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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Do You Smell What I’m Stepping In?

I was in a meeting about a 1 1/2 years ago with a couple guys and I was explaining a few ideas and points and a friend of mine said, “Matt, I smell what your stepping in.” His comment caught me off guard but then I was filled with joy that he honestly understood my point of view!

It’s been a long time since my last post and tonight as we approach another anniversary in our church, I feel like answering the top 4 questions that people have ask me since I began the church planting journey. It’s my prayer that if you read this post, you too will “Smell What I’m Stepping In”.

So here goes:

1.  I noticed that your church’s name does not include the word “Baptist” on the sign, why?

That’s a great question! I have been part of the baptist church for 42 years. Baptist is at the core of who I am. So, when we made the decision to leave the word “baptist” off of our church sign, it was a strategic decision. If you’ve had your head in the sand for the last 40 years, you probably don’t realize that baptist churches have done a few things wrong. In an effort to stand for Truth, baptist have alienated a lot of people by being unloving, harsh and hateful. Now, I do understand that all baptist have not lived their life this way but all baptist do not have to for all baptist to get that reputation.

So, we decided early on that we would much rather run people off from our church services than out at the road when they see our church sign. One lady ask me, “Matt, is Fusion Church a Baptist Church?” I said yes it is. She said, “I’m glad I didn’t know because I would have never came here if I had known.”

2.  Why does your facility not have a drop ceiling in the sanctuary?

Hmmm.  There is a deep theological reason for this! Buckle up…  Here is the answer: Because it was cheaper! You see, by blacking out our ceiling, we had more dollars available upfront to reach lost people with. Another reason is that the only roof or ceiling that was talked about in scripture got a hole ripped in it by some sold out believers that wanted their friend to have his sins forgiven and his body healed. Jesus was not upset about the hole in the roof and I don’t think He’s upset about our black ceiling either.

3.  Why do you wear blue jeans and untucked shirts when your preach?

Because the people that want a church were they have to dress up at, already have one. And the lost people that have no church affiliation may not have church clothes to wear to those churches. I want them to feel comfortable when they worship with us. The very first adult man that came to faith in our ministry came to our church because he could wear shorts and flip flops. He would have never gone to a church where he would have had to dress up. If people want to dress up they can go to your church or ours. But if they want to dress casual, they will probably come to ours before they go to yours if the majority of your church family dress up. Just sayin…

4.  Why don’t you have hymnals at your church?

Well, the main reason is that our church was a portable church before we had our own facility. Who wants to set out hymnals every week before the service and take them up after the service? Who wants to spend thousands of dollars on books that will be torn up after a short period of time when a screen and projector will last many years? Also, our Worship Pastor typically leads with a guitar in his hand and it’s difficult to use a hymnal and play a guitar at the same time.

Another reason is that through the years I have witnessed in most churches that I have been apart of having just 1 piano player and 1 organ player. Those 2 faithful servants serve week in and week out for years and years. Very few people get an opportunity to use their gifts. So, we wanted to have a full band and several different instrumentalist for each instrument. That way we expand our ministry base and are able to raise up many more servants. Oh yeah… I love a full band and live music!

I hope and pray that people who grew up similar to me in the local baptist church would have an open enough mind to see that our goal is not to destroy the traditions of the past. Our goal is simply to expand the Kingdom of God by using every possible resource and approach.

Let me close this posts by saying, as I think about my journey with Christ, I’m reminded of the open air pavilion where I was when I was convicted of my sin and repented and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. You know, every time I think about that night, I’m reminded that there were no hymnals there that night. There was no ceiling in that Pavilion. In fact, the ceiling was open and all I saw from the ground were trusses. I also remember what was on the floor… It was not a ceramic tile or plush carpet… It was sawdust! I can still smell that aroma and I’m convinced it was a sweet smelling aroma to my Lord Jesus too!

Do You Smell What I’m Stepping In?

Mountain Tops & Grief

This blog began in the summer of 2013. It was designed to chronicle the life and experience of a church planter, me, Matt Alexander. The post have been few and far between but today I must share.

Planting a church has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever tackled but it has also been one of the most rewarding. This past Sunday was a monumental day for our young church family. We moved from the local High School, where we have been meeting since our launch on August 7, 2011. We moved to the local Recreation Gym next door to the High School.

It was a wonderful site as we packed up all our equipment after our service and made our passage down the street to our new home! It was in a sense, our “Crossing of the Jordan”! In fact, all,of our families rolled rolling boxes down the street while others drove their vehicles and honked their horn! It was an exciting time as we built “memorials” along the journey. This was a special time of celebration.

As we arrived at our “Promised Land”, excitement was at an all time high as we set up the gym with all of our equipment and saw God’s plan unfold. Words could not describe the joy that was in our heart as we finished up Sunday afternoon.

Even though this was a “Mountain Top” experience, there was an underlying grief that our family was carrying. You see, it was 2 years to the date that my wife’s mother, our children’s Nana, and my wonderful mother in law was tragically killed in an accident. This was hard for our family to reconcile. On one hand we were grieved and on the other, we were pumped about what God was doing at Hope.

Boy… I sure do love my wife . While carrying this load, she handled the meal for over 120 people Sunday night. She set the seating arrangements for all our guest, she handled getting the meal together with a caterer that failed to have all the food on time and tried to please people that registered at the last minute. It would have been easy for her to have stayed at home Sunday but she rose to the occasion because she loves people! If my dad were here today he would say, “Matt, your wife has a heart as big as TEXAS!”

So today, as I share this experience with you, I want you to know that even in the greatest moments of life- people, even your leaders and their families are dealing with hurts of the past. You see, I’m learning that Mountain Tops & Grief go together! When it seems that no one cares, Jesus Cares! I was reminded of a an old song yesterday that ministered to my heart and I pray you’ll go listen to “Does Jesus Care” by Frank Graeff. You can listen to George Beverly Shea sing it on You Tube by clicking on this link: http://youtu.be/kheJYjttzY4

Here are the lyrics.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
 Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress
 And the way grows weary and long?

Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief there is no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?

Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks,
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Oh Yes, He Cares-
Matt

Back To The Basics

When I was playing High School Baseball, it seemed that each year we would start off good and then have a few terrible games. Each year at this point our coach (Allen Crowley) would say these words at practice, “Boys, it’s time to get Back To The Basics”! Those words meant something to us. In fact, we knew exactly what he was talking about.

“Back To The Basics” meant that we would be running the bases and finish our practice each day “on the fence”… Oh the dreaded fence! “Back To The Basics” meant that we would be focusing on conditioning, hitting, and catching. He would tell us that if we could not run, hit and catch, we were toast! In fact, he would spend time reviewing the rules of baseball. I remember one game in particular that we had lost because one of our players had run out of the base line and interfered with a play.

Last month as I was on my sabbatical, I kept hearing Coach Crowley in my ear, “Boy, it’s time to get “Back To The Basics”! As I contemplated those words, I realized that several things needed to happen.

1. I had to “get on the fence”. That meant that I had to work on conditioning. I had to put into practice the spiritual disciplines that would condition me for the ministry God had called me to.

2. I had to work on catch and hitting. If I could not “Catch the Word of God” (hear from Heaven), I was in trouble! If I could not “Hit the Curve” Satan threw me, I would be sitting on the bench.

3. I had to review what my mentors had taught me about the rules of ministry. You see, I realized that I could not run out of the base line and expect to win. I had to put some guardrails in place to keep me where I needed to be.

Do you feel that your loosing? Do you need to “get on the fence”? Are you “catching the Word”? Are you “hitting the curve”? Do you need to put guardrails in your life to keep you on track?

In the words of Coach Crowley, “Boys, it’s time to get Back To The Basics”!

I’m Committed,

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

Tomorrows Clouds

This morning as I look out our back windows, I see the rain falling-AGAIN. It’s seems that it has been raining everyday. We are inclined to complain and whine but I’m sure our Lord will allow things to dry up real soon. Then I suppose we will complain about that too. Everyday people turn the news on to catch the weather and when they do, it seems to weigh them down.

In fact, we tend to worry about things that we can’t control. We can’t control the weather no more than we can control Joe Biden’s tongue…. Ok, I won’t go there! But why do we worry about things we can’t control? Why do we allow the worries of tomorrow to stress us out today? Worry is real and I have been victim of this awful plague.

Over the past year, I have found myself consumed with worry. I hate to use that word. I would rather use the word “concern”, that sounds more spiritual, right? But I’ve lied to myself long enough. I’ve been worrying about things that I should be giving to God!

I worry about our future location of our church plant. I worry about getting our church calendar set. I worry about getting my preaching calendar set. I worry about how guest feel in our services. I worry about not spending time with my family. I worry about getting promotional materials developed next month for a special event. I worry about who’s going to handle moving our setup trailer. I worry about our leadership team burning out! I worry, worry, worry. Until this week, I’ve thought it was just concern. But worry has consumed me. As I read over theses “worries”, I realize that everything I worry about are little things and these little things are sucking the life out of me. These things worry me and consume my thought life and I’m left ineffective!

There are scriptures that we can all quote that deal with this and I have looked them all up this week. They have ministered to my soul. I even went and listened to the great Dr. Adrian Rogers preach a message on worry this week to be challenged. In that message he made a few statements that rattled me to the core. After hearing those statements, I repented and God has set me free. I have made a commitment to Him and myself that I will unload these wagons of worry and allow Him to give me strength for each day.

Dr. Rogers made these statements:

“Worry does not take the sorrow out of tomorrow, it takes the strength out if today!”

“Worry pulls tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine!”

Folks, it may rain tomorrow, but we cant afford to let the clouds of tomorrow cover our sunshine today!

I’m Committed,

Matt

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up…

ImageWhen I was just a little boy, people would always ask me, “Matthew, what do you want to be when you grow up?”  My stock answer was to be a policeman or fireman.  Then they would go a step further and ask, “When you grow up, do you think you will be a Preacher?”  NO!  Not a chance!

Fast forward to 1991!  I was fresh out of High School and I was “In Love” with the girl of my dreams!  We had been dating for several years and I was confident that she was the “ONE”! We had been discussing marriage.  I know, I know, I was young but she was older than me and more “mature”…  Well, she was starting her Junior Year at UGA and I was in school trying to get some kind of degree to satisfy her parents.  We were both working as much as possible and we were looking forward to the day that we could get married.

I had it all planned out.  I took off work one day and had to have “the talk” with her dad!  Her dad was a farmer and he would normally show up at his house around lunch each day.  I decided that I would go ask him if I could get his blessing to ask “his sweet, only child” to marry me.  

Well, I walked in the door and he was rared back in his Lazy Boy wearing his work outfit.  He was the guy that wore the denim shirt everyday with the cut off sleeves!  I’ll never forget the nervousness in my gut.  I was about to Puke!  I sat down on the sofa (more than an arms length away) and began my spill.  I shared with Thomas that I loved Thomasia with all my heart and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.  I finally mustered up enough courageous to ask him for his permission to ask her to marry me.  Thomas’ reply was priceless.  “Matt, are you going to be a farmer when you grow up?”  I said, “Absolutely Not”.  He quickly said, “You can marry her!”  He knew the struggles of farm-life and didn’t want us to experience the same life he had endured.

We left together that afternoon and headed to the jewelry store to buy a ring.  He was so excited and wanted me to pick the perfect ring for his daughter and my bride to be.  I’ll never forget how excited he was.  It sure made my life so much easier!

About 2 weeks later, I ask Thomasia to come down to my house one morning.  She walked in my room, I sat her on the edge of my bed, I proceeded down on my knees and shared these words with her: “Thomasia, I love you with all my heart.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I want to ask you today if you would marry me?  Before you answer, I want you to know that if you say yes, it’s forever!  There’s no turning back, there is no such thing as divorce!”

Here is her response, “Matt, I have one question for you…  When you grow up, are you going to be a preacher?”  I was shocked!  I said, “Absolutely Not!”  The rest is history!  We waited till she graduated UGA a few years later and on this day, July 10, 1993, we entered into a Covenant Marriage Relationship!

Through the years, God has changed our hearts and knitted them together on numerous occasions.  I have had to ask her dad and her to forgive me for lying to them!  I lied about not  becoming a farmer because now I sow the Gospel Seed each week.  I lied about not becoming a Preacher, but I really had no intention of becoming a Preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thomasia has stuck with me through every career change and uncertain path that God has led us down.  I am one blessed man!  So, on this day, I have to ask myself that same question that I’ve been asked so many time in my life, “Matt, what do what to be when you grow up?”

I want to be the husband that God called me to be.  I want to be the father that God desires for me to be.  I want to love my wife as Christ loves the church and I desperately want to be everything my wife had in mind 20 years ago today, when she walked down that aisle and said, “I DO” before God and all of our friends and family!

May we all evaluate our lives today and be what God intended for us to be according to His Word!  Happy Anniversary Babe!

Growing Up,

Matt