Service > Leadership
Updated: Oct 16, 2018
Hi. I’m Matt. I’m a Gospel preacher. I grew up in West Virginia in the USA. Though my parents were Christians, I didn’t “inherit” the pulpit, as some seem to do. My dad was a coal miner. Though I had a good childhood, I didn’t grow up in the ministry.
In spite of making a profession as a very small child, it was not until 2004 that I gave my life to Christ. Within a month, I felt God leading me into the ministry. So, I went to Bible College. After squeezing a four-year course into five years, I felt God leading me to serve Him in the United Kingdom.
When I first knew that God wanted me in the UK, I was so fired up and ready to take on the whole of Britain for the cause of Christ. I just wanted to do something… anything for Christ. However, one thing I was determined not to do was attempt to serve the Lord unprepared.
While preparing to move to the UK, I received many phone calls and emails from the UK about opportunities to pastor straight away. And I have to be honest, a few of the opportunities were very tempting. But I was determined to not rush in to a situation that I wasn’t ready for.
In 2011, Pastor David Moore in Stoke on Trent, UK contacted me about becoming the Assistant Pastor at Milton Baptist Church for my first three years in the UK. I just knew this is what God wanted. I accepted his invitation.
The three years that I spent at Milton were some of the best years of my life. Not only did I meet some of the dearest friends I’ll ever have, but the Lord also used Pastor David to teach me so much about the ministry- especially ministry in the UK. I learned what say and what not to say. I learned how to relate to the British. I learned how to simultaneously take the ministry seriously and keep a sense of humour. I learned that teaching and training young people is the way forward. I learned to look “on the bright side.”
After three years of assisting Pastor David, I followed God’s leading to become the pastor at Blurton Baptist Church. I find myself constantly applying truths I learned from watching Pastor David. Undoubtedly, God greatly used my time at Milton to make me the minister I am today.
Question: Why was I so determined to work with a Pastor first?
It’s Scripturally Necessary
When I say it’s scripturally necessary, I mean it in the same sense that we normally say things are scriptural. This philosophy that I’ve followed flows out of a scriptural principle taught all throughout the New Testament. For example, Timothy (and Titus) joined up with Paul. Timothy left Lystra to follow Paul on his missionary journeys.
If you are an aspiring missionary (especially one preparing to come to the UK), I know how you feel. You are chomping at the bits to get over to the field and establish a church in every county or province in less than five years. You’re probably thinking that you don’t have time to waste assisting a pastor. But slow down a bit and think this through. How long did Timothy assist Paul? Timothy probably had about 13 years of preparation as he assisted Paul. In his 13 years of training, Timothy saw Paul present the Gospel in different cultural contexts, serve people, and stand upon the truth. Finally, at the age of about 30, Timothy was ready to be a pastor.
Okay. So, I’m not asking any of you to make your first term on the field a 13-year internship. I am saying that there is a clear model for ministry preparation in Scripture.
Paul also followed this same principle with Titus (Galatians 1:1-4; 2 Timothy 4:10; Titus 1:4-5).
It’s Ethically Necessary
Some American missionaries make the mistake of trying to infuse “American church” into the British church. Let me be clear. I love being American and always will. However, some people almost idolise American Christianity. I have literally heard some missionaries say things like, “The only hope for Britain is getting these people singing the good ole American songs, passing around the offering plate, and having an altar-call.”
Can you imagine how insulting it must be for people that you are supposed to be serving to hear you say that your country’s way of praising God is better than theirs? They have plenty of Christ-honouring songs to sing. They have offering boxes and people give plenty. Most evangelical churches in Britain have a time of reflection after the service, and the pastor has plenty of opportunities to counsel with believers and unbelievers. Things are just done differently.
Though (in certain contexts) working with a veteran missionary can be beneficial, the most thorough way for a foreigner to prepare for indigenous ministry is by working with a national pastor. Don’t seek to start an American church or turn the British church into an American church. By working with a national pastor, you prepare yourself for national ministry.
It’s Culturally Necessary
Working with a pastor for the first three years was culturally important to me for a couple of reasons:
Knowing what the people say
British culture is much more different from American culture than I ever realised. Some have attributed Winston Churchill to have once said that America and Britain are “two nations divided by a common language.” There are completely innocent American terms that are incredibly rude or even insulting in Britain.
Likewise, there are things that British people say that Americans might find insulting, or at least confusing. A few months after I had moved to the UK, someone made this statement to me: “Don’t worry. He’s just taking the Mick out of you.” Now, to the British, this is a completely normal, every-day phrase to use. It is like saying, “He’s just messing with you.” Yet, I, as an American, was left very confused at this statement. Who is this Mick fellow? And how did he get in?
Working with a British pastor helped me to properly interpret many of the words and phrases that I was hearing day-by-day.
Knowing how the people think
To be an effective counsellor or evangelist, it is important to understand where people are coming from. It is important to put yourself in their shoes. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 9:22: “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” In other word, you need to dissolve into the culture to reach the masses. It’s like the song says, “How can we reach a world we’ve never touched?”
Now, I’m not talking about getting tattoos or getting drunk just because everyone else is doing it. I am, however, talking about understanding what it means to live as a national.
What an advantage it was for me to interact on a daily basis with a British pastor who helped me to adjust to British culture!
It’s Practically Necessary
How long do you wait before visiting someone who has missed a couple of church services? Is it rude to visit someone unannounced? Am I allowed to knock on every door in my community? How does the Lord’s Supper work in this country? These, and countless other questions, are likely only know by someone well acquainted with the culture.
These are issues that ministers usually have to learn the hard way. Unfortunately, many times, the ministry consists a lot of trial and error. By working under an experienced pastor, the young preacher is gifted with an invaluable resource. An experienced pastor warns of potential problems and blesses the preacher with preparation and encouragement.
However, the most practical reason that I believe working under a pastor is necessary is because it teaches the preacher to serve. It prepares the preacher to do what they will never cease to do, even when he pastors his own church; it prepares him to serve.
I remember cleaning a toilet before a baptism service, because it just needed to be done. I remember hanging drywall in the loft, building Holiday Bible Club sets, and planting shrubs in front of the church. These things just needed to be done.
I also remember taking the blame for a minor mistake that the pastor had made. That was my job. I wanted to assist him and enable him to advance the Kingdom in Milton Village.
These types of experiences prepared me to serve as a current pastor. In many ways, I’m just carrying on doing what I learned to do as an assistant pastor; I am continuing to serve.
Why would a young preacher not want to make sure that he was as prepared as possible to reach his community with the Gospel?
I think a better question is this: Why don’t young preachers and missionaries take advantage of this most precious resource? Forgive me for being so frank, but I think that many times(though not all the time) it comes down to pride. The proud man says, “I can do it on my own. I don’t need help.” As someone who has personally experienced being new to the ministry, a country, and a culture, I assure you that you need all the help you can get.
Notice what Paul said in his second (and final) epistle to Timothy:
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:1-3)
Working with an experienced, godly preacher renders the young preacher fully prepared to effectively minister the Word of God to others.
I thank God for the privilege I had to work with and be further trained by an experienced pastor. I would fully recommend that others to do the same!
I realise that it may not be possible for every new church planter or minister coming to the UK to work with a national pastor for various reasons.
I am not saying that you have to agree with everything the pastor you work with does.
I also realise that my situation was unique in the fact that Pastor David Moore is a wise and godly man. Not every situation is as ideal.
I realise that in some instances it might be better not to work with a national pastor if you have to compromise some crucial doctrine believe, if your ministry philosophies are totally incompatible, or if you feel that there are no national pastors with the vision to help train you and equip you.
[Please contact us if you would like a list of pastors/ missionaries willing to work with new missionaries.]