Fred Hewett, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention (MTSBC), has announced he will retire after the convention’s annual meeting in October.
Hewett, 62, who has led Montana Baptists for nearly nine years, made the announcement March 4 in Billings during the two-day M-Pact Montana Conference for church ministry in today’s culture.
Hewett initially disclosed his retirement plans to the MTSBC Executive Board during their regular session March 3 then publicly announced the news at M-Pact Montana the following day.
To provide adequate time for the search process for the next executive director and for a smooth transition, Hewett said he will serve through the end of the Montana convention’s annual meeting the first week in October.
Darren Hales, president of MTSBC, stated, “We love Dr. Hewett deeply and hate to see him go. He has been an outstanding leader for us through some challenging days.
“Because of his leadership, we are penetrating the lostness of Montana, are on solid financial footing and have a clear vision for our future. He will be hard to replace,” said Hales, pastor of Big Sky Fellowship in Helena.
Under Hewett’s leadership, the Montana convention’s Cooperative Program (CP) giving has recorded unprecedented growth, with 2015 as the sixth straight year of CP increases from the state’s 141 churches and missions/church plants.
“We did two things” to achieve the CP gains, Hewett said. “We promoted CP throughout the year and gave our pastors the tools they needed to tell the CP story, and they did. This is actually a testimony of our pastor’s leadership and our churches’ generosity.”
Amid changes brought by the SBC’s Great Commission Task Force in 2010, Hewett said, “We have found stability and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) remains a valuable partner.
“We have created a strategy team led by a full-time state staff and five men serving part-time, each serving in a region of Montana. They are there to fill the hole created when we lost our NAMB-funded associational missionaries. The strategy team’s primary tasks are to network pastors and churches together for encouragement and training; serve as a conduit of communication; assist churches and pastors in times of conflict and pastorless times; and leadership training for pastors and church leaders. It is working well for us thus far.”
The Montana convention also has created a full-time position called “director of next-gen ministries,” now filled by Adam Burt, whose primary task is to help churches reach and disciple the next generation – youth and college age – in Montana.
Hewett said the director of next-gen ministries coordinates the convention’s Get Real youth evangelism events in the eastern and western parts of Montana and leads the student missionary ministry and Winter Blast gathering of Montana college students and church youth/college workers for evangelism, training and resourcing.
An unmet goal, Hewett said, is attaining representation for Montana Baptists on Southern Baptist entity boards and on convention committees.
“I pray that Montana and other small conventions will soon have this recognition,” Hewett said. “Though we are small, it is very important to us. It will say that we are valued and a part of the SBC family. The irony is that we seek to meet the same CP percentage giving to Southern Baptist missions and ministries as those who have board representation, yet we are not deemed eligible for a seat at the table. I believe this is a little known fact among Southern Baptists.”
Following Hewett’s retirement announcement, the MTSBC Executive Board formed an eight-person search team and selected Bruce Speer, pastor of Crosspoint Church in Missoula, as chair.
“To replace Fred will be difficult,” Speer said, “but we know that God will reveal His man in due time. We look forward to launching a nationwide search and will post more information about the position in the next few weeks.”
Before serving as MTSBC executive director, Hewett had been a regional field rep in NAMB’s church planting group, planted a church in Jupiter, Fla., pastored in Atlanta and worked 12 years for State Farm Insurance Company.
Hewett holds a doctor of ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta, having earlier earned an M.Div. degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida.
After retirement Hewett and Cherryl, his wife of 40 years, will reside in Silverton, Colo.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)