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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“FUSION”

According to Webster Dictionary, the word Fusion means “a merging of diverse, distinct and/or separate elements into a unified whole.”

Yesterday, Hope Church of Madison and Summit Church of Madison made a “Fusion” proposal to their congregations. This Proposal shared the idea of our church families coming together for the expressed purpose of doing more for the Kingdom of God locally, nationally and internationally.

What does that mean? Well, I’m glad you ask! Here are a few answers to the questions that many people may have.

1. Where did this idea originate? Back in March, the Leadership Team of Summit Church had a meeting to discuss this possibility and prayed through the Fusion idea. After that meeting Pastor Jeff Rogers called me. That meeting began a very intensive process that has brought us to the point of making this proposal to our churches.

2. Who has been involved in this process? Summit’s Lead Team: Jeff Rogers, Kevin Ramsey, Tim Carter, Charlie Brown. Hope’s Lead Team: Matt Alexander, Michael Hughes, Greg Carter, Mark Smith, David Kelley.

3. Has anyone from our state convention, association, and/or North America Mission Board offered any counsel and insight? Yes! Larry Wynn and Harris Malcom from our state convention has offered great counsel and helped us with a systematic process to walk through. Neal Hughes from NAMB offered great insight early on in this process and challenged us to answer the hard questions. Larry Cheek w/ the Stone Mountain Baptist Association has been instrumental in guiding us too. NAMB also provided us a valuable resource from Matt Rogers. Matt wrote a book that explained the process that his church went through to merge with another church in 2013. This resource helped us walk through this entire process and it has been priceless.

4. Is either church in trouble? NO. Both churches are stable and God is blessing their ministries. There are no financial problems and/or church disputes that has brought about this proposal. Both churches recognize the fact that they have the potential to be stronger together than apart and feel that a Merger will help grow the Kingdom at a more rapid pace.

5. What is the proposed name of the Church? Great question. We were challenged to leverage the names of both congregations to communicate unity and vision in Madison. It’s important to us that our city understands that no church is closing but that both churches are coming together for some very specific reasons. Also, as we prayed through a new name, we wanted to have a name that would be simple and something that would be foundational in the area of church planting for the future. So, the proposed name will allow us to plant more churches with identifying names for each campus. The proposed name is “Hope Church at the Summit”. The leadership of both congregations see the tremendous value in keeping the name Summit and Hope in the name of the new ministry.

6. What will be my role and Jeff’s role? Jeff will serve as Executive Pastor of the new work. Jeff will be responsible for Assimilation, Evangelism, Discipleship, Outreach and Missions. I will serve as Lead Pastor and will be responsible for the overall direction of the church. Jeff and I have spent countless hours together since March and I can say that we have never been more excited about where God is leading us both!

These are exciting days and we look forward to seeing how God will lead us in the days to come.

Here is a link to the video we shared yesterday with our churches.

Whatever It Takes,
Matt

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

He’s “Special”

On this day 16 years ago, my life was changed forever. No, I didn’t have a terrible accident or hear some troubling news from a Doctor. I found myself at the side of a hospital bed at Rockdale Medical Hospital and witnessed the most remarkable thing! On that day, my wife gave birth to Elijah Craig Alexander.

Like all of all our children, Elijah is “Special”! He’s special because our Lord has uniquely gifted him with some gifts that make him standout in our home. I remember how when he was 2 1/2 years old that he could back his John Deere Petal Tractor around our island in our kitchen with a trailer hitched to the rear without ever having to pull forward to realign himself! Folks- that’s Special. I’ll have to remind him of that gift as he prepares to get his license this week. He’s sweating a load!

Elijah is “Special” because he is a very hard worker. When I’m scared to try to tear something a part, he dives right in! He loves to get dirty and do whatever it takes to accomplish the task at hand. In fact, I’ve never seen a kid or 16 year young man with the work ethic he has. He can do anything he wants to do. At times I get perplexed when he accomplishes something I would have never tried and I ask myself, “Self, where does he get that”? Well, he gets that from his Mom and Papa.

Elijah is “Special” because he has a heart to be a behind the scenes-impact player for the cause of Christ. When God called our family to plant Hope Church of Madison, I had no idea what kind of task He was calling us to. There are days that all of our children are with me, serving food, washing coolers, setting up tables, sweeping floors, praying with families or visiting hospitals. Elijah has been with me every step of the way. He serves at Hope church in our Audio Visual Ministry and our Lord has used him in a tremendous way over the past 3 years. He works so hard. He’s “Special”!

Next, I’m sure Elijah will not like the phrase “He’s Special”, but I have a reason. When I was a kid, my mom always told me that I was “Special” & it made a great impact on my life. In fact, I heard it so much I began to believe it. I’m not sure I was “Special” but I’m confident that Elijah is! I’m so proud of the young man that he has grown to be and I’m not looking forward to letting him go in the days to come, but he has a calling! So, I will release him to join our Lord in making a difference for His Kingdom!

Elijah, You are one of greatest blessings our Lord has given to us. We love you and we are so proud and honored to call you son! When I look at you I see myself and it fills me with fear. But I also see your mom and how she has greatly influenced your life. It doesn’t stop there, I see your Papaw, who you never met. He marked you and you don’t even realize it! I see Grammaw in you by how you care so deeply for others & this is a trait that’s at the top of my list of things I admire about you. Finally, when I look at you, I see your Papa & Nana. Our Lord used them in a Real Unique Way to help mold & shape you into the man you have become. I’m overwhelmed today as I think about who you have become because of these special people.

You know, Elijah is “Special” because God used “Special” people to invest in him. May we all see that we are “Special” & let that truth motivate us to invest in the next generation.

I’m Committed,

Dad

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