Archives For Matt Lawson

Mission teams are strategic to the lifeblood and the launch of Story City Church. We’re receiving teams starting spring 2015. Our vision is for teams to serve the city in order to help us be shoulder to shoulder with people to demonstrate the gospel in community.

Click Here to Get a Better Together LA Mission Team Packet

We’re hosting a Vision Trip for pastors and youth pastors October 27-28 in Los Angeles. You can read about that trip in the Mission Team Packet. We’d love for you to join us on this vision tour.



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Bill Agee is a great friend and mentor. He’s planted churches, developed strategic partners to plant churches, and now coaches church planters in the process. In the last five years under his leadership, we’ve planted 34 churches at First Baptist Woodstock. All but two are still surviving and thriving…a stunningly phenomenal success rate. He’s helped us develop a process to grow sustainable churches.

This past May, he received a Doctor of Ministry while writing on the subject of this blog post. Bill will eventually publish his DMin work, and you should read it. For now though, we can glean several things from his many years in planting thriving churches.

Bill believes we can predict with great success the survival capacity of a church plant when the following four elements come together.

  1. The Right Person
    Does the church planter have a call of God on his life? Does he have demonstrable leadership capacity?
  2. The Right Plan
    Is there a plan and process in place that helps a planter know what his needs are, when trouble will arise, and what he’ll need along the way? Bill has developed a piece called Count the Cost that EVERY PLANTER should go through.
  3. The Right Place
    Is the area underserved and in need of gospel churches? Are there people on the ground ready to stand behind a church planted in that area?
  4. The Right Partnership
    Are there churches willing to come together to support the plant until it reaches an agreed upon goal of sustainability?

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Bill’s book, Church Planting: This is Not a Manual.

If you’re a pastor or staff member, we’d love the opportunity to discuss our vision for planting Story City Church under Bill’s leadership along with NAMB and other partnering churches. We’d love to share why we believe these four elements are in place as we plant a church in Los Angeles and how we can partner together.

Feel free to download the following documents and then shoot us an email or call to set up a time to talk,

Shoot me an email and let’s talk about planting in Los Angeles!



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Relationships. That’s our strategy for launching Story City Church. We don’t yet fully know the culture we’ll be leading, but we do understand this…relationships win the day. You can help us win.


Once we hit the ground full-time in January our team will spend the majority of our first year meeting people, hearing their story, and inviting them to help us shape the vision of Story City Church.

And you can help us launch in a BIG way.

  • Do you know someone in Los Angeles you’d be willing to connect us to?
  • Do you have a family member or friend that knows someone & could connect us?
  • Maybe you don’t know anyone in LA but you’ll post this link on social media and help us connect with others?

We’ll meet or talk by phone with whoever you recommend. It doesn’t matter if they currently attend a church or if they don’t have any spiritual beliefs. We simply want to be cultural anthropologists in order to understand the city. Maybe they can connect us to others too.

IT WILL ONLY TAKE 1 MINUTE TO CONNECT US. Go here & give us some info and we’ll do the rest!


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Story City Header

Story City Church Update.

Everyday is a new piece to the puzzle

Since our plans went public March 23rd, this journey has been filled with extreme emotion and trust. The reality of our dependence hit us dramatically the day we put our dream house on the market two weeks ago as we knew we’d never live in such a house again! It was real, but we’re truly as satisfied as we could possibly imagine.

WATCHING GOD. A few highlights over the past 6 weeks…

  • We’ve received emails, phone calls, and texts of God’s supernatural activity in the lives of other people after announcing we were leaving. One guy I met with recently said he was flying back from the West Coast and God clearly impressed on his heart that he should move out west. After he found out we were headed to Los Angeles, he put his yes on the table to move and be a part of the church!
  • Someone dropped a massive check for Los Angeles  in the offering plate two weeks ago at First Baptist Woodstock! I don’t know who they are but I’m unbelievably grateful. This was totally unsolicited as we haven’t asked individuals for money. It was a monster check. Praise God!
  • Through a difficult set of circumstances and a brief visit back to Woodstock,another person we met with is considering a move back to Los Angelesand is interested in possibly being a part of Story City once we get started. We’re praying she moves to LA!!
  • Last week an FBCW member sent me a facebook message. He recently led a guy to Christ who lives in Santa Monica and said he wants to be a part of our churchEvery single day we talk with someone who knows someone in LA. We’re making a list of these names and will contact them once we get there. If you know someone in LA, please let us know!
  • I met last week with writer/director and friend, Brad Silverman. I met Brad at a movie premiere last August for his film, Grace Unplugged. Brad lives and works in Hollywood as a solid evangelical believer. I’m super stoked to have him on the ground as a friend to glean wisdom from.
  • Another FBCW member has placed his yes on the table to move out with us. He’s got an incredible story of sin and restoration after playing professional baseball for quite a few years. He’s a Dodgers fan, which I’m growing to love!
  • An FBCW senior is going to college in Santa Clarita this fall. If we land near him, he wants to be a part as well. He’s a super sharp servant and leader!

Everyday has been a faith adventure as we watch God piece together the puzzle. I’m now expecting something new and incredible to happen daily.

ASKING GOD. Would you mind praying for these specific requests?


  1. Staff – Would you pray that God would clearly identify to us a worship pastor and two other staff members?
We’re currently talking with a couple potential worship pastors as well as a couple potential staff guys. Our prayer is that God would confirm to us and them (1) a clear calling to LA, (2) a passionate love for the unchurched, and (3) a right fit for our team. I have a phone conversation on Monday with a potential staff member. I’d love for him to be a part of our team. We just want what God wants!!
  1. Families – Would you pray that God would raise up 4-5 families who would move to start Story City with us?

We’d really like to see 4-5 families or more move to LA with us. Maybe that’s you! We’re praying that God would confirm this calling to them, help us know who they are, and to hear from them.


  1. Neighborhoods/Cities – Would you pray that God would give us obvious and evident clarity on the location that we should plant our church and our family?

We’ve talked to several pastors and leaders on the ground in LA as we’re trying to discern where the church will be located. We’re praying over 3 areas right now, although that could totally change once we’re there in a few weeks to visit.

We’re doing demographic research to understand the context and culture. If it interests you, check this out to see what we’re seeing.

The three areas are: Santa Monica, San Fernando Valley (Encino to Burbank up to Santa Clarita), and Thousand Oaks/Agoura Hills.


We’re flying to LA May 25-30 with Pastor Johnny and 30 pastors who will see the city and the work that needs to be done.

  1. Would you pray that these 30 pastors would see the vision and would lead their churches to give significant financial resources as well people and teams who may come out to work with us.

One FBCW staff member asked me today if this was my last day at Woodstock!! The answer is NO!! Haha. We’ll be around until at least October. We’re having baby #3 in July!

We’re hoping to have a gathering of prayer, worship, and vision casting before the end of May with our prayer team as well as those who may be interested in moving to LA. Stay tuned. We’d love for you to attend.

Finally, our house is up for sale. We’re praying for a great offer at the right time! If we sell before we move, we’ll move in with a family here in town who have graciously offered their basement to our family.

Would love for you to forward this on to a friend who may pray for Story City and the city of Los Angeles!! Thanks for your prayers! They’re moving mountains!


God is creating a great love for this beautiful city in our hearts. Fascinating perspective on dreams and broken dreams in the City of Angels. Thanks to my friend jcatanzaro for passing this along.  [warning: a few expletives]

A New Story to Begin

Matt Lawson —  March 26, 2014 — 1 Comment

Los Angeles

Eight years ago today, we started a journey as the High School Pastor at First Baptist Woodstock. Laura and I were engaged. I was fresh out of seminary when an incredible Pastor and Education Pastor took a chance on hiring me. I didn’t have the experience or the resume and not much to offer. In fact, I was so nervous when I got to Woodstock that I carried a leather brief case with me to every meeting for the first six months trying to prove I meant business. Finally, our executive pastor looked at me one day and said, “Matt, you’re home now. You can leave the brief case at the office!”

I was so green and so inexperienced. Woodstock was (and is) the penultimate. We had no idea this church is even better than we heard it would be. We serve in the best place on the planet, under the authority of the greatest servant leader I know, on a team of some of the sharpest and best ministry practitioners in the world.

Over the last eight years, our furtherest dreams have become reality.

We came to Atlanta with no family but today we have so many we call family. Our students and parents embrace the vision to love Jesus with all their hearts and to change the world. We’ve been blessed under God’s favor to witness over 1000 high school and middle school students baptized in the last 8 years. An incredible student facility now exists. Student pastors are launched to great churches each year out of our 1-2 year Minister in Residence program. A Global Year ministry led by Johnny Condrey sends high school graduates overseas to four different continents. Next week, we’ll launch six student ministry mission teams to four states and two foreign countries. We have great students, great leaders, and great families.

Woodstock is even better than it seems. It’s been an incredible journey that we can’t imagine ever ending.

Eleven months ago, God initiated a thought in our hearts through the unsuspecting words of a good friend. That began an eight month journey sensing God was asking us a question. I flat out rejected that question every day for eight months. There was zero interest in what God was proposing. In fact, I consistently asked Him to find someone else.

But we couldn’t shake the thought of pastoring or planting a church. It was a daily reality. At the suggestion of my wife, we started praying Exodus 33:14-15. We said, “God, please don’t lead us to a place if you don’t go before us and with us.”

I took off the month of December 2013 to exit the daily rhythm of ministry and to try to hear God definitively. God spoke through a friend named Tony Nolan on one of the last days of that mini-sabbatical. He was preaching to 5500 students at a conference we just happened to attend because we were in the area for a funeral. It was a single moment of clarity in the midst of 8 months of grey. That night I begged God to use someone else but said yes if He wanted to use me. In what capacity, I still wasn’t sure.

A little over a month later, I was preaching at a weekend event in Oklahoma. Through a crazy series of events over 72-hours, I found myself reluctantly serving this event not knowing the weekend would be another memorial stone in a new story God was writing. The short of it (and I will tell more at a later date) is that I placed my yes on the table to the city of Los Angeles. God had planted four cities on our families heart: New York City, San Diego, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. I preached a message that weekend that I’ve been preaching to students for four years. God made it evidently clear that Saturday night that this message was meant for me. He was asking us to start over in LA.

Yes on the table

Two weeks later we met with our Pastor to seek his wisdom and inform him of what God was saying. He gave his full support, which helped our love for him to increase even more.

Two weeks after our meeting with our Pastor, he was in a meeting with the president of the largest church planting network in the world. In that meeting, the president of that agency asked our Pastor if he would assume the leadership to rally other churches to support the planting of churches in…Los Angeles!!!! C’mon now. That’s God. Is that an answer to Exodus 33:14-15 that we have been praying? Without a doubt!! This was another memorial stone in the story that God has been writing.

There are other supernatural events that have happened that continue to confirm what God has been doing. We’ll tell those stories at another appropriate time. For now, our Pastor announced this past Sunday, March 23rd that we are being launched from Woodstock to plant a brand new church in the city of Los Angeles.

There are so many parts of this story that have been left untold. We’d love to keep you updated and ask for your prayer support.

We are currently praying two very specific and urgent prayers:

1. The Place

We’re asking God where we will specifically be planting in LA. We’re headed out to LA soon to see the city and to try to discern the location of the church. Please ask God to make that clear to us.

2. The People

It’s likely that we’ll launch with three other staff members and probably several families who will make the journey with us. Would you ask God to give us clarity as to who those staff members will be and for those families who are praying through whether God would have them go? Maybe it’s you! BTW…It seems likely that God has already supernaturally made provision for the salaries of two of those staff members as well as their housing. Not confirmed but possible!

If you’d like to be kept up to date on how you can pray for us and this story, please shoot us an email to

For the Story of God for the City of LA!!



Blood, Sweat, & Tears

Matt Lawson —  September 18, 2013 — Leave a comment

If you’ve missed the series, you can watch at

Here is the article titled, On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ, published by the Journal of American Medical Association dated March 21, 1986.



Recently I was asked the following five questions about the next generation and the church. The questions are very relevant and so I thought I would share my brief answers from my perspective.

1) Do you believe the average church in America is successful at engaging younger generations? (Why or why not)

I do not.

I believe it is a leadership issue in most churches. Churches must fight to get younger and lead from a younger perspective. I don’t think this happens effectively in very many places. As leadership ages, so does the approach and ministry model. (fwiw…I do not think this is the case at First Baptist Woodstock)

2) What are the greatest barriers of the church in reaching and discipling postmodern younger generations?

Difficult question. Not entirely sure if there is a clear answer to this. Certainly the view of the church by younger generations is an obstacle. The loss of truth is another. The relevancy of the church is an issue. The disintegration of the home and the passing of faith from previous generations has been disastrous.

3) What do you find personally is the greatest challenge in making disciples of younger generations?

In student ministry, it’s a lack of parental discipleship and partnership.

4) What do you feel is their greatest potential to offer the church?

Everything. The world is flat and this is a change/cause generation that could fulfill Matthew 24 if they could be equipped, motivated, and released.

5) What do you wish younger generations understood about Christianity / the Church? 

Jesus is better than…(Hebrews)


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Stats below are from Johnny Derouen’s session at Metro Conference last week.
SESSION TITLE: Influencing Our Families


70% of Pastors constantly fight depression

Almost 40% polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since the beginning of their ministry

80% of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression


70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor

95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses

80% of pastors surveyed spend less than fifteen minutes a day in prayer

70% said the only time they spend time studying the word is when they are preparing their sermons


1500 pastors leave the ministry due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches

For every new church that opens, two close their doors

50% of pastors marriages will end in divorce directly in line with the national average

80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as a leader

50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living

80% of seminary and bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

85% of pastors said their greatest problem is they are sick and tired of dealing with the problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors

70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid

90% said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be before they entered the ministry

70% felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only 50% still felt called


80% of pastors spouses feel their spouse is overworked

80% of pastors wives feel left out and under appreciated by the church members

80% of pastors spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession

80% of pastors wives feel pressured to do things and something in the church that they are really not

The majority, over 50%, of pastors wives surveyed said the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered ministry


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No this isn’t a promotion or giveaway for the latest conference. You probably wouldn’t win anyway. Who ever does?!?

Are you in a budget crunch and don’t have money for conferences? Or maybe you just don’t have time to get away from the office or the family for a week?

Well, you’re not alone and the facts of the matter are that you don’t have to be jealous over the youth pastor down the street who does get to go. In fact, you may be able to attend a better conference than him even without budget and conference time.

You can host your own conference, glean from some great wisdom givers, and not spend a dime or travel to do it.

How? Follow the 5 steps below to host and attend the best conference offered all year.

5 Steps to Your Best Conference Now

1. Set aside three days in the near future to work “at home.”

It’s important to get out of the office and away from what’s familiar. That’s one of the reasons conferences are so valuable. You can think outside of the normal pressures of day to day ministry.

2. Write down 10-15 of the sharpest guys you know

Seriously, write down your top 10-15 regardless of whether you think they will give you the time of day or not. You’ll be surprised as to how many will say yes that you thought will say no. Even if they can’t say yes to your preferred dates, if they are worth their leadership notoriety, they will at least have an avenue of leadership offering whether that’s book, webinar, blog, training cd/dvd, etc.

3. Write down 5-7 topics that are most pressing to you currently along with questions

Make a list of topics you would want at a conference. Write down 3-5 questions with each topic you’d want to ask if you had Q&A time with a conference presenter on that topic.

4. Call your list and ask for 30-45 minutes of their time on your specified days

Be flexible with times but ask if they are available on the days you have set aside. I would work at least 1 month out. As times begin to get filled in, offer time slots you have available during those 2-3 days you have set aside. The more specific you can get with busy leaders, the better chance you will have to get them on your “at-home conference” schedule. If you know a specific leader is more qualified in a specific area, tell their assistant you want to talk with them about ______ (ie. “I’d like to discuss campus ministry strategies and how to get on campus”).

5. Budget “process time” in your schedule

At most conferences, you will get 4-8 sessions of training. This is a reasonable amount of training time to shoot for. If possible, try to budget 30 or so minutes after each call to process and re-write the main takeaways from your conversation. Try to take away at least one actionable thought from each conversation. Finally, budget time after all phone conversations have been completed to debrief with yourself, your team, or your staff.

Now that you haven’t spent a dime or travel day on conferences and your boss or Pastor is happy, head on over to Starbucks and pick me up a gift card for this advice :)!!


Matt Lawson