Bring’em In… Build’em Up… Send’em Out!

Back in the summer of 2010 was when I first heard those infamous words that came out of my mentor’s mouth. Neal Hughes spouted them out so fast – I didn’t even really grasp what he was talking about. At that time, I was serving as the Associate Pastor/Minister of Evangelism at my home church and Neal commuted in each week and filled the pulpit and provided great counsel to our church and it’s staff. It was during the interim season at my home church that our Lord gave those Missional words to Neal for me. Those words were revolutionary in my life and heart and gave me vision for my ministry.

You see, when I heard Neal say, “The local church must be focused on 3 things: Bring’em In, Build’em Up & Send’em Out”; I was rattled to the core. Have you ever heard so few of words put together that were more on point for what God has called us to be focused on? I haven’t…

Fast forward to August, 2011. Our home church, led by Neal Hughes, had voted to plant a church in Madison, Ga. Our family had heard loud and clear that we were to be part of the plant and I was serving at the Church Planter/Pastor of Hope Church of Madison. God had assembled a core group of approximately 35 people and we began meeting for weekly worship services at the Morgan County High School.

On the 1st Sunday, a middled aged couple walked into the High School cafeteria and I introduced myself to them. They said that they lived in “The Real Buckhead” Georgia. Buckhead is about 5-6 miles away from Madison. On the 2nd Sunday of our existence, they brought their son Kenny. Kenny walked in that day w/ a pair of shorts on, untucked- button up shirt, flip flops and I remember his hair being all over his head. In fact, I thought to myself, “Kenny looks like he might have had a rough night last night.”

After just a couple weeks, Kenny warmed up to me and I met him at Cracker Barrel for lunch on a Wednesday. I will never forget it. Kenny shared with me that day that he had a problem w/ alcohol and he had lost custody of his 2 children and they were now living in California. He also shared with me that he had repented of his sins and gave his life to Jesus in our worship service 2 weeks earlier. I was overwhelmed. Kenny was our first adult that came to Christ in our young church plant. Above you will see a picture of him the day he was baptized.

It was on that day, that I remembered the words of Neal Hughes. “Bring’em In, Build’em Up & Send’em Out.” Kenny became my baby. He had been brought into a personal relationship w/ Jesus and into our church, now the work really started. Well, to save you a lot of time and reading, let me say that for the past 5 years, one of my life goals was to pour myself into Kenny Dahl. I had a desire to Build him up in the faith and Send him out to his work place to be on mission.

After 5 years of walking w/ Jesus, being set free from the bondage of alcohol, a new wife-Kelly & step son-Alex, new baby-KJ, lots of heartache, loss of family members, gallons of tears, mountain top experiences, and tons of spiritual growth -I’m Sending him out…

Yep, that’s right! Today, Kenny, Kelly, Alex & KJ walked out of a mexican restaurant after a meal with our family and they are headed to Denver Colorado. God has saw fit to move his 2 children that live in California back to the Denver area and has opened a door for his young family to move there to be closer to his 2 children. Kenny sees the importance of being there for his children and teaching them the truths of God’s word.

So, instead of talking about my sadness, I choose to say that today is happy day!  I love Kenny Dahl. I loved his dad-Tim who passed away last year. I love Kenny’s mom, Diane. I love Kelly and all the kids like my own. I’ve had the privilege of baptizing Kenny, Kelly and Alex over the past 5 years. I’m so excited for their family.  I’m excited because I can say without a doubt that we have been faithful to Bring’em In, Build’em Up and Send’em Out!

Kenny Dahl- I love you and I’m so proud of you. You have made the Church Planting Journey so enjoyable and rewarding! You have been a constant source of encouragement and you are truly a testimony of the Transforming Power of Jesus Christ. I will never forget sitting at Cracker Barrel in 2011 and you telling me that you got in the wheelbarrow with Jesus. I challenge you to go the Denver and never forget what Neal said, “Bring’em In, Build’em Up and Send’em Out”!  Now–It’s your turn!

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#LETTEROFHOPE

Webster defines the word “Hashtag” as -: a word or phrase preceded by the symbol # that classifies or categorizes the accompanying text (such as a tweet). Over the past month we have been walking through 1 Peter at our church. After reading and studying 1 Peter, I was led to name this study #LETTEROFHOPE. Hashtags enable people that use social media to classify or categorize what people are saying about the hashtag. In fact, you can go to your social media site (Facebook and Twitter) and search any particular #(hashtag) and you can see what others are saying about the topic. Several people in our church have used the hashtag #LETTEROFHOPE to convey what God has been saying to them through this study.

After unpacking 4 weeks of 1 Peter, #LETTEROFHOPE has come alive in my own heart. Actually, I told my wife yesterday that our study of 1 Peter has been the most exciting, most rewarding, most encouraging, and most challenging study I have ever untaken as a Pastor. I have discovered what true Hope looks like in the midst of Hard Times. I am excited about the Hope I have been given through the systematic study of 1 Peter. The Lord has encouraged me and challenged me at the same time.

People in our church are being transformed by the Word of God. Many are being equipped to deal with the Hard Times they experience. Several people have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and have began a journey of dependence upon Christ. Families have reconciled and marriages have been rescued. Young people have shared how God has spoken to their hearts and they are growing in their walk with the Lord. Several people have shared how God is speaking to them and leading them like never before.

Yesterday marked the 3 year anniversary that my mother in law, Dale Knight was killed in a tragic accident. I must confess that it was the darkest time of our lives. In fact, it was the hardest trial our family has every gone through and at the end of each March, we are reminded of those dark days. It’s easy to get in the “mullygrubbs” when we slow down and look back at our past hurts and how we have scars from the past. But as we have been looking at 1 Peter and the #LETTEROFHOPE that our Lord gave us through Peter many years ago, we find that blessed HOPE we need. Yesterday was a good day as our family spent it together, celebrating the life of my mother in law, my wife’s mom-best friend-baby sitter-shopping partner-sounding board, my children’s nana-gift giver-mentor and friend. Yesterday was better than last year and I’m confident it was better because of God’s #LETTEROFHOPE.

This weekend we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s Easter! As believers, we have something to celebrate! Jesus Christ is alive and we have HOPE! I pray you will find your way to a worship service this Sunday and worship our Living Lord in Spirit and in Truth. If you do not have a place where you regularly worship, be my guest at Fusion Church of Madison. We will continue walking through 1 Peter and look deep into God’s #LETTEROFHOPE!

LIFE ON MISSION,

Matt

Coffee House Meditation

Run, Run- Fast as you can! This morning I had a meeting with one my friends and Missions Partners in Covington, Georgia at 10:30 am. I decided to skip going to the office in Madison before my meeting because of gas prices and timing. So, I made the trip to Covington way ahead of schedule to get in some reading, focus, and meditation. I just needed to clear my head.

I arrived at “the coffee house” and sat down alone and ordered a cup of “joe”. I sat for what seems like an hour, just asking God to clear my mind and settle my heart. After about 15 minutes, I pulled out my journal and began to make a list of things that I needed to do by Friday. After 5 minutes…. I had a comprehensive list and felt relieved. I then began going through the list: sending emails, making calls, putting dates on the calendar and making notes to help remind me to do other things.

I opened up my Bible and read the text for our theme for 2014 and God spoke directly to my heart and gave me not 1 but 2 messages for a series that will begin in February. If you are a pastor, you know that when read the Word and our Lord gives you 2 messages while you are just reading scripture and not preparing or even looking for a sermon, you’re overwhelmed! Folks, that’s how it’s supposed to be! But let me be real for a minute: that doesn’t happen in my life as often as it should because of the “busyness and noise” of life.

I guess what I’m saying is this: let’s slow down and focus our lives and be intentional in the areas of life that are most important in the context of eternity. What really matters most to you? Christ, Faith, Family, Job, Recreation, Friends, Pleasing People?

I’m thankful for the time I slowed down this morning at the “coffee house”. When is the last time you experienced some “coffee house meditation”?

Licking Your Lips/Blowing Your Horn

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During the month of August, our entire family participated in a “Social Media Fast”.  This came out of our sabbatical time in July.  We saw that our family had become disconnected from each other and we were obsessed….  Most evenings consisted of our entire family sitting around on a device “blowing our horn”.  We realized that this was not healthy.

One thing that I realized while off of social media this past month was how many people, including pastors, use social media to publicize what “God is doing” in their life and ministry in reality it is simply a “Self Promotion” strategy.  Let me give you an example:

This past Sunday was Labor Day Weekend and it is typically a very low Sunday at most churches due to travel and family outings.  Our church plant is about 2 years old and our attendance was way off.  In fact, we had 81 people.  I actually felt pretty good when I was told what our attendance was because I had prepared myself for 40 people…  I began to read twitter on the way home from church while my 15 year old son was driving.  I read where pastor after pastor talked about how their churches were full and people received Christ, people where baptized, overflow rooms where full, altars were full, people were getting happy… and babies were being tossed out of the balconies!!  No, not really but the comments were pretty extreme.

Now, I know as a pastor that we get excited when our attendance is good and people’s lives are changed by the Gospel, but I believe a lot of people and pastors are just “blowing their own horn” instead of giving God glory!  Social Media has given an outlet for pastors to lick their prideful lips and begin to toot their horns as loud and as much as they want.

As a pastor of a small church plant with very few people, sometimes I feel like a failure when I read comments on Social Media from other pastors. When I think back over my week last week, I worked very hard at fulfilling my goals and calling.  At times, I find myself licking my lips to blow my horn when God quickly challenges my motives when I start to post a tweet or post an update on social media.

What would happen if we would stop using social media as a place to “Blow our Horns” and start using it to encourage others and Exalt the Savior?  Social Media can be a good thing but we must use it responsibly.  

Finally, this morning I was sharing with my wife that I had heard that a pastor friend of mine was considering resigning his church.  She said, “Wow… On Facebook, you would think the church was doing great and they are “Happy, Happy, Happy”.  Her comment blew me away!  Folks, lets don’t use social media to paint a picture that is not reality! 

Trying Not to Lick My Prideful Lips,

Matt

Growth Takes Intentionality

ImageI recently read where if you put a pumpkin in a jug when it’s the size of a walnut, it will grow to the size and shape of the jug and never get bigger.  That can happen in our own personal growth too!

Over the past 25 days, I have been spending a better portion of each day focused on Personal Growth.  I have read a 356 page Fiction book to allow my mind to veg out, a book entitled “Simple Church” by Thom Rainer and I’m in the middle of “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” by John Maxwell.  I have set some guardrails in my life and set up a “structured” time management plan for my life beginning in August.  I have been very intentional.

Over the past 4 days, I have realized that I must take control of my life and stop running to the “Hottest Fire”!  As I read and seek the face of God for my life, He consistently tells me the same thing! “Press toward the Goal”.  The problem in recent months is that my goal has been surviving today.  This goal has been small and has a very odd shape.  It also has restricted me from growing.

I would like to share with you some wonderful quotes from John Maxwell’s book that may help you take control of your life and be consistent in growing as you move forward as I do.

“The hallmark of excellence, the test of greatness, is consistency.”  Jim Tressel

“You’ve got to get up every morning w/ determination if you’re going to go to bed w/ satisfaction.”  George Lorimer

“Small disciplines repeated w/ consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” J. Maxwell

“If you develop the habits of success, you’ll make success a habit.”  Michael Angier

“It’s possible to change without growing, but it’s impossible to grow without changing.” J. Maxwell

“Today is when everything that’s going to happen from now on begins.” Harvey FIrestone Jr.

“If you need to make changes in yourself and your environment, don’t dwell on your past.  You can’t change it.  Don’t worry about your future.  You can’t control it.  Focus on the current moment and what you can do now.  J. Maxwell

Basically, what I’m telling you is this:  “Growth Takes Intentionality”! I resolve to seek the will of God and intentionally make the changes in my life to allow for the most growth!  Folks, I’ve been in a small jug!  The jug is coming off and I long to grow in every area of my life!

Growth Takes Intentionality,

Matt

It’s Not About Me…

This morning as I sit on a dingy sofa in a less than 5 star hotel, I am missing my church family. I have not stood in the pulpit since June 30th and I have spoken to less than 5 church members since then.

A sabbatical is a difficult journey. You see, you have to let go and I’m not good at letting go! I’ve had to let go of the day to day. I’ve had to let go of the calls, emails and most of the text messages. I’ve had to give up the pulpit that I love to stand behind each week. In fact, I have not even prepared a single message in 14 days! I do have a preaching plan in place for the 1st 5 weeks when I return in August but they are not ready to unload. I’ve had to let my wife manage my phone and just let it all go. It has not been easy.

Through the years I have been taught that the pastor/preacher must lead the charge! They do all the pastoring, teaching, visiting, leading, praying, ministering, counseling, weddings, funerals and make sure you are in the service each week preaching. “Your people expect you to preach every week.” So, missing the month of July so for has been tough.

This morning, my friend Terry Richardson will stand and proclaim the Word of God to the wonderful people at Hope Church. He is a dear friend and I love him deeply. Over the past 2 years, I’ve missed maybe 3 services where I was not in attendance and no more than 6 services where I didn’t preach at all. I long to preach and more than that, I have believed that the people want me to be the one preaching. Lol…

God is showing me that I’m not “Superman”. Our people are not looking for Matt Alexander to be in that pulpit, they are looking for “God’s man” to show up with a word from Heaven! I strive to be that man each week. I want to be that man each week! But it does not have to be me!

When I return, things will be different. I commit to mentor and invest in those younger men who God has called to preach the Gospel. I commit to allow them the privilege to proclaim the Word of God in our pulpit as God leads. I’m thankful for the men through the years who entrusted their pulpits to me. You see, they didn’t believe it was all about them and what gives me that right?

I know, I know… I’m the pastor. I’m the one being held accountable. I’m the “paid staff”. I hear ya! But listen…. God is showing me that part of my calling and ministry is to invest in those that are out in front of me in life, ministry & experience, those coming behind me and those along side of me.

Folks, people in our churches love their pastors. They even desire to hear them preach each week. But if we are faithful, they will be more concerned about hearing “God’s man” than hearing their preacher-man when they walk into our services. Let’s lead our people to fall in love with Jesus and when a man stands behind that sacred desk and they are full of Jesus, they’ll leave challenged and changed!

It’s Not About Me,

Matt