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?

“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

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

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”?

The Law of Reflection

Last week, as my wife and I were blessed to spend the week on a cruise ship out in the middle of the ocean, I really expected something big to happen. I expected us to get rejuvenated and refreshed by simply removing ourselves from our everyday life. Don’t get me wrong, we rested well and we enjoyed every second that we were away. But as we jumped into my truck to return home, the weight and load of life began to consume my thought life.

The closer we got to home/ the more overwhelmed I became. This was brought on by the fact that my 13 year old truck (that I just spent $518.00 on 2 weeks ago) was skipping like a 7 year old school girl as we traveled North on I-75. I knew it was going “put us down” at any moment. Also, I received a call from my son to inform me that our downstair’s AC unit was not working! Just what I wanted… To leaves the luxury of a 5 star cruise ship and spend the next evening sweating like a mule in the comforts of my own home! Joy/Joy.

I must say that our Lord did allow us to make it home and our upstair’s AC unit was blowing snowballs! So, I slept by myself in my daughter’s “Pink” bed last night. When I woke up this morning, I pulled out a book by John Maxwell that I have been reading and I realized that last week was good but it was not the best. I read the chapter this morning that was entitled “The Law of Reflection”!

Last week I removed myself from my day to day life but I did not apply “The Law of Reflection”. Basically, John Maxwell explains that if we never spend time reflecting on our past, we will never grow! He unpacked the “Power of Pausing” in this chapter and it has rattled me to the core! You see, when we pause and reflect, something worthwhile happens.

Here are a few truths mentioned in the book concerning Reflection:
1. Reflection Turns Experience into Insight.
2. Everyone Needs a Time and a Place to Pause & Reflect.
3. Pausing with Intention Expands and Enriches Thinking.

So, last week as I was away, I did pause but I did not reflect. I simply refused to allow my mind to reflect and what I realize today is that I must reflect to get the benefit of “Pausing”! In fact, each day should include some time of pausing and reflecting.

Jim Rohm said it this way, “At the end of each day, you should play back the tapes of your performance. The results should either applaud you or prod you!” I commit to spending time each day “Pausing and Reflecting” where I can grow and be the man God has called me to be. I refuse to continue repeating the struggles of today-Tomorrow! Will you join me?

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