Leslie and I would like to announce publicly today some exciting news in our lives.
At the beginning of June 2016, we will be transitioning from Springfield, Missouri and moving to St. Louis, Missouri. I will step away from my role at Second Baptist as the Associate Missions Minister, and Leslie will step away from working with the Willard, Missouri School District. The past four years in Springfield have been a blessing, but God has now clearly directed the next step in our lives.
So the big question is, “What will we be doing?”. Over the past few years, God has clearly been preparing our hearts for pastoral ministry. I (Matthew) have realized this for a while. At the same time, we are passionate about missions/church planting, and that will always be at the core our hearts. Recently, we have entered into a relationship with the North American Mission Board, being assessed and affirmed in our calling as Legacy Church Replanters. Between 900-1000 Southern Baptist Churches close their doors and cease to exist each year. Many of these are churches exist in urban areas (such as the St. Louis Metropolitan Area), where the population is growing. A growing population and more and more dying churches is not an indication of a hopeful future for the advancement of the Gospel. While traditional church planting efforts are needed, which God is using, there are also congregations who are 3-5 years from death who need the Gospel infused back into them. God has called us to see new life come into these declining churches. A mentor in my life says often, “God does not get glory from churches dying”. In addition to this, St. Louis is a city that desperately needs Gospel-centered churches. Less than 15% of the population claim any involvement with evangelical churches. There is great need for healthy churches in many of the neighborhoods of St. Louis.
Starting in June of 2016, we will begin a residency with Pastor Bob Bickford and The Groves Church in Webster Groves, Missouri (right in the heart of St. Louis). Over the past four years, Bob has worked to replant the former Sherwood Baptist Church in Webster Groves--which struggled to survive--into a healthy, growing, normal-sized church again. Bob not only is pastor of this church, but also serves as the chair of church revitalization for the St. Louis Metropolitan Baptist Association, and is a Legacy Replanting Catalyst for the North American Mission Board.
During our time at The Groves, I will apprentice Bob, much like a tradesman would learn the specific skills of his job. He will teach me the specialized skills it takes to replant a dying church. I will have the opportunity to attend coaching meetings with declining churches, as Bob and his team (from the Metropolitan St. Louis Baptist Association) coach them in making decisions toward Legacy Replanting. During this time I will also be introduced, as the Lord leads, to potential replanting situations in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area that Leslie and I could transition to, and begin the work of replanting. We will also be in fellowship, community and growth with couples and individual seeking similar callings in their lives. This residency will be for approximately 1 year, with the goal of us transitioning again to a church in the St. Louis Metropolitan area that is ready for replanting.
There is no doubt this is the next step in our journey. We are excited and thrilled, yet not without bittersweet emotion and we begin to transition. Springfield has been our home for 4 years. We purchased our first home here. It will always have a warm place in our hearts.
In order to follow God's leading, we will be raising both prayer and financial partnerships to see this accomplished. It would be our honor to sit down with you for a cup of coffee, over Skype, or in some other manner to share our hearts. As well, if you would like to receive a packet of information related to our next steps, we would be honored to share that with you. We will not be able to see God do what he wants without your help. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Also, if you are interested in partnering with us, you may also fill out this quick online survey. This form will send us an notification that you are interested, and we will touch base with you. http://tinyurl.com/creathsupport
Beginning in March, we will have an email newsletter that will be sent out regularly for prayer and updates. We would love for you to receive this as well, if you desire.
We are grateful to God for the opportunity to serve in building the Kingdom. We are grateful for clarity of call and timing, and are ready to see God use us in whatever way He desires in St. Louis.
To God Be The Glory.
Matthew is 34 years old and currently lives in St Louis, Missouri with his wife Leslie. He serves as the Associate Pastor at The Groves Church, in Webster Groves, Missouri.