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?

#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

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

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

Pray Big…

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There have been seasons of my life where I was led to Pray Big.  Each time I sought God in a Big way, He seemed to always do Big things…  Over the past month or so, I have been challenged by Scripture to pray Big Prayers.  It also seems that everywhere I turn, God is saying, “Trust Me, I Am your source, I can handle it, I will provide.”  

I have been re-reading “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Jim Cymbala.  This book challenged me many years ago to be God Dependent and as I have been reading it again, I have a new, fresh dependency upon God.  It seems that through the busyness of life, I had began to pray those normal, sissy prayers…  You know, “Lord, keep us safe, provide for us, speak to my heart, show me the way, God bless the USA….”  I have found that these things do not normally bring a lot of Glory to our Lord because it’s the Big prayers that He answers that He gets the most glory for!

My last post was on August 9th, where I discussed getting “Back to the Basics”.  God has reminded me that if I am going to be a 1st Century Christian in the 21st Century, I must get back to the basics in my prayer life.  In Acts, the 1st Century Believers where faced with all kinds of opposition and persecution.  But they did not pray the normal prayers…  They prayed Big Prayers to a Big God because they were on a Big Mission!

In fact, in Acts 4:29-30, they prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  I love it, they didn’t pray for safety and strength.  They prayed for BOLDNESS!  Boldness had gotten them into the mess they were in, but they prayed for more BOLDNESS and as God would stretch out His hand to work in the lives of those around them, they wanted to be able to speak the Gospel w/ Boldness!

That’s a Big Prayer!  I have been praying this prayer and a few other Big Prayers for about 47 days now and I have seen God do some Big Things!  What are you praying for? Are you praying for Boldness?  Are you praying Big prayers?  We serve a Big God and we are on a Big Mission, why not Pray Big?

I’m Committed,

Matt