This is week 2 with Matthew. If you didn’t read last week, here is more about him or skip down to the final portion of the interview.
Matthew Patton is pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Vandalia, Ohio. He has served there for the past 5 years. He and wife, Trina, are blessed with 7 kids. One of his passions in ministry is seeing and preaching the glory of Christ in the Old Testament.
Here are Matthew’s answers to our final 3 questions in the interview…..
Question: What is a great idea or practice you learned from someone outside the Reformed world (something you learned in pre-Reformed days that you still do or something you’ve picked up from those outside the Reformed world) Doesn’t have to be you personally, could be church practice.
I came to Christ through a parachurch campus ministry. This ministry (called DiscipleMakers) emphasized the power of the Word of God and did not trivialize or dumb-down the Word. I remember being attracted to the campus group because they were willing to meet at 7:30am for prayer (remember, on campus this is the equivalent of 4:30am). Paradoxically, setting the bar high can be attractive. It says: people would only do this if Jesus is for real.
Question: What is a great idea or practice you learned from someone within the Reformed world?
John Leonard (one of my profs from Westminster days and the author of Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day) emphasizes the importance of simply inviting people to what your church is already doing. You’re having a church picnic? Great, invite your non-Christian neighbors. You’re having a youth volleyball night? Great, have them invite their non-Christian friends. Invite people to worship, to Bible study, to just about anything in the life of the church. Special evangelism events are good and have their place. But think of everything your church does as an opportunity to share Christ. Have an open-hearted, inclusive spirit to the life of your church.
Question: What is the most “successful” outreach thing you’ve done or what has most contributed to your “success?” —not necessarily you personally, could be something you’ve implemented in church life or a collective church practice or approach.
Before I was ordained, I was serving as an intern and I helped to organize an outreach at a nearby community college. We partnered with a student-led campus ministry that allowed us to reserve a spot in the student center, and we set up a book table covered with tracts and pamphlets. Our approach was simple: we stood in front of the table handing out tracts and saying, “We’re here talking with people about spiritual things. What do you believe about God?” After listening for a while, we often won a hearing and were able to share the gospel in a nutshell. For anyone who stopped to talk with us, we gave them a copy of the gospel of John and then invited them to a Bible study on John that we did in the student center later that afternoon. We had quite a few people come to this study, and some non-Christians even brought their friends! This study gave us opportunities to introduce people to Jesus and to the Bible (imagine: some people had never opened a Bible before and did not know about chapter and verse numbers). In a few cases, we had young people come repeatedly to the study and even attend church! When no one showed up for Bible study, I would get out my chess set and invite all comers. This led to a number of other good opportunities to make friends and share Christ, even though it came at the expense of my being crushed a few times at chess.
A parting word: remember that, notwithstanding our weakness and awkwardness, we are on the winning side because of Jesus. Keep striving to share Christ, not because you’re good at it (although it does get easier with practice), but because you are trusting that God really does want to use his church to spread his gospel. Speak up!