We are committed to serving God’s people and helping all at Signal Mountain Bible Church deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Dr. Gary Phillips / Senior Pastor
W. Gary Phillips grew up in Chattanooga, went to school at Red Bank and Baylor School, and then earned degrees from Vanderbilt University (B.A., 1971), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1975), and Grace Theological Seminary (Th.D., 1985).
Although Gary was raised in a Christian home, he did not become a believer until his freshman year of college. He met the love of his life, Betsy Woodard of Signal Mountain, when he was 17 and she was 15. They married in 1972. Gary and Betsy and have three children: David (Chattanooga), Beth (husband Bill, 3 children, Knoxville), and Rebecca (husband Steve, 2 children, Long Island, NY). They take great delight in their family, and occasionally a story about their grandchildren may accidentally sneak into a sermon.
On the professional side of things, Gary started his career as a college instructor (in Greek) at Bryan College in Dayton, TN, and ended that career in 2001 as Distinguished Professor and Chairman of Biblical Studies. His main teaching areas became theology, logic, world view studies, and Bible courses. He received six teaching awards, published articles and books (including Making Sense of Your World with William Brown, a worldviews apologetics text nominated for Christianity Today’s “Reader’s Choice” book of the year), and has served as an officer in both the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He wrote the commentary Judges and Ruth (Broadman & Holman), and most recently revised the second edition of Making Sense of Your World with John Stonestreet (Sheffield). He continues to enjoy occasional writing projects—either his own or helping friends with their books. He has taught as Adjunct Professor at several seminaries.
While studying philosophy in college, he developed a deep desire to know not only what Christians believe (biblical doctrine) but why we believe it (apologetics—defending the faith, which became the focus of much of his writing).
In 1984 two businessmen on Signal Mountain asked Gary to help them plant a Bible teaching church on Signal Mountain—just to help them get started for a period of 6 months or so. At first reluctant (one thing he knew was that he would never be a pastor!), God worked in his heart and in November of 1985 the first Sunday meeting of the church was held with just a handful of people. Gary continued to do both pastoring and teaching for the next 16 years, until he left the college classroom to devote full time to SMBC in 2001. He is now in his 34th year as pastor of Signal Mountain Bible Church.
“I am a sinner saved by God’s amazing grace, and a very blessed man. I get to teach God’s Word, serve alongside a wonderful staff, spend time with great friends, and minister to one another through times of pain and brokenness as well as times of joy.”
With the encouragement of the elders, Gary is also involved in volunteer work serving on the board of the Bible In The Schools organization in Chattanooga (18 years, www.bibleintheschools.com), and as a regular Bible teacher for the military with The Officer’s Christian Fellowship at their retreat centers (35 years, www.ocfusa.org).
Louis Belva / Pastor
Louis Belva was born in Hopkinsville, KY, but moved to Memphis, TN, within a few months. The son of a pastor, Louis moved from Memphis to Chattanooga at the age of seven when his father became the pastor of Oakwood Baptist Church. Louis grew up in Harrison and attended Central High School. After graduation Louis attended Maryville College where he earned a degree in Sociology.
While Louis was in college he recommitted his life to his Savior, and at the same time realized that God was calling him into some form of ministry—so in 2000 he enrolled at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY., where he eventually earned a Master of Divinity degree in Pastoral Counseling.
But a big part of Louis’ college story involves another student at Maryville named Kasey, a Nashville Native. They married in 2002 after Kasey graduated from college. So after college and seminary, Louis and Kasey moved back to Chattanooga in 2004 for Louis to serve as a Pastor at Crossroads Church of Chattanooga, and for Kasey to pursue a Master’s degree in Environmental Science. Louis also began providing individual and family counseling with Shepherd’s Care Inc
Louis and Kasey have four children: William, Myles, Silas, and Flanary. They reside in Signal Mountain. The Belva family enjoys sports, hiking, and being together. Louis and Kasey love the outdoors and can be seen running or biking around town.
Louis came to Signal Mountain Bible Church in January, 2015 as part of a succession plan for Pastor Gary. One of the many reasons they were drawn to Louis is his love to communicate the glory and majesty of our great God. At the time when he was approached by the elders, they did not know that Louis currently lived on Signal Mountain and was already deeply involved in the community, through school, sports for the kids, and Louis’ coaching.
Louis is humbled at the opportunity to serve at the Bible Church and to invest in the lives of people within the church and the community of Signal Mountain.
BJ Smith / Associate Pastor
BJ grew up in the rural town of McBee, SC. His mother worked very hard to care for him and his sister, as well as his father whom was handicapped. Although he grew up going to church, he did not come to know his Savior until after his high school graduation. After spending his freshman year at Clemson University, he transferred to Columbia International University (CIU) to pursue a degree in Youth Ministry.
One of his college friends introduced him to his wife, Michelle (a New York native) in May of 2003. After graduating CIU, he and Michelle were married in June 2005. During their first year of marriage, they resided in Coats, NC while Michelle finished college with a degree in Elementary Education from Campbell University.
BJ spent 4 years as a youth pastor in Maryland (where their oldest daughter, Annabelle, was born) before becoming the youth pastor at Signal Mountain Bible Church in November 2010. In April 2012, they welcomed their second daughter, Gabby. When Damon was hired as Youth Pastor in June 2019, BJ became the Associate Pastor over Family Ministry and Missions.
Although BJ and Michelle come from two very different places geographically (and culturally!), they have fallen in love with Chattanooga. They enjoy the outdoors, especially hiking, which makes Signal Mountain the perfect place to call home.
Damon Kelly / Youth Pastor
Damon grew up in Charlotte, NC. He attended the same school from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Relationship with Jesus began when Damon was 8 years old. As a freshman in high school, Damon remembers the first whisperings of calling to student ministry as he participated in his church youth group and noticed his high school youth pastor.
Damon met Lea (Johnson) at Bryan College. Damon and Lea were both set to attend other universities, but God specifically led each of them to Bryan. Relationship with Lea has been one of the most impactful movements of God in Damon’s life. It was there that Damon and Lea both encountered Dr. Gary Phillips as one of their Bible professors during their years at Bryan as they both prepared to serve in children and student ministry.
Damon and Lea married in 1990 and have been engaged in shepherding the next generation in churches and schools in Knoxville TN, Dallas TX, Watkinsville GA. The specific part of the next generation that has impacted Damon and Lea the most is their friendship with their 3 sons Taylor, Trent and Trey. Taylor and his wife Ashley live in Nashville. Trent and his wife Meg live in Chattanooga. Trey is finishing his senior year at Bearden High school in Knoxville and will be attending Covenant College and playing on the soccer team. Damon and Lea are joined in their home by Lea’s mom, Anne Johnson. Lea is her mom’s primary caregiver as she lives life with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus.
Damon and Lea are so thankful for the opportunity to live as a strategic team among the people of SM Bible, Signal Mountain and the Chattanooga area. Their heart as a strategic team for the next generation and their families, is that they would be more and more “broken, real and in awe of God.”
Ruby Dabney / Children's Ministry Director
Jon Rowell / Worship Ministry Director
Karen Hudson / Church Administrator
Amy Graves / Church Secretary