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

Let Me Introduce You To:

Please allow me to introduce you to the most amazing person on the planet!

Her name is Thomasia Alexander. Thomasia is the most caring, loving, independent, beautiful, strong, wise, and incredible woman I have ever known. She has 5 wonderful children that she home schools and a husband that she has to care for 24/7…

She grew up in a Farmer’s home and that had its advantages. You see, she was taught early on that hard work pays off. She has an incredible work ethic and she understands the “law of the harvest”. She plants seeds everyday and expects to reap a tremendous return.

Thomasia has the unique ability to hear her child’s cry when it is silent. She can read her husbands face and interpret it without asking any questions. She is a knockout and she can cook a mean “Blueberry Pound Cake”! Thomasia loves and cares like no other person I know.

She has the ability to see through my faults and abilities and cheers me on when I want to quit! She works hard and sleeps little. Thomasia cares for others and weeps over bad news. She reaches out to long lost friends and embraces new people as if she’s known them forever. Thomasia is a true friend.

Folks, Thomasia Alexander is my wife.

Today is Valentines Day 2014! I have always really stunk at being a Romantic and Thomasia would clearly affirm that statement… But today I wanted to simply open my heart for the world to see.

Thomasia, I love you with every fiber of my being! Back in 1986, I saw you as a strong, wise, loving, young lady. Through the years, I have enjoyed every step of the journey. We have laughed. We have cried. We have witnessed the power of God and have traveled many dark roads. We have wrestled with God and taken steps of obedience. We have made wrong turns and with God’s help, made right ones too. We have seen friends come and we’ve seen them go. We have grown so much but still seem like kids! We have enjoyed many special moments like the time your friends showed up at your surprise birthday party. Like the time the doctor held our daughter up in the air and said, “You have a girl”! We have giggled and we have wept. We have searched and we have found!

Thank you for loving me with a Christ like love. Thank you for following me when the path has not been clear. Thank you for being the mother that you are and the friend I so desperately need! Thank for giving your all when it seems no one was watching!

You are a friend, mother, caregiver, teacher, chef, shuttle driver, counselor, scholar, spouse, partner, helpmate, bride, listener, friend, wife, laundry operater, companion and you are mine!

Happy Valentines Day!

I love you the most!

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

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

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