Megachurch: No More NIV

Houston’s First Baptist Church pastor Gregg Matte announced at the start of this year that he will no longer be preaching from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.

The NIV has been the most familiar, best-selling Bible for decades; however, some Baptist pastors like Matte now say the NIV is no longer accurate after updates were made to the translation last year, including the adoption of gender-neutral language.

The Southern Baptist Convention denounced the updated NIV last summer and asked its popular bookstore affiliate, LifeWay, to stop selling the 2011 version. Individual Southern Baptist congregations operate autonomously and may use whatever Bible translation they would like.

The biggest issue with the new NIV was its incorporation of gender-neutral pronouns in places where the word-for-word translation would render a male pronoun. That was part of Matte’s concerns over accuracy, said Steven Murray, spokesman for Houston’s First.

The pastor believes the updated translation has gotten further away from the original biblical texts in other examples, including using “servants” instead of “slaves” in the New Testament.

Starting in 2012, Houston’s First will use the lesser-known and fairly new Holman Christian Standard Bible instead of the NIV during lessons from the pulpit and Bible studies. Members and guests are still welcome to use whatever Bible version they’d like.

More here.

What do you think?

A bunch of hoopla about nothing, or a good decision based on truth?

Would love to hear your thoughts.


  • June Harris January 11, 2012 Reply

    I bought an updated NIV last year. Most of the objections are unfounded. The gender neutral language is only used in passages that clearly mean all people. The passages that are definitely gender specific have not been changed. I don’t like some of the new wording, but have found nothing objectionable pertaining to doctrine or that changes what the passage actually says.

  • Peter January 11, 2012 Reply

    I have changed my mind in the past few years about this issue. Language changes. Deal with it. The new 2011NIV is great.

  • Dee Lauderdale January 11, 2012 Reply

    is lifeway really that desperate to sell new bibles?

  • Peter Bowyer January 11, 2012 Reply

    I personally dislike the new NIV’s changes to gender pronouns. If anyone is offended or can’t understand the meaning in context, they’ve got much bigger problems coming later.

    But if that was the version I and my congregation got used to, I wouldn’t change arbitrarily. It’s such a small issue, in reality.

  • Paula January 11, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the insight here Todd, but what version does he say he will preach from?

  • Robert Barnes January 11, 2012 Reply

    I’ve had the honor of working on 3 study Bible projects, one with Zondervan, another with Crossway, and another with Tyndale. I used the 1984 NIV, the ESV and the most recent version of the NLT.

    I’ve done translational analysis in these three, and in the version before this recent update of the NIV, including the TNIV.

    Here’s an example of how this issue does matter. In Galatians 3 and 4, you have language of sonship. Believers are not generic children, nor generic adopted children, but specifically adopted sons, the ones that are done so in order to give great inheritance and corresponding stewardship responsibilities.

    To change the language in this text does damage to the doctrine of adoption, obscuring the key text in the Bible addressing it. According to JI Packer, adoption is among the highest doctrines of Scripture, summarizing and organically combining justification, sanctification, our place in the family of God, and so on.

    I’ve picked one of several very significant doctrines that are impacted by the changes of the NLT and the NIV in recent years. If you never preach on sonship, justification, adoption, assurance, and the many other doctrines this touches on, then this isn’t a big deal for you. Or if you don’t use the Bible much in your preaching, then it might matter even less.

    But from someone who has been in the industry and is now in the pulpit, it is a big deal.

    I use ESV, though I’m also happy with the 1984 NIV and several other decent translations.

    • Shawn January 15, 2012 Reply

      I really appreciate your thoughtful input on this topic. The church I help pastor recently changed to the 2011 NIV and we did so with a lot of discussion and analysis. Reading your post caused me to wonder if we’d made a mistake. We certainly don’t want to lose any vital theological teaching, sonship included.

      So I compared Galatians 3 and 4 in the 2011 and 1984 NIV looking for the removal of sonship that you mention. And I’m confused by your concern.

      “Son” is replaced with “child” in 3:26 and 4:7. These verses are examples of the change to gender neutrality.

      However, the theme of sonship is NOT removed. In 3:29, 4:1, 4:2, 4:5 and 4:6 the words “heir” and “son” remain. In 4:5 it uses the words “adoption to sonship”. That’s certainly not gender neutral nor a removal of this doctrine.

      Again, I’m confused.

      • Robert Barnes January 15, 2012 Reply

        Shawn, notice that I did not say I had studied with the NIV 2011. But I did read that the committee made a point of saying they went back to older 1984 language. I’m glad they responded to the legitimate criticisms and corrected that error.

        I pastor a small church. One argument for moving to the ESV rather than the NIV is that I’m not concerned that the ESV Foundation is going to go all wobbly on me. The CBT has zig-zagged so much that I wouldn’t want to buy an NIV only to need to replace it because they decide to do who-knows-what. And in a small church, I don’t have the money to be spending getting rid of NIV and then re-purchasing something else. The ESV is a good investment that I won’t be embarrassed by in the future. Much like the 1995 NASB or updated NKJV.

  • Mark January 11, 2012 Reply

    If the King James version of the Bible was good enough for Jesus to preach from then its good enough for me! Every other translation should be outlawed!

    • Shawn January 11, 2012 Reply

      Don’t be silly. Jesus couldn’t have preached from the KJV. Paul the Apostle used it first. 🙂

    • Chris January 14, 2012 Reply

      Wait what, JC used a king james bible?

  • Pat Pope January 11, 2012 Reply

    Well at least he didn’t try to dictate to his congregation what they could read.

  • Sue January 11, 2012 Reply

    So he changed to the version the Southern Baptist Convention commissioned? That’s not much of a surprise.

  • Elbee January 11, 2012 Reply

    HCSB – Hard Core Southern Baptist version…

  • Dan Smith January 12, 2012 Reply

    I have been using the HCSB for a few years and it’s pretty good as far as I can tell. However, I didn’t get it because of any doctrinal/translational issues, but because it was the only translation I could buy in Singapore at a corner bookstore (long story…). Anyway, the HCSB is fine, but in my opinion, so is the new NIV. I agree with June up there at the top.

  • Todd January 12, 2012 Reply

    I thought the baptist convention did not officially go against the NIV 2010, it was just brought up before the convention and it never went any further.

    Side note: it is very difficult to get a southern baptist to speak out against something.

    • pete January 16, 2012 Reply

      With all due respect, Southern Baptists can be very outspoken. Always into the issues sanctity of marriage and family and homosexuality. Check out Al Mohler, head of Southern Baptist Seminary sometime who is a leading spokesperson for upholding the scriptures and Christ- centered living. I could go on but in the interest of time..

  • Garrick D. Conner January 12, 2012 Reply

    I’m with Robert on this one. I think there are definitely some areas of Scripture in which gender-neutral terminology does not work. I used the KJV as a child; that’s what my parents gave me. Our family transitioned to the NIV at some point along the way. Most recently I have begun using the ESV and am generally pretty pleased with its adherance to doctrine.

  • John January 14, 2012 Reply

    I am foresquare against any version that deleted complete or partial verses of scripture. That includes the NIV, which deleted the same verses the Jehovah Witness Bible has deleted. This reminds me of the warning in Revelation 22:19.

    • Robert Barnes January 15, 2012 Reply

      John, the NIV has nothing in common with the goals of the New World Translation. Nothing. And the warning of Rev. 22:19 could not apply to any book but Revelation, since there was no official canon yet (excepting the Jewish canon, which included rejected and rejected books we receive, like Ruth).

      Read a fine book like “The journey from text to translation” by Wegner to get a more careful look at how translations came to exist.

      • John January 15, 2012 Reply

        Robert, My comment stands: The NIV has deleted the same verses the Jehovah Witness Bible has deleted. Forget ‘goals’ of either. Verses have been deleted, both partially and in whole.

        Even if the warning can only apply to Revelation (22:19), there are numerous examples in Revelation where the warning was not heeded. The principle remains true.

        • Robert Barnes January 15, 2012 Reply

          I would not change my position, brother, if no proof had been offered. So I grant your stubborn insistence upon sticking to your opinions, but still encourage you to do more study, especially in the book I mentioned. I’ll send you my copy if you like.

  • Mark Wagner January 14, 2012 Reply

    I believe that gender neutral language must be used in order to communicate with our society. This is the task of homiletics. But when I go to the Word I want the text. I want to know the gender, the tenses, the theological words (e.g. propitiation) and the ancient idioms. I’m on my 2nd read through the ESV. Generally I like it, and I now use it in my preaching. When I preach I use gender neutral language where possible, but i need to base my homiletics on the exegesis of the text. And the people need to know their English text is an accurate reflection of the original.

  • Todd January 16, 2012 Reply

    Yeah Pete, I was using sarcasm.

  • Carl January 16, 2012 Reply

    For me, the main problem with the new NIV is that it is so different from the old one; it really is a different translation. According to the website biblewebapp, only 60.02% of all the verses in the new NIV are identical to the 1984 version. If you are in a church where people still bring their own Bibles and read them in the service, it is confusing if they have old NIVs and you teach from the new or vice versa. They expect to be able to follow along since it is the “same” version but find a lot of changes, many of which don’t seem to be better or worse but just different. And it is annoying for those who have memorized Scripture in the old version and for those who try to look up passages based on key words they remember that are no longer there. As for our church, for now we are sticking with the 1984 NIV, but we are not really sure what we will do long-term.

    • Joey Espinosa January 29, 2012 Reply

      I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think you can use “we’ve been doing it this way” as a reason to not change versions. If that was the case, only church plants could use new/different versions.

      But our church did change the primary translation it uses (on Sunday morning) years ago. I admit, I had a hard time with it since, as you said, I was used to it and my Bible had the previous translation. But it wasn’t that big of a deal, and definitely good for the long-term. Next time I got a bible, I got it with the new translation that our church preached from.

  • chad January 18, 2012 Reply

    I guess I am the flaming liberal that uses the NRSV….

  • Naomi Whitaker January 29, 2012 Reply

    I understand why they may not wish to use the newest NIV. Why don’t they just use the previous year’s version?

  • Darco Hibels January 29, 2012 Reply

    I use only the texts found in caves and or Septuigent revelation.
    Go old school or don’t go! Honestly King James is the only bible we should use – ever and what is LifeWay and why do they matter in this discussion?

  • Billyv January 29, 2012 Reply

    I like it that Gregg Matte has a spokesman.

  • Ruben Rodriguez February 11, 2013 Reply

    This Version NIV and ESV they are a must go away from all Churches.
    It is about time to start cleaning the House of the Lord.
    There is no such a thing as a Homoxesual Offenders and non-offenders.
    They are sinners and they need the cleansing with the blood of Christ.

  • k June 5, 2013 Reply

    Are churches still allowed to use the NIV 1984 in their handouts?

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