”

Sermons were also delivered by Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin; Joe Lightner, president of Jacksonville College; Lakan Mariano, pastor of College Hills Baptist Church in San Angelo, and Ed Johnson III, pastor of Harvest Fellowship Baptist Church in DeSoto. Lorick and Matt Boswell—performer, composer and pastor of The Trails Church in Prosper—closed the annual meeting with a time of corporate prayer and worship Tues. evening, Nov. 9.

Also on Nov. 9, four panels discussed areas of concern to messengers and churches: the persecution of the church (see Persecution); evangelism and prayer (see Prayer); rebuilding the pastor and church after COVID (see COVID); and the church and worship for the Young Pastors Network (see Worship).

All told, the annual meeting registered 807 messengers and 219 guests for a total of 1,026 attendees representing 345 total churches. The 2022 SBTC annual meeting will be held Nov. 14-15 at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi.

Reporting by Jayson Larson, Gary Ledbetter, Jane Rodgers

Executive Board approves new Student and Spiritual Formations associates, Houston catalyst

SBTC Executive Board

FLINT—The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board on Wednesday hired a trio of staff members they believe will lead key ministry departments into the future.

The board met at Flint Baptist Church the morning after the conclusion of the 2021 SBTC Annual Meeting.

Brandon Bales will be joining the convention as its new Student Associate. He previously served Associate Pastor to Teens at Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, a position he had held since 2012. Under his leadership, the student ministry there grew from 35 students to 120. He has also led 75 students on international mission trips and seen 70 others make professions of faith while leading that ministry.

Phil Todd will be joining the convention as Spiritual Formation Ministries Associate in the Church Health and Leadership Department. Todd has served as Executive Pastor at PaulAnn Church in San Angelo since 2003. He also has experience pastoring youth and leading small groups. At SBTC, he will be asked to serve pastors and churches by providing leadership in areas of spiritual formation including discipleship, small groups, Sunday School, and ministries for men, women, children, and senior adults.

Rick Lewis was called for the purpose of serving as Houston Regional Catalyst working in the SBTC Church Health and Leadership department. A native of Fort Worth, Lewis has spent the past six-and-a-half years in an associate role at Storyline Church in Arvada, Colo. He has also served as the founding executive director of Apostello Mission Network, a non-profit that networked and connected churches to God’s global mission, and as a senior pastor in Ken Caryl Church (Littleton, Colo.), Riverside Baptist Church (Denver, Colo.), Emmanuel Baptist Church (Sterling, Colo.), and Faith Baptist Church (Hugo, Colo.). As a regional church catalyst, Lewis will help promote convention conferences, workshops and training events and provide consultation for local church leadership.

TBHC approved for grant

The Executive Board also voted Wednesday to approve a grant of $80,000 to Texas Baptist Home for Children.

The grant was given for the purpose of “developing, promoting, and implementing the remodeling of its campus” in Waxahachie. The Executive Board’s Administrative Committee made the recommendation, and funds will be disbursed from its reserves.

In a letter shared with board members, TBHC President Jason Curry said continual growth and changes over time necessitate a remodeling of its campus. To do so, an architect would need to be hired to establish a plan of action for the remodel, create visual aids to share with donors and help determine the best ways to repurpose already-existing space.

“We are honored to partner with you for the sake of the Gospel, to bring attention to our children’s needs and make more people aware that they can make a difference,” Curry wrote.

Until 2021, TBHC had received a percentage of the SBTC in-state Cooperative Program receipts. Beginning in 2021, the home began receiving an estimated $90,000 each year, funded from 7.5 percent of the State Missions Offering. SBTC has funded a total of $1.25 million to TBHC ministry since 2005.

New officers and board members

New convention officers elected during the annual meeting are Todd Kaunitz, president (New Beginnings Baptist Church, Longview); Richard Lewis, vice president (Unity Baptist Church, Copperas Cove); and Moises Molina, secretary (Iglesia Bautista Jerico, Brownsville).

New board members introduced at Wednesday’s meeting are: Miles Arnold (member, FBC Prosper); C.W. Faulkner (pastor, FBC Wolfforth); James Jordan (associate pastor, Northeast Houston Baptist Church, Humble); Drew Rogers (associate pastor, Cedar Pointe Baptist Church, Cedar Park); Dusty Smith (pastor, Waddill Street Baptist Church, McKinney); Anthony Svajda (pastor, Harvey Baptist Church, Stephenville).

The Texan also covered the board’s affirmation of Julio Arriola being named director of the Send Network SBTC partnership. That coverage can be found here.


Julio Arriola servirá en SBTC como director de la alianza para plantación de iglesias de Send Network

Julio Arriola SBTC NAMB

FLINT—Julio Arriola regresa a un paisaje muy familiar.

Una vez que ponga oficialmente los pies en suelo tejano, descubrirá que la necesidad del evangelio es más grande que nunca.

Arriola, de 45 años, ha aceptado el llamado para servir como el director principal de Send Network de la SBTC, una alianza para la plantación de iglesias entre la Junta de Misiones Norteamericanas (NAMB, por sus siglas en inglés) y la Convención Bautista del Sur de Texas (SBTC, por sus siglas en inglés). La Junta Directiva de la SBTC votó unánimemente la aprobación de la alianza con NAMB en agosto. Así mismo, el miércoles la Junta también confirmó a Arriola en su nuevo puesto.

Arriola será empleado de NAMB, pero trabajará desde la sede de la SBTC en la ciudad de Grapevine. Esta nueva colaboración le permitirá a la SBTC apoyarse en el amplio conocimiento y experiencia de NAMB para asesorarlos en las áreas de la plantación de iglesias, cuidado pastoral y capacitación de plantadores, así como en la recaudación de fondos.

Kevin Ezell, presidente de NAMB, dijo: “Estamos muy contentos de darle la bienvenida a Julio a la familia de NAMB. Su amplia experiencia y liderazgo en la plantación de iglesias proporcionará un indudablemente impulso a los esfuerzos de plantación de iglesias de Send Network y la SBTC. Para formar plantadores de alta capacidad, necesitamos líderes de alta capacidad —como Julio— que hagan lo que sea necesario para asegurarse de que los plantadores de iglesias estén adecuadamente preparados, capacitados y movilizados”.

Arriola dirigirá una alianza que permitirá a la SBTC ampliar sus esfuerzos de plantación de iglesias utilizando los recursos de NAMB en las áreas de evaluación, capacitación, asesoramiento, cuidado pastoral y apoyo a los plantadores de iglesias en todo el estado.

Arriola comentó: “Estamos muy contentos de estar de vuelta en Texas”. Nos encanta el lugar. Pero así como Texas es grande, también lo es su necesidad de Jesús, y plantar iglesias sigue siendo la manera más efectiva de alcanzar a la gente con el mensaje vivificante de Jesús — el evangelio.”

El mexicano aporta un impresionante (y práctico) conjunto de herramientas a la creciente red de plantadores de iglesias de la SBTC. Arriola tiene experiencia vocacional en iglesias de varios tamaños, ha plantado y pastoreado una iglesia que ahora es la más grande de Guadalajara, México (una ciudad de 1.5 millones de habitantes), y se le considera un líder influyente entre la población latina, que es uno de los grupos demográficos de más rápido crecimiento en Texas.

Arriola se desempeñó recientemente como director ejecutivo de Relaciones y Movilización Hispana del Comité Ejecutivo de la Convención Bautista del Sur, en Nashville, cargo que ocupó desde diciembre de 2019. Mientras estuvo allí, trabajó para desarrollar e implementar estrategias para la máxima participación e involucramiento de las congregaciones hispanas y los líderes de las mismas en toda la CBS, y su red de cooperación entre iglesias. Sus funciones también incluyeron la movilización de las congregaciones hispanas en áreas clave, incluyendo el evangelismo y la plantación de iglesias (de acuerdo con las estrategias de Send Network y Send Relief de NAMB).

El Dr. Nathan Lorick, director ejecutivo de la SBTC, mencionó: “En este momento monumental, Dios está llevando el mundo a Texas. Estamos muy emocionados de que Dios haya guiado a Julio Arriola para que se una a la SBTC a través de Send Network. Creo que hoy más que nunca veremos más iglesias plantadas.”

La necesidad de plantar iglesias en Texas es inmensa. De los 30 millones de residentes, se estima que 19 millones no han sido alcanzados. Según las cifras de la SBTC, 1000 personas se mudan a Austin semanalmente; casi 2000 se mudan a Houston semanalmente; y el área Metroplex de Dallas-Fort Worth (norte de Texas) registra casi 3000 nuevos residentes cada semana.

Estos nuevos habitantes son cada vez más diversos. En Texas viven más de 400 etnias que hablan más de 300 lenguas, lo que convierte al estado en uno de los conglomerados de personas más diversos del mundo. Arriola dijo que reconoce que la cosecha en Texas es abundante y, sin embargo, los obreros siguen siendo muy pocos. Razón de más, dijo, para “llamar a los llamados” y hacer que todas las etnias participen.

Arriola indicó: “La plantación de iglesias es un reto: requiere mucha oración, trabajo, dinero, planificación, capacitación y gente comprometida con la obra de Dios. Así que esta colaboración nos permitirá estar al lado de nuestras iglesias y sus plantadores a fin de proporcionarles un camino para plantar iglesias sanas y bíblicas. NAMB ha desarrollado evaluaciones, capacitaciones y estrategias que son inigualables y estamos listos para hacer que todo esto esté disponible a través de esta alianza”.

Los lazos de Arriola con Texas ya son fuertes. Él y su esposa, Carla, se casaron aquí y sus tres hijos (de 19, 17 y 15 años) nacieron en Houston. Arriola se ordenó en la Segunda Iglesia Bautista de Rosenberg en el 2003 y, tras un periodo de casi dos años sirviendo allí como pastor de jóvenes, se convirtió en líder de alabanza en la Iglesia Bautista Sugar Creek de Sugar Land. También obtuvo su ciudadanía estadounidense mientras vivía en Texas y alcanzó su maestría en Estudios Teológicos en el Seminario Teológico Bautista del Suroeste, en mayo de2020.




Julio Arriola to serve as director for Send Network SBTC church planting partnership

Julio Arriola SBTC NAMB

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.


Julio Arriola SBTC NAMB
NAMB's George Ross (center) prays over Julio Arriola (left) alongside SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick. SBTC PHOTO

“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.

SBTC AM 2021: Boswell urges pastors to ‘cast a theological vision for worship’ in their churches

Matt Boswell SBTC worship

FLINT—Pastors will see the intimacy and earnestness increase in their churches when they cast a theological vision for worship and reject anything that would threaten to turn it into entertainment, pastor and hymnwriter Matt Boswell said Tuesday.

Boswell spoke to a standing-room-only crowd during “The Church & Worship” panel held Tuesday during the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting at Flint Baptist Church. Boswell is the founding pastor of The Trails Church in Prosper and a hymnwriter whose works include “His Mercy is More,” which gets regular airplay on Christian radio.

The panel was held in conjunction with SBTC’s Young Pastors Network and emceed by Spencer Plumlee, pastor of First Baptist Church of Mansfield.

While being careful to note that each congregation must carefully work within the confines of its unique context, Boswell said one of the biggest threats to the church today is worship becoming a form of entertainment. He said there’s a tendency for churches to drift away from the core biblical foundations for worship and gathering as a body.

“Sometimes it’s like the reason we gather is that we feel like we need to announce certain things so our church doesn’t miss it, or the most important thing this Sunday is to remind people to give,” Boswell said. “I just think those things break the heart of the Lord. We have a great reason to gather. So I think whenever the glory of God is not the center of the target anymore, and we make secondary things the primary thing, I think that’s the greatest threat we have.”

Boswell urged pastors to not give in to the temptation to withdraw from participation in the worship process, even if he does not have experience in that field of ministry. Though he has shifted into the role of lead pastor, Boswell said he still works in close contact with his worship team.

So how can a pastor strengthen his ties to the worship leader and team and, in doing so, strengthen the quality of worship in the church?

“What you do there is cast a theological vision for corporate worship and show the musicians how integral they are to that,” he said. “Tell them what their goal is – clearly defined – and tell them when they accomplish that.

“Care deeply about the worship of your church,” he added. “Don’t relegate it to someone else. … Worship is the culmination of your life together as a church.”

The greatest challenge, however, comes not from what is happening corporately but personally – at least as it pertains to spiritual matters, he said. When asked by Plumlee what has been most challenging about “moving from the second chair to the first” – from worship pastor to lead pastor – Boswell said, “It’s me. It’s shepherding, caring for my own soul and maintaining spiritual disciplines and practicing my own communion with Christ.”