Beginning a New Chapter

I first need to say that this will be considerably longer than many of my study topic posts. It’s more an update on what’s been going on in my life and (to a lesser degree) that of my family and friends over the last couple of years or so. It really has been the time frame when things really started changing from many things that I had become accustomed to. Mostly this will be long because of the background story that leads to the new chapter. If your’e not totally interested, I understand. It’s just that so many things tie in, that I think I’d rather include all of the intricacies and explanation rather than just give the bare bones story. So much plays into the beginnings of this new chapter, I do not believe there is any way that coincidence, chance or any effort of my own had much to bring this new chapter to where I am now.

The summer of 2014 became more and more difficult as we began to struggle financially due to several factors. Most were beyond our control. With a large family we’ve never really been foolish with finances, but it was apparent that more needed to be done. We all talked and decided for me to look for another job to try to make ends meet and perhaps have a little left over. In addition to working full-time as a military technician, I started working at the local Wal-Mart in a part-time temporary (seasonal) position. I ended up working up through several positions and pay grades and made it to the highest pay grade available as an hourly associate.

Before starting at Wal-Mart, in April of 2014 I sent out letters of introduction and interest to churches I found on the website of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Baptist Churches (WFBC) that were without pastors. I received two responses. One response was to what I considered a larger city than what I would feel comfortable in. In addition, I really feel called to a small-town or rural church. The second church that responded was in Door County I set up a weekend to take the family to preach at Peninsula Baptist Church in Sturgeon Bay. Within about a week of making the commitment to preach at Peninsula Baptist our family vehicle suffered a mechanical failure that was virtually non-repairable. The steering gearbox had broken the frame in half where it was attached. Fortunately, we were not on the highway and the Lord protected our family.

Looking for a van that would fit our family of nine (including my wife and I) was not something I would enjoy doing. I certainly did not want to think about paying for one. To shorten this part of the story (more comes into play later) my wife’s best friend had made some phone calls and located a van for us. I was told that Julie (my wife) was going with her friend to pick one up. A couple near Marshfield had a van that ran, but they no longer needed. A jump start, trip to Wal-Mart and one battery later, she drove it home with the title in hand. Yes, the price was one trip north, one battery and the cost of the title transfer.

With a new-to-us vehicle that would fit us all, our plans to Peninsula Baptist Church to preach were back on. Over the course of the rest of the summer and into the fall, we returned several times. We were always well-received. Everyone seemed to love the family as well as the teaching. Circumstances prevented us from a move to Sturgeon Bay until this summer at the earliest, which was absolutely a part of God’s plan, but not necessarily mine.

Peninsula Baptist Church welcomed an Interim Pastor to fill the position until a full-time Pastor could come. A couple of days before Annual Training the Interim Pastor from Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville called me and told me that the Interim Pastor from Peninsula Baptist in Sturgeon Bay had contacted him and told him that I may be available to fill the pulpit or possibly consider the position as Pastor. We agreed on the date of June 26, 2016 for me to go preach in Neillsville for the first time.

God had his hand in working all of this out too. After agreeing on the date to go to Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville for the first time, it was off to two weeks of Annual Training. During the second week the search committee from Peninsula Baptist Church called me and said that the church had decided to go in a different direction and they would not be considering me further for the position as Pastor. For some reason, (as much as I wanted it) I had a complete sense of peace about it. I’m sure that the scheduled date to preach at Neillsville had at least a little bit to do with it.

Even before we got to Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville for the first time, we received at least two phone calls from people we knew who attend or have attended church there. One of these families was the family who gifted us with the family van last summer! The first Sunday preaching was a huge success. I was told that there were over 50 people there. I had been told to expect 20-25, which is a normal turnout for Sunday morning. (Of course, not including me, eight of those visitors were my family.) One of the oldest members of the church told me that he thought that was a record turnout since the church has been there.

Completing the Pastoral Candidacy process was a bit challenging since I was working with two full-time jobs, the National Guard and my family all needing parts of my time. The challenging part was developing relevant sermons that had practical application to the congregation. I wasn’t there to impress people but to challenge and encourage them in God’s word. The very first sermon was on the sufficiency of scripture. I had to lay the foundation on who I was and what was most important. If you know me at all, I will always emphasize the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of scripture.

According to the established process for a pastoral candidate, I taught adult Sunday School and gave the morning message three times. The third time, with sufficient notice of at least two weeks to the membership, the church voted on whether or not to offer me the position of pastor. The vote was unanimous. The membership (and all I talked to who were not members, but attended) Bible Baptist Church wanted me to accept the position as pastor.

I had already prayed much about the opportunities and kept this one in prayer too. I spent a few days corresponding with friends and family and of course talking with my family at home. The decision was made and last Wednesday, August 3rd, I called to accept the position as pastor at Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville. I signed and sent the letter of understanding the same day.

As the title of this long post says, this is only the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Along with this new responsibility, it appears that the Lord is opening another area of opportunity for employment so that I will be able to fulfill my ministry responsibilities as well as provide better for my family and the future. This job is still in the acquiring stage, but sounds very promising. Bible Baptist Church is small enough to require any pastor to be bi-vocational at least for now. I can see working this potential new job for a year or two along with ministering and reevaluating then.

There will likely be more updates, prayer requests and praises along the way. With these changes, I hope to have more time to regularly post more here too. I’ll do my best to keep you updated. In the meanwhile, continued prayer for guidance and strength would be greatly appreciated.

About Joe Matthews

Born & raised in southwest Wisconsin. Lived and traveled a bit. Some military related, some not. Happily married to sweet Julie (Peckham) and blessed by the Lord with seven beautiful children. I love the Lord with all my heart and want to serve Him in whatever capacity He chooses to use me. Though it's taken a lot of years for the Lord to prepare and train me, He opened the door to full-time (bi-vocational) ministry at Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville, Wisconsin. I'm excited for more opportunities to serve the Lord and excited to see where and how He will continue to use me.

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