Building a Résumé or Investing Your Life?

As a pastor, I read tons of articles and materials about church. I read from those who say it should be done this way or that way. I read from guys who talk about how awesome their ministries are and how horrible they were before they became the pastor. I turn to the left and right to read or see examples of great self-promoters who are looking for the latest and greatest opportunity. They are highlighting their accomplishments with hopes of gaining the attention of a bigger ministry. If God promotes you, that is great. If you promote yourself, be careful because Scripture says that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

The first several years of ministry were just like this for me. I bounced from place to place. I viewed a few as stepping stones while I planned to stay at others. Most of my God-given assignments have been transitional in nature. Many would probably say about me that I was at their church during a tender time and helped see them through it. I did not understand that then, but I do now.

At age 37, I am now at the investment stage of my ministry. I did not obey the call of God to start Overcomers Church without a personal investment into the lives of these God called me to lead and love. Am I out to build a megachurch? No. Am I out to be obedient to the Lord? Yes. I am on a journey to help those who have been overcome by life to become overcomers in Christ.

Those I have been called to lead are getting ready to be in the most adventurous time in our ministry, and I can’t wait to tell them and those who read this blog about it. That post will be coming within the next few weeks.

If you are all about building a résumé and you don’t care 2 cents for others, go dig ditches or do something else. Ministry is not for those seeking glitz and glamour. If you want to take up your cross daily, follow Christ, and help others do the same, you are the kind of man or woman God seeks to use.

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Don’t Let Low-Lifes Determine Your Identity

Have you ever been labeled? Have you ever been called fat? Meth-head? Drunk? Loser? Stupid? Incapable of amounting to anything? What others call you does not determine your identity. I use the term “low lifes” here not to sink to their level but to call out that they are lowering themselves by calling you these hurtful things.

Maybe you have been labeled by narcissistic parents or a spouse. They get their kicks off making you feel bad while also making you feel like you need them. You do need Jesus, the One who determines your identity. His identity is not based on yours. He has nothing to lose but everything to give.

If you have surrendered your life to Christ, this song says who you are. Let it minister to you.

It’s a Boy!!!

After what seemed like forever, my wife gave birth to a precious baby boy yesterday at 4:00 pm. Everyone is doing well. We were so blessed to be surrounded by family, a great doula, and great hospital staff. The real adventure awaits us as this guy is added to the mix of life as we already know it, but I sit here with such peace.

I’ll keep this short and say, “Little guy, I pray that the Lord will do great things in and through you and that you will be surrounded by the love and support you need to become the man God wants you to be.” I desire this for my bigger guys and girls also. Welcome to the world!

Musings from Labor & Delivery

As we continue to await the arrival of our baby boy, I am pondering the thought that I have not taken a Sunday away from Overcomers Church since its inception on January 29 of last year…until today. The labor process began early yesterday and continues as I type this. My wife has been a trooper.

Many pastors of churches our size or larger have stated that they cannot take a Sunday off because there is no one to fill in the gaps. I was reminded once again how blessed we are to have people who can preach, lead worship, and make everything else happen without me being there. (I hope they didn’t have too much fun enjoying my absence😂.)

I don’t write this to brag on people (although I think our people our great), and I don’t write this to demean situations where pastors do not have someone to stand in the gap. I do want to brag on God for putting a group of people together who understand their function in the body of Christ and has been so good to check on us through the process. This is how a faith community should function.

May the Fourth (Has Nothing to Do with Star Wars for Me)

I’m sure you have heard or read the phrase “May the fourth be with you” today. For most everyone, its significance is connected to Star Wars. Not for me. Today marks the 21st anniversary of the day I surrendered to the call to preach.

You may find that word “surrendered” to be a bit odd or churchy. It is really the best way to describe it. Like O. J. Simpson driving miles down the road to get away from the police, I fought against God for 2 years. OJ didn’t drive for 2 years, but he eventually surrendered to the authorities. Like OJ, I surrendered to an authority but this One is named Jesus. He had a call on my life to proclaim the truth, to declare liberty to the captive, to warn people of the dangers of sin. On Sunday, May 4, 1997, I told God “Yes!”

Do I regret it? Not for a second! Has it been difficult? More difficult than you will ever imagine. So is life! You and I have problems. People have been critical (I guess they had nothing better to do). Thankfully, I learned a long time ago to fix my eyes on Jesus. When you are called by God, you have to have tunnel vision and tunnel hearing. You may fix your eyes on what God has called you to do and drown out the voices that will distract you from your heavenly mission.

Did God call me because I was some super-awesome guy? Not at all! He called me because He knew He could do a miracle with a shy, backward guy from Portsmouth, Virginia who had nothing to bring to the table. And I’m grateful! Because of that call, I wake up every morning to see what He has in store and what He wants me to do.

What is my prayer after 21 years? That the coming years will be my best years. That God will use me to draw more people to Him. That God will speak life through me into the hopeless. That He will expand my territory. That mediocrity won’t be enough. That I will have greater determination and greater power from the Holy Spirit. That I will experience the miraculous. That I will love like Jesus loves. That I will be able to hear God’s voice and act upon it much better than I have in the last 21 years. That I will not compromise for one single second and be known for what I am for not what I am against. That I will preach with greater enthusiasm and walk with greater wisdom. That I will lead by example as a pastor, father, and husband. That I will not be distracted by good things that are not God things. And that I will finish the race of my life well when that time comes and hear “Well done Thou good and faithful servant.”

While many are saying “May the fourth be with you”, I am saying “May the power of the Most High be upon me”. That is more than enough for me!

So What if They Don’t Believe You?

Some of us have a level of faith that makes no sense to others. We believe God for impossible things. We take giant leaps of faith that should land us flat on our face if we calculated according to man’s plan.

But what about a higher plan? What about a God Who still performs miracles? A God who still provides for people when they have lost their job and can’t secure another one? A God who heals when doctors say nothing can be done?

The Bible is full of examples of men and women who went against the grain and did what others thought was stupid. That same God is still calling followers of Christ to that same level of faith. So the next time others do not understand your faith, remember this:

Look Beneath the Surface

We are so quick to make hasty judgments. When someone does not smile back at us, we often think the individual has something against us. We assume because someone laughs all the time indicates that he or she is always happy. What is beneath the surface? You and I must take the time to look.

I remember a time when I was pastoring my first church, and some assumed that I should have it all together when everything was falling apart. I was blessed with some people in my life who were a blessing to me, but what if I had not?

We must look through the lens of compassion. What about your coworkers? Your teachers? Your pastor? Your parents? Your best friend? What is going on beneath the surface that you might be missing? We must take the time to look and be the encourager they need. Don’t wait until a funeral to send flowers. Pay tribute to people while they are alive, even if you don’t feel they deserve it. You just might regret it. If you take the time, you just might save their life.

Church Growth: Model or Move of God?

After attaining 3 degrees, reading countless books, and hearing from lots of “experts”, I feel fairly acquainted with church growth methods. I had heard the “experts” fill in the blank of this verse, “Upon this _________, I will build My Church.” The answers have been the following:

  • Hot-looking, awesome band
  • Skinny jeans wearing worship leader
  • Muscular pastor
  • Entertaining kids and student ministries
  • Awesome hangout for hot young singles to hook up and hear the gospel

The list is by no means exhaustive. I have also heard that churches with pastors who wear suits, use pipe organs, have choirs, and follow traditional scheduling cannot grow. My question to you is this: Does Church growth happen because of manmade methods or because of a move of God?

From my experience, church growth happens because Jesus builds HIS church. I have tried methods and programs. I did what the largest churches in America have done. My success rate was pitiful. Some of you “experts” may be saying, “Well, Matthew, you didn’t do it right.” I have learned that whatever you use to bait them is what you have to use to keep them. If my worship team women look like they’re sunbathing on the beach when they are on stage, I would bet every man with blood running through his veins would not miss a Sunday. I’m not saying that all manmade methods are mad, but I am saying that none are 100% effective and some even compromise biblical principle. While I have enjoyed all that a larger church has to offer, I do not want to compromise spiritual growth in order to draw a crowd.

I genuinely want to experience a move of God where people are giving their lives to Christ, being baptized, using their gifts, and leading others to Christ. I want to see a move of God where people are on fire about what God is teaching them to the point that they cannot help but tell others. God produces that. I do my part, but God gives the increase.

Several years ago, I was choir director in a church that had 7 directors in 7 years. I was the seventh. The choir was down to 20 people when I inherited it. I had zeal with little knowledge, but I wanted to see the choir experience a revival. During the time I was there, several returned to the choir and a spirit of unity had been restored. God did that! I went into my first full time music ministry expecting the same thing, but I experienced an immediate flop. The choir would experience growth beginning in August and drop off in January. During the third year, there was no growth. It stayed that way for 3 years. I consulted megachurch worship leaders and did everything I was told. Nothing happened. Then one day, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Psalm 127:1 – “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” I threw up my hands and said, “Lord, I give up. You have to build this choir because I can’t.” Within a few weeks, 18 people joined the choir and stayed until I left.

Some of you have read this story before. For those who have forgotten or have not read it, I hope it is confirmation that the LORD builds HIS church. We have responsibilities, but He does the work. So, do not give up. God will grow His church in due time. Wait on Him and be obedient. God blesses that! Don’t settle for a crowd when you can experience a move of God!