How many people allow this question to terrorize them? I would say the vast majority of people allow this question to eat away at their spirit. I have.
When I returned to this area in January 2014, this question plagued me. All I could think was that I left the area on a high note. I had a good music ministry and was headed into my first pastorate, only to come back with no job, no wife, and only one child temporarily. I went back to the church where I previously served my first Wednesday back in town. I sat on the back row thinking that my life was over. I was simply existing. No one ever said that to me. However, that is what the enemy wanted me to think.
When I took a break later from church ministry, the same question ate away at me. I wondered what people were thinking. Was I a “has-been”? Did they consider me to be out of God’s will? Were they gossiping about how I had “backslidden”? I hate to say that it didn’t end there.
When I announced that I was starting a church, I felt so stupid. Who was I to start a church? I didn’t grow up in Oconee County. I didn’t have the following that other pastors in the area have. What would people think about the “twice married Matthew” starting a church? None of that should matter.
The bottom line is, “What does God think about it?” Is God pleased with my life? So what if people are talking behind my back. They will have to give account for what they say to the Lord Jesus as will I.
With that in mind, I have to block out the noise and let people be people. I have One Master to please, and His name is Jesus! I’ll leave you with this song.
This topic has been a recurring theme in conversations today. In neither of these conversations did we use the term “delayed revelation”. The presence of this principle was obvious.
The first conversation that brought this to mind was some commenting back and forth with another blogger. The topic was how God develops character and perseverance through difficulty. The revelation of what God is doing unfolds as you go through the hardship. You fully understand His revelation as you look back at what He has done.
The second conversation took place as a friend and I were discussing a similar thing. This conversation was more specific to why God led me to plant a church in the part of Oconee County that He did. I did not fully understand it then. I do not fully understand it now, but I do have a better glimpse. This guy is from this area and knows the spiritual needs better than I do. A few weeks ago, another friend was talking about the expansion of this particular part of the county. As I sat at lunch, the pieces starting coming together. God was saying to me, “Matthew, I told you to go there. I didn’t reveal the why, but I wanted you to act in faith. When you would act in faith, I would eventually reveal My plan.” The light bulb was on while I was maintaining my composure.
God often delays revealing His reasoning for things. He does not explain things to you until later. Many times, we cannot understand nor fully grasp the reason while it is happening. He has to reveal it in segments. Don’t begrudge God for that! He knows what He is doing!
Despite the rumor that we were no longer meeting, we celebrated one year of worship together. A part of me wanted to preach a typical message that was about high numbers and all the bragging rights that many new churches (especially splits) have. We didn’t split. I didn’t try to steal anyone from another church. I have actually tried to discourage people from coming if I knew they were looking for a particular church model. I would rather have a small, unified group than a bunch of people that had some pot-stirrers in the mix who were set out to sabotage what God laid out for the ministry. I tell people that if they want a traditional model church with committees, business meetings, and voting privileges from the type of toilet paper (1 ply or 2) to whether a church should have playground equipment for children, there are plenty in the county that fit the bill but we are not one of them. I am kind and gracious, but I want us to be focused and intentional.
Today was different. We had a live musician for the first time since last February. We had one of our highest attendance numbers which included one family who was there for the first time. I preached a message that was gospel-centered and brought us back to our initial vision which has not changed. Naturally, we celebrated with a meal afterward and it was great to look around the room and see what God is doing.
While we have not had any significant growth within the last year, I have learned a lot. My resolve is still the same. I have not wavered. I was thinking about what I prayed in the months leading up to our first Sunday as I was trying to discern if this is what God wanted. I said, “God, I don’t want to build a fly-by-night organization that draws a large people initially and dwindles immediately. I want You to slowly build a healthy body of believers that will last and something that will outlast me.” God is doing that.
Many of you have been very encouraging in this last year. I can’t thank you enough. Your prayers and words of encouragement mean a lot. Please keep praying and join me in believing that God will make a mighty army of disciples in Oconee County, South Carolina that will spread the gospel around the world.
“Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2 NKJV
Let Scripture speak for itself!
Although my first pastorate was only 11 months long, I met some great people during that time. The senior generation is often accused of being the ones who hinder progress, but that was not necessarily the case. One of my greatest encouragers during that time was in his early 80s. His name was Baker Wilson.
Baker had been in that church for many years. He had served as a deacon and a well-respected leader. He had a low tolerance for unbiblical practices in the church and had no problem speaking against them. The only ones who had an issue with him were typically the ones who were causing problems.
I remember well the first day he spoke encouragement into my life. It was Easter Sunday 2013. I received a call that he was in the emergency room. As any pastor does, I went with the intent to encourage him and his precious wife. As he was laying there awaiting test results and all the other things he would go through, he shared his word of encouragement with me. He confirmed that he was satisfied with my leadership and affirmed that many others were happy with the way I was handling things. That began a wonderful relationship with this precious family that still lasts today thanks to social media.
Today, he left this world to meet his Savior. When I met him, he was feeble and walked with a cane but did not allow that to hinder him from church attendance. Every time I asked him how he was doing, he would say “I’m still vertical.” He is even more vertical now.
To his wife, children, grandchildren, and all other family and friends, Baker Wilson left behind a great legacy. If he did nothing more than encourage this young pastor, it was well worth it. However, I know he did a lot more. Only Heaven will reveal it all, but many who were touched by his life can attest. May God grant comfort to all who mourn today.
You might be thinking that I am going to advertise or highlight some international event that is specific to foreign languages. I’m sorry, but I’m going to go a different which I tend to do in most of my posts. This “foreign language event” was a basketball game. “How was it a foreign language event?” you might ask. It’s because I am a fish out of water at any sporting event. People were shouting phrases from the bleachers when I’m used to shouting Amen. Calls were being made by referees, and I just sit there and watch who has the ball.
I used to begrudge how I am wired. I tried to be an athlete and failed. I attempted to be other things, discovered who I am and eventually became content with that. Sporting events are not my element, but I have learned to try to blend in.
Just because you do not understand something does not mean that you can’t appreciate it. God created diversity. If it is special to Him, then we should embrace it. We often have to do things that bump our comfort zone. Although we may not place ourselves in those situations on a consistent basis, we can still appreciate the exposure and celebrate those things for what they are. So the next time you are at a sporting event, look for the clueless guy. That just might be me.
I love to promote other blogs on mine. I decided to shorten each list from 10 to 5, so here are 5 more I think you should check out:
- Sherline’s Watchu Thinkin Blog – This is one of my newest followers. She keeps it real.
- Something to Stu Over – Stuart Tutt addresses some relevant issues from a Christian perspective, even things of a sexual nature.
- Every Small Voice – Heather Bergen is a Christian blogger from Canada who is a homeschooling mother of 5 children. I know her posts will be a blessing.
- iScriblr – This is a very eclectic blog that covers lots of different subjects. I encourage you to stop by and read and keep up to see what subject will be posted next.
- From Ian’s Corner – Ian is a straight-shooter, so you might want to put your big boy/girl pants on.
I hope you visit and follow these. There are so many more I want to share in the near future. We’ll see who’s next!
I can already hear the gasps. I have only announced the title and some people are getting uncomfortable. Why? Because Christians have a sex problem. Let me explain.
I grew up in Christian School. I remember most of my teachers stumbling across the word like it was completely sinful. Outside God’s design, it is sinful. Within God’s plan, it is beautiful. Why would God create sex if it was 100% perverted? The enemy perverted it, and mankind has perverted it. God never did. God does not blush on the throne of Heaven when someone says the word “sex”. He delights when a husband and wife engage in what He designed. A husband and wife can glorify God while doing so. If that were not the case, there would not be a whole book of the Bible which focuses on this subject within the marital relationship. If you’re wondering what that book is, it’s Song of Solomon (Song of Songs). I dare you to study it. Proverbs has some good coverage on the issue also.
You may be wondering what provoked me to post such a topic. It’s because too many teachers and preachers don’t have the guts to preach about it, then they wonder why there is a ton of sexual sin in their churches and in society. Preachers and parents have been way too bashful and have avoided the facts way too long. The less we talk about it openly and honestly, the more people are going to go out and experience it for themselves. Human nature is to rebel. If we teach what the Bible says in a nonjudgmental way, we just might be surprised at the results. We might actually see our youth want to save themselves for marriage. We might actually see people keeping sex within their own marriage. We might see less porn addiction. Furthermore, we might see less sexual abuse. The more we make it taboo, the more we silently encourage people to do the wrong thing.
Do you think there is a Christian sex problem? It isn’t because God doesn’t encourage sex in the most wonderful way. It is because Christians are too embarrassed and choose the avoidance method.
To parents, pray and be open and honest with your children. Answer their questions and keep an open environment. Proper teaching begins at home. You can’t delegate parenting to the church nor the school system.
To pastors, do not be afraid to address this issue biblically. Don’t be so clinical or professional that people cannot relate. Yet, on the other hand, don’t be so irreverent that you turn your preaching and teaching into a big joke.
Dear Christian, our avoidance has created a lot of problems but we still have time. Don’t wait until there is a problem in your home or church to talk about it or go to the other extreme by creating an atmosphere of shame. Let’s get biblical and talk about the beauty of what God designed and still has for a husband and wife to cherish.