Recently I had the delight of attending Mat Brown’s celebration of twenty years in ministry. Many of you will remember Mat as the former Director of Small Groups at Atlee Community who later became Branch’s senior pastor for approximately ten years. He and Rebekah have been serving Blackstone Baptist Church for a little more than a year — and loving it! Rebekah has fond childhood ties to the area and Mat is thoroughly enjoying his ministry in the church and community as well.
For this special occasion, Mat printed words of appreciation to the people who had traveled there and represented the four Virginia churches where he has served: Bethel Baptist, Floyd Baptist, Atlee Community and Branch’s. As I cursorily glanced over the list of “A few things I’ve learned over the years,” I was not deeply impressed – all the statements are truisms that we all hear and believe. Nothing on the list was new, provocative, or crafted in a memorable fashion. Then, a day or two later, as I was tossing the card into the trash, I looked at the list again. This time I happened to read it differently. I read it remembering the many conversations Mat and I have had over the years. These conversations were not academic, theological, abstract discussions but were heart-to-heart explorations between two ministry friends who were struggling to discover and accomplish God’s will for those we serve.
Reading the list this second time became a very holy occasion, as I reflected on the deep waters through which God has taken Mat over the years. I share the list with you in our Middle District family because a few of you may be searching for God’s presence and direction. Let me encourage you to read Mat’s list, not as a preacher sharing a few thoughts, but as a fellow struggler who is testifying to what God has re-taught him in the crucible of ministry and, in so doing, restored new joy to his soul and ministry.
- God is faithful.
- Joys and heartaches are both part of this life.
- Difficulties can be times of spiritual and emotional growth.
- What we are becoming is far more important than what we are doing.
- Great accomplishments happen when we stop striving to do things in our own effort.
- Prayer IS our relationship with God!
- Love heals!
- It is O.K. to be who you are!
- I hate moving.
Mat closed his thank you card with this prayer from Paul (Romans 15:13) and I have reworded for those of us in vocational ministry.
“that the God of hope will refill his ministers with all joy and peace as they re-learn to trust in Him, so that they may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”