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.
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 Matt.firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the Story of God for the City of LA!!