I Prophesied That (And Didn’t Know It)

I was reflecting on the last message I preached as pastor of the church plant. I spoke on the subject of conflict resolution from the perspective of how Paul and Barnabas separated and went different directions to spread the gospel due to a conflict over John Mark who was a relative of Barnabas. The conflict was not pleasant, but the divide actually furthered the cause of Christ. Paul, in the end of his life, wanted to see John Mark because he was profitable for ministry.

A few weeks later, I headed a different direction. Some of you fellow believers have foresight into seeing a change that might take place. I did not want to admit that I was sensing a change, but God was preparing me.

One thing I have learned – Do not suppress when God is giving you insight into the future. Let me make it clear that I am not a psychic. I cannot see into the future. God’s direction from the Scriptures, His Spirit, and godly counsel has helped me navigate through many seasons of life. I know it’s easier said than done, but trust His leadership even when you cannot understand it. If you can’t, work through it. God understands exactly where you are and is patient with you while you find the way.


A Change of Scenery

This weekend has already been refreshing. I have known for a few months that I needed a weekend away. I finally got it. I cannot begin to tell you how nice it is for no one here to know me. They have better things to do with their life than talk about me and my family. No one here knows I’m a pastor, so I will not be so likely to be bombarded with cries for help. I will savor every moment while it lasts.

Even Jesus needed a change of scenery. After He was bombarded with all these requests for healing and help, He had to get away from the crowd to pray. I, being much weaker than Jesus, need it so much more.

I challenge you to go somewhere away from the noise and just be with Jesus. See Him in the changing of the leaves. Hear Him in the soft breeze. As someone recently told me, “Just be present.” Savor the moment rather than planning the next thing or letting your mind wander.

For now, I will make short-term changes of scenery. One day, I will look forward to a permanent change of scenery. I am not in a hurry to get there, but I know that I will think of nothing else when I see my Savior face to face. The troubles of this life will be no more. Hallelujah!

I Am Righteous and Unrighteous

Some of you who read the title know where I am going with this while others of you are scratching your head. How can Matthew (or anyone else) be righteous and unrighteous simultaneously? It’s easy.

I was born into this world unrighteous. Romans 3:10 says there is none good. I was tainted with sin because of the curse stemming from Adam’s disobedience. Romans 5 states that sin was passed down through the seed of the man. So, I am positionally unrighteous.

When I commit sin, I am practically unrighteous. I am practicing things that dishonor God. So how can I be righteous with positional and practical unrighteousness working against me?

The only remedy for my unrighteousness is Christ’s righteousness. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ took on my sin so I could have His righteousness. What an awesome thought! While I slip and can be practically unrighteous, the blood of Christ permanently washes away my sin and makes positionally righteous and secures my salvation by the down payment of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1).

There are many truths within Scripture that I will never understand. While my mind will never fully grasp the greatness of our God and His salvation plan, I am thankful for this truth that has changed my life. My position makes me want to practice righteousness and please my Heavenly Father. If you want what I am talking about, turn from your sin and trust Jesus Christ to cleanse you and make you whole.

Lessons I Learned From Church Planting

Church planting was probably the hardest thing I ever did. Doing it as a nondenominational church plant was a million times more difficult. When you live in denominational country, you are on an island almost alone. Do I believe I did the right thing? Yes! Almost 20 months in, here are the lessons I learned:

  1. I needed people in place before I did it. I had this crazy faith that it would just come together. Please understand that I had a great core group, but I needed organization and people in key roles before we ever did anything. I had people from day one who set up and took down everything. I didn’t have support staff which would have been a huge asset, especially those whose strengths were my weaknesses.
  2. The people who were my biggest encouragers to plant never came. They told me years before that they would be there if I started. (I guess they were there in spirit lol.) I predicted that one though.
  3. Some people who came had good intentions, but it takes a high level of commitment to ride the waves of church planting. They can be pretty tumultuous while at other times they don’t move.
  4. There will be those who think they can do it better than you can (and they might be right). I was always hearing what I should do, didn’t do, etc. Everyone had their own formula that they thought I had to try in order to succeed. What works for one doesn’t always work for another. God was starting a unique thing, and He revealed to me that I was not the one to see it to fruition.
  5. It takes tons of time and energy, so you better make sure you have it. I had to admit I did not.
  6. It’s okay if you’re the one who only begins the foundation. I look forward to being an outsider who sees God His thing. Paul stated that he planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. I didn’t get to experience the increase or water what was sown, but I did get to see people come alive and long for a different kind of church – a church that more closely reflected the book of Acts.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! With churches closing left and right, there is a need for healthy new churches. Could another plant be in my future (with lessons learned and a clear call from God)? Maybe. I am at His disposal.

I want to close by giving a shout-out to my core group who stuck with me. They are awesome! I also want to say thank you to those who might be reading who have been involved in such an undertaking. Your labor in the Lord is not wasted. Eternity will reveal the fruit of your obedience. Stay the course! Only step away if you heard a clear word from the Lord.

What’s the Focus Now?

After yesterday’s announcement that I stepped away from the church plant, people have wondered what I will do. Some may have thought I have backslidden. I’ll save you some gossip and let you know that God and I are doing fine.

I find it interesting that my passion for writing quickly returned after I made my announcement. The blog will pick back up and maybe I will get to the book that has been in my heart for some time.

My family has not gotten the best of me for some time. I am thankful that I can slow down and give them the time they need.

I hope to read again. After achieving my degrees, I got sick of reading. I pray that my desire to read will reignite.

I plan to manage time better and really make my time count. I want to find the passion once again to hear preaching, read Scripture, and worship without it turning into a planning session for the upcoming Sunday. I just want to hang out with Jesus. I need quality time with Him just because.

My final plan is to let God shape me into what HE wants me to be rather than what I feel pressured to be. God did not call me to conform but to be transformed (Romans 12:1, 2). God does a better job at shaping me than I do myself.

I want to call you to action. What is it about your life and schedule that needs to change? It’s in your hands. What will you do about it?

What to Call My Blog Now

Last year, I changed the name of my blog to keep my name with “Comeback Pastor” in parentheses. I feel that now I have stepped away from the pastorate (at least for now), maybe I should change what’s in the parentheses.

Let’s have some fun with this. Please humor me, especially those of you who like to have a little bit of fun with plays on words. I look forward to your responses.

Image from tapas.io

I Just Choked On Reality

Today marks a new season on my ministry journey. I had to face the fact that although God called me to get the ball rolling for Overcomers Church, I do not have the skill set to take it beyond where it is. I have been trying to avoid swallowing that pill for several months, but today I told our core group that they could either choose to dissolve or choose to move forward. They chose the latter. These are dedicated people who want to see something happen. For that, I am grateful. I can’t wait to see what God does with this awesome group. I’m glad I got to play a small part in it.

As for the future of me and my family, you won’t have to read any more about the church on my posts (and all God’s people said Amen?). Seriously, I understand that the nature of my ministry is mostly transitional. I have stayed places anywhere from 7 months to 6 years. Some transitions take longer than others. Sometimes, God sends me somewhere so He can work on me.

I am excited about the future. Whether I rest a little while or find myself receiving a new assignment from God within the next few months, I am at His disposal. I surrendered to do His will not mine.

I find it funny that the title of yesterday’s post was “I Resign”, because I did not plan to do that today. Later in the day, I could not quit struggling until I knew what God wanted for me and for the church. Now I know. Although I almost choked on reality, I feel free now. I don’t have to try to do something that is outside my ability and spin my wheels. Now I can rest in who God created me to be and be 100 percent okay with that. He holds my future and the future of Overcomers in His hands. Meanwhile, I will serve Him while I wait.

I Resign

Although I have been in ministry for over 20 years, I have not resigned from many positions. Let me clarify that I was not fired either. I have not resigned from a church position in 3 years. With that said, it’s time I announce some things from which I resign.

I RESIGN from trying to preach sermons that will leave everyone being met at their point of need. God will use one for a specific group/person one week and do the opposite for another.

I RESIGN from feeling like I have to compete with all the bigger churches in town. We can only do the best we can with the resources God has given us. God did not call me to be the pastor down the road, nor did He call our church to be like any other church.

I RESIGN from trying to operate outside my giftedness. I cannot help how God has gifted me. If it is not enough for someone, that is perfectly fine. It just might meet the need of someone else.

I RESIGN from trying to be there for everyone else while neglecting my emotional and spiritual health in the process. I’m not saying that I will stop ministering to others. What I am saying is that the burden of ministry has drained me at this stage of my life, and I will work harder to make sure that I have the spiritual nourishment I need so that I am not attempting to minister from an empty place.

Some may read this with a spirit of judgment while others will connect, even if you are not a pastor or church leader. My prayer is that whoever you are and whatever you do, God will use this to set you free as He is doing in my life.

Transparency Is Ugly

This has been a difficult week for me. My first instinct was to refrain from posting, but then I receive a nudge telling me that someone just might relate. Someone might be having a tough week at work. Some pastor might be ready to quit. Someone battling an illness may be sick of fighting. Someone may be battling negative emotions and have been told to hide reality with a fake smile. I chose this week to refrain from doing that. There is nothing worse than a fake pastor, and I don’t want to be in that category.

Depression and negative thoughts come with the territory for many of us. The important thing is that we should not camp out there. We should be pushing through to see God’s goodness in the midst of our pain. Praying through the storm. Praising through the tears.

It’s okay to be real. If that real you is toxic, don’t stay there. The point of exposure is to correct the problem. Let people see where you are so they can speak life (and correction when necessary) to help you be a better follower of Christ.

Image from reddit.com