We Finally Landed

After 9 months of looking for a church, we finally landed and joined. I struggled with joining a church of another denomination because I have had the same affiliation since 1998, but many churches and pastors within the denomination were done with me when I divorced and remarried. I will say that a few pastors were kind enough to reach out to me, some of them in the same boat. I will enjoy the camaraderie with them although I have “crossed over”. The reasons go much deeper than the personal situation. I can’t speak for all the churches that have the same affiliation as the one we now attend, but I can point out some positive things that refresh my soul about the church I’m in now.

The legalistic battle was defeated before I got there. There are no battles over Bible versions, schedules, programs, music styles, etc. I am able to worship without this age-old tension in the air.

There is an overwhelming desire to go deeper into the Scriptures. The pastor, the groups, and everything I’ve seen reflects people who want to go deeper in their walk with Christ.

The spirit of love overcomes the spirit of judgment. Someone new to the state visited one time and said it was the friendliest church he attended in a 5-month period. Many churches want to be nice but don’t know how. Sadly, many churches expect the pastor to be the only outgoing and engaging one in the church.

There is a diversity in the body, and they welcome more! Many churches I attend in an area like this have mostly people who grew up in the area. There is nothing wrong with that. I guess I’m just one of those nerdy guys who loves to talk to people from different backgrounds. Our church has many like me from Virginia. Others are from the Midwest, the north, the Philippines, Scotland, Ecuador, etc. One of those is a college professor. I just love the diversity. 

They desire to create a church of volunteers – people who are involved in some ministry of the church. They were not afraid to get me and my wife involved. Only one pastor in the area purposely got me involved in the church in the brief time we attended. He knew I respected his leadership as pastor and asked me to preach some and be involved in their music periodically. When you have experienced some of the hurt in ministry, it means the world for someone to still value your calling and ask you to be involved.

There is a major emphasis on discipleship and equipping church members. Anyone who joins this church cannot say they came in blindly. They strive to be a church that does what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 28 – “make disciples”. Every class I’ve attended has been food for my soul. The sermons demonstrate study and prayer. People long for God to move. 

Obviously, it is not a perfect church. If it was before, I ruined it by joining. There is no perfect situation, but they are striving to be what God called them to be. 

For those who prayed for us, thank you! Some of you prayed, and God didn’t answer the way you expected. That’s okay. Our family is in a safe place where we can joyfully worship, grow, and serve.


At the End of the Day

Yesterday was emotionally taxing for me. As a husband and father, I struggle with the fact that I cannot financially provide like I once did. I was trained for ministry, but most churches won’t touch a divorced minister (at least the churches with which I align doctrinally). I have had to adjust to not making what I once made, so when major expenses such as car problems come it is very disheartening (like 3 in a month). Throw on top of that the difficulties that come along with divorce, blended families, and having my children four hours away, I had an intense prayer session on the two-hour drive back. Did I mention it was very intense?

I didn’t want to come back in the house because I prefer for my wife not to see my this way. The special thing about my wife is that she loves me. It doesn’t matter that I just puked my guts out to God and had wept most of the trip back. She loves me through my ups and downs. My financial status doesn’t bother her. She is a woman of faith who just believes God is up to something and will complete the work at His appointed time.

So, at the end of the day, I know that I am blessed with a lady who will go through anything with me. She doesn’t rebuke me or tell me how foolish I am. She knows that the Holy Spirit does a fine job at that. I’m thankful that, at the end of the day, we can focus on love and let the world fade away.

Is Donald Trump a Christian?

I had to blog this because I am a fruit inspector and can tell you exactly who is saved and who is not. So here is my answer from all that I have received based upon my direct line to God…NOT!!!!!!

I have seen so much dialog about this subject in the last 12-24 hours. Dr. James Dobson has made a statement of Trump’s recent conversion. It is not my job nor anyone else’s to judge (yes judge) the genuineness of his conversion!!! 

This judgmental spirit is what is killing most of our churches today. We sit around in our self-righteous circles trying to judge who is saved and who is not instead of praying for them, speaking the truth in love to them, and trying to restore them if they have drifted away. How dare we? Then we sit around wondering why people won’t attend our church – The First Church of the Holier-Than-Thou Who Looketh Down Upon Thee If Thou Dost Not Act Like I, Inc. I dare you to search the Bible to find that mentality coming from Jesus. You won’t find it! It comes from religious people who do the right things, don’t do the wrong things, who were truly not saved. 

It is not my job to say that Donald Trump has or has not experienced a true conversion. My job right now is to pray. What happened to the “United” States of America, the place where people would unite and stand behind a candidate? The union is gone. People in both parties are too busy bickering (I guess that’s the new union of the dissatisfied). There was a generation who would have been bold and risen to the top rather than hide behind their social media (which sounds like that’s what I’m doing). I know people right now who have already chosen not to vote rather than stand for something. But I guarantee I will hear them complain about whoever ends up in office.

Bottom line – Don’t judge someone’s standing with God! It’s not our place. PRAY! LOVE! RESTORE!

On This Day

I love how Facebook always you to see things you posted on this day since you’ve been on Facebook. There are times when I delete certain things. You can erase history on Facebook, but you can’t in real life (I’ll leave this principle for another post😀).

One year ago today, I did something crazy. A co-worker of mine invited me to a Nerium party (skin care product – not so much a man-thing) to meet her friend, Jennifer. I end up being the only guy, and my co-worker and later to be mother-in-law eased out. Now I’m there with this lady I just met and her two kids. We talked for a long time and hit it off.

God intervened and sent me the lady I needed. I had just told someone I was not going to get into a relationship until I found someone who loves Jesus without me. We are now married and will have our own child next month. His reminder to me was to wait because His plan is best. I know we hate waiting, but a bad decision could screw up your life.

Once again, I have a song for those who are in God’s waiting room. May it minister to you!

Pastor-Staff Relations

This post is long overdue. Most who read this blog may not be interested in this subject, but I think it’s worth addressing for those of my friends who are in ministry or for anyone I don’t know who is in ministry.

I had to think back to figure out how many pastors I have worked for. The total is eleven (2 in my home church, 2 in separate churches in NC, 3 in another church which includes an interim pastor, 1 in GA, 3 in separate churches after I returned to an associate role). I guess you could say I worked for a deacon chairman who did not really understand my biblical role as a pastor but simply tried to be peacemaker when church members didn’t like how I led. Some of you may not agree, but I received my marching orders as a pastor from God. There should be checks and balances, but those checks and balances should have backbone and should support what God is doing rather than try to pacify the crowd (Sounds a lot like Pontius Pilate).

I will list qualities I admired in these pastors (which should exist in all ministry staff), areas in which they struggled, and how the pastor and staff should serve as a team rather than “Boss Hawg” and his subjects.

Admiral Qualities

– Bold preaching – Most were bold preachers. They were unashamed in the pulpit. Not all spoke the truth in love, but they had a firm conviction rooted in Scripture.

– Compassion – I can’t say this for all, but some clearly loved people. They went the extra mile for anyone. They were good listeners, weeping with those who wept. There was no doubt that they cared.

– Great administrators – I could only say this for one beyond the shadow of a doubt. I always said that if a mark was on a wall, he would make sure it was painted by the end of the day. Administrators tend to be weaker in preaching and compassion. If they don’t like you, they’ll fire you because they feel like it. Their strength, however, is making sure the church runs in an orderly fashion.

Weaker areas

– Don’t say “no” – being a pastor doesn’t mean you do what everyone wants. I guess that made me a bad pastor. Too late this time! They burn out and even leave ministry. You can’t go to everyone’s meetings, parties, toe surgeries, etc.

– Quick temper – many pastors I’ve worked with were quick-tempered. When pastors function in anger, the danger can be irreparable (especially when the church won’t forgive your humanity but expect you to forgive theirs).

– Micromanagers – I was most miserable in a church where the pastor practically picked my songs. I have no clue why he hired me. These guys hate the feeling of lack of control, so they will pull the plug on your zeal and enthusiasm if they see that you might outshine them. (I thought Jesus was the one to shine)

– Politicians – I’ve been burned by a few of these guys. They catered to the older people or big givers in the church, so they would deliver petty complaints to me. I resigned one situation because of this. God clearly gave me a release from that ministry, so I parted peaceably. I did realize that politics were behind it. 

Suggestions for good staff relations

1. Value your staff as equals. Each man or woman brings something valuable to the table. Put your pride aside and allow them to make a viable contribution to the cause of Christ.

2. Don’t micromanage them! They will make mistakes, but give them room to grow. 

3. Create an environment where they can’t wait to come to work! One church I served honored my birthday and working anniversary with the church. The pastor and people were complimentary of the work I did. I loved what I did there. Kind words go a long way…use them frequently! Laugh a lot! It will reduce frequent turnover in staff.

Thriving churches understand these principles. They constantly evaluate to see where they are and what they could do better. Be the kind of church where pastor-staff morale is high. When ministers get along, the church will be healthy also.

What’s Done Is Done

If we were all honest, we would admit that we struggle with letting things go. We struggle most with forgiving ourselves for mistakes we’ve made whether it be poor financial choices, relationship blunders, saying the wrong thing to someone, etc. Some of us are quicker to forgive others than we are ourselves.

If you are in that boat, you don’t have to sink in it. You can toss the baggage overboard and know that if Jesus can forgive you, you can definitely forgive yourself.

Here are some great truths:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

So when you have confessed your sin, you are forgiven. You don’t need to question it. The one who keeps throwing your mistakes in your face is the devil, who is called “the accuser of the brethren” in Revelation 12. 

While you can’t undo the past and the consequences of your actions, you can rest in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

To reiterate this truth, I pray this song by Damaris Carbaugh will bless you:

When I Can’t Find the Words

For the last few days, I have wanted to blog but have been unable to find the words. I will probably find myself confessing some things that will bring criticism while others will find that they can relate.

For most of my life, I have struggled with something. Earlier in life, it was more difficult to hide. Now, I can mask it with some humor and other diversions. Still, behind closed doors, the struggle exists. Many days are great, but others can be very unbearable. It took me a long time to admit this to anyone, but I now use it as a tool to help others. That thing I fought so hard to hide is anxiety and depression.

I know some of the extremely spiritual folks who read this might be scrambling through to see how they can fix me or maybe how I should fix myself with some good old-fashioned repentance. For those who have studied it medically, they understand the truth of chemical imbalance and how depression raises its ugly head at the weirdest times. I am thankful that I experience very few extremely low seasons, but they still come. It doesn’t matter how intense media prayers become or how many verses I quote and even scream, it still exists. 

Maybe you are experiencing a dark season of life. People are telling you that you must be disobeying God in some way – lack of faith, prayer, Bible study, church attendance, etc. But you know that you are fighting through and being obedient to God and still have this dark cloud over you. When you can’t form the words, Romans 8 says that the Holy Spirit can make sense of it all. 

Don’t feel guilty for this! Take this from someone who knows: you will arise from these ashes! God is your Deliverer! This is not the way you would choose, but He will use your depression to help others. Don’t waste this hardship! Use it to God’s glory!

That Won’t Happen to Me!

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that arrogant statement. “I’ll have all the sex I want and not get pregnant. That only happens to irresponsible people who don’t take precautions.” “I’ll never get an STD!” “I can hold my liquor, so I would NEVER get in an accident and kill somebody.” I’m sure you’ve heard it all.

It happens in religious circles too. I worked with a pastor once who made the statement to me that any pastor who got fired from a church obviously did something wrong and led me to believe he had all the answers, so it would never happen to him. I can tell you that many godly men are fired from churches constantly over stupid things like not visiting enough (what is enough? Daily isn’t enough for some people.), using too much Scripture in sermons (imagine a preacher using the Bible when he preaches?), or even being sick. One pastor was fired because he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. When he got out of the hospital, the church demanded he get out of the parsonage. But things like that would never happen to you, right?

This sickening mentality goes all the way back to the Bible. The problem was that this mentality was not from unbelievers. They were too excited about the change Jesus made in their life. It came from the religious crowd, and Jesus never took it sitting down. If you ever wonder why I blog the way I do, it’s because “religious” people need to quit their whining and hypocrisy. They’ll lie and tell you they don’t drink and then drive 45 miles out of town to go to an ABC store where they think no one will see them. They’ll tell you all the things that do and don’t do, thinking that will somehow impress you. The truth is that it makes God sick. They look down upon addicts and blame the parents for not raising their children right until it happens to one of their kids. But that will never happen to you, right?WRONG!

We are all prone to experience the worst of things. The ones who look down on me as a divorced and remarried minister could easily experience what I did. I see the same patterns in their marriage. But I won’t be the one saying, “I told you so.” I’ll be the guy who knows the pain and will be there. I hope that, by God’s grace, I won’t be a part of the glorious gossip group who speaks against these two whose marriage was devoured by the enemy.

Don’t let arrogance and pride dupe you into thinking you’re above that. Quit strutting around like “Holy Harry” and carry around a humble spirit. That could be you experiencing the most hellacious event of your life. Remember that!

I Don’t Have to Apologize

Sounds arrogant, doesn’t it? I know somebody’s thinking, “When Matthew’s wrong, he needs to apologize!” Hang with me for a moment!
God has been doing some amazing things in my heart when it comes to churches and how closely they align with the Bible. Some people think I’ve been too picky, crazy, or however they choose to label me. I was driving down the road today after making another ministry-related decision. When I came to my conclusion based upon Scripture and the leadership of the Holy Spirit, I came away knowing that I don’t need to apologize for who I am and following the Lord’s leadership rather than man’s. 

I know my ideas go against the grain of the traditional church. A pastor friend of mine said he wants to be only as traditional as the church was in the book of Acts…the days when tons were saved and baptized, all the man-made philosophy wasn’t tolerated, and no business meetings existed. Jesus was the focus, Scripture and the Holy Spirit were their guides, and people’s goal was as narrow as the Great Commission – making disciples.

I don’t have to apologize for wanting to be a biblical rather than a traditional Christian, and I won’t. People can say what they want. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy the blessedness of obeying my Lord!

Scared Preachers

I was speaking with a pastor friend of mine today about life and ministry. We get together on occasions and have these talks. These talks tend to expose things, but I never leave discouraged. I leave encouraged because this man is a likeminded brother in Christ. 

Our topic of conversation led to what I am going to discuss here. We were discussing how the church has become so weak, anemic, and pathetic because people spend more time worrying about what the church bylaws say than what the Word of God says. Who cares if people are dying and going to hell as long as we have regular business meetings that accomplish nothing? God knows we have to waste time because we’re about the Lord’s business. That’s not His business! The Great Commission is the Lord’s business.

We also discussed that we can’t blame church stagnation on church members alone. Pastors are often the cause. They won’t do anything new because they might upset some people, they weren’t taught that way in seminary, or the older people who are the tithers might leave. They’re not going anywhere, so be bold and obey God. The early disciples weren’t concerned about job security. Thank God! Preachers would rather have 3 services a week where they are the center of attention than equip saints and win unbelievers to Christ. Then they sit around and criticize their church because nothing is happening. It’s not rocket science! Dear pastor, if all you’re doing is lecturing people 3 times a week, no wonder nothing is happening. If your calendar is consumed with meetings that are all talk and no action, meetings to put out fires, or the same things that were on the church calendar 10 years ago, you’re headed for the graveyard. Dear pastor, you are not called to be a chaplain who runs to people when they have an upset stomach or an ingrown toenail. You are called to preach the Word, pray, and give Christians the tools they need to grow up from the spiritual infancy that most church members still enjoy.

If you are a pastor who is operating by fear of the unknown today, may you be set free in Jesus’ name. Some may leave. So be it! Find the joy in obeying God rather than fearing men.