About Matt Norman

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Pastor, There is Value in working in the Community You Serve

The burden of pastoring a church is often heavy. It is a big calling that we feel on our lives. Doing this while also working a job outside the church adds another level of complexity and difficulty that cannot be denied. Speaking from my own, personal experience I can say that sometimes it can be difficult to stay motivated. I hope that this story will encourage and inspire any pastor that still works a job outside the church.

You may or may not know this, but in addition to being a pastor, I am also a registered nurse. After nearly two decades working in the emergency room, I know work with cancer patients. That’s where this story begins.

Many of my patients spend multiple hours in our clinic getting infusions. The particular patient in this story spent 3-4 hours once a week for 6-8 weeks. His wife spent pretty much all of those hours sitting in the recliner next to him. This allowed me plenty of opportunities to talk with them both and to get to know them a little. I remember one time I looked at the wife and could see the fear in her eyes. Her husband was doing quite well, but cancer is scary. I sat down next to them both, held her hand for a moment as she shed just a few tears. A few tears are all she would allow herself. She wanted to be brave and strong for her husband.

In the course of our conversations it came out that I pastored a local church. They told me about their church and I mentioned some folks that I know that also attend that church. She then said that she would like to attend our church sometime, as a show of support. I gave her information about where we met and our service times and didn’t think much more about it.

Her husband completed his treatment and is doing well. A couple of weeks after his last treatment she suddenly walks up to my desk and tells me that her ladies Bible study group was coming to our church that Sunday. I gave her my business card and pointed her to our Facebook page and website for full details. Honestly, I didn’t think any more about it. I’ve had a number of people tell me they were coming, who still haven’t. I’m certain that some of them will, but I trust God with the timing.

Well, the following Sunday four ladies walk into our little church. One of them was the wife I mentioned above. This was her ladies Bible study group. They were actually there! I hugged her and introduced myself and my wife and kids to all of these ladies. We had a great service and I really enjoyed having them there. We chatted a little after the service and they left. Honestly, I didn’t think much more about it at that time.

Over the next couple weeks I had some interactions with a woman on our church Facebook page. She talked about coming to a service soon and even apologized for missing the previous Sunday. I was confused cause her Facebook page said she lived up north. I continued to interact with her, but didn’t think too much about it.

The next Sunday a woman walks into our service. I couldn’t remember her name, but I recognized her as one of the ladies from that group. I asked her to remind me her name and we caught up a little. As we talked she told me that she had only recently moved to this area, from someplace up north, and since had been looking for a church family. She told me what she liked about our church and we talked a little about worship music, etc. I later found that she had also put a check in the offering bucket.

I can’t say for certain how long she will be part of our church family. But, what I can say that she is part of our church now and it happened because of the time I spent working in the community God has called me to serve.

If you are working a job outside the church, especially if it’s in the community God has called you to serve, be on a constant look out for the opportunities to serve people. Try not to worry too much about getting them to come to church. Serve them. Be open. God will take care of the results.


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Would Jesus Drink Starbucks?

This time last year there was much discussion over the Starbucks cups. They had committed the most grievous of since by making their holiday cups just plain, red cups. As it approached time for Starbucks to reveal this year’s cup design it had me thinking, what would Jesus do? Ok, just kidding. I wasn’t really into the WWJD movement back in the day. But I really have been thinking about what all the hype over the Starbucks cups is really all about.

Here are a few thoughts on the topic:

  • No Christmas Trees: Starbucks Christmas coffee cup has no Christmas trees on it. Well guess what. Jesus never had a Christmas tree either. So, I doubt He’s offended because they left a tree off the cup.
  • No Reindeer: Unless I’m mistake, there were no reindeer in Bethlehem. So, by not putting reindeer on their Christmas cups they are actually MORE inline with the story of Jesus birth.
  • No Santa: Santa didn’t visit baby Jesus. Again, it would seem that by leaving Santa off of their cups they are actually closer to what we, as Christians’ celebrate at Christmas time.

Ok, these are a little tongue in cheek. Here are some serious thoughts about the issue.

Starbucks sells coffee.

At the end of the day Starbucks sells coffee. They will do what they think will help them sell more coffee. If that means a plain red cup, then they will use a plain red cup.

When you complain, Starbucks still wins. There is an old saying that even “bad” publicity is good publicity. When you fill up your social media feed with talk about Starbucks and their evil cups, you keep them on people’s minds. When those people want coffee, they are MORE likely to go to Starbucks because it is on the to of their mind.

Jesus never spoke out against such things. In fact the only people that Jesus ever spoke out against were the “church people”. Whenever we read of Jesus interacting with other people he did so with love.

Jesus probably WOULD drink Starbucks. Jesus turned water into wine, AFTER PEOPLE HAD ALREADY HAD MUCH TO DRINK. He had dinner with tax collectors, societal outcasts. He let a woman known for her sinful lifestyle wash his feet, because the “church people” wouldn’t. If He thought that there were lost people inside Starbucks I think He would walk right up in there and order a latte. I also don’t think He would have them put “Merry Christmas” on the cup as His name. He might say, “I Am”, or “Son of God” or “Son of Man” or “Savior of the world” or maybe “Messiah”, but probably not Merry Christmas.

God doesn’t need us to defend Him. If you are a Christian then you believe in the God of the Bible. This is the God that wiped out Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from the sky. This is the same God that flooded the entire earth because it had become so wicked. IF God is truly offended by Starbucks and their new cups, I think He can handle Himself.

The bottom line is this. It’s just a cup. The symbols that are missing from last years Christmas cups have nothing to do with Jesus anyways. So what if there are no snowflakes, Christmas trees, or jolly fat men. Christians need to stop complaining about such things.

I have a challenge for all these Christians that would have us not shop at Starbucks because of these cups. Try this and see how it works out for you: Go to Starbucks. Be polite and friendly to the barista and other customers. Smile and show them the love of Jesus.

Pay for the person behind you and maybe even the person behind them. In fact, just give the barista a $20 and pay for as many people as that will cover. Take it a step further and give her a $50 or $100 and buy as much coffee as that will buy.
Every time you want to complain about such things stop and think about it. Instead, go out and tell someone about the great things that Jesus has done for you. Share the gospel with them. In fact, anytime you feel the urge to complain about these types of things throughout your day, share the gospel with someone.

At the end of the day it is just a cup. Nobody is protesting red Solo cups and they have lead to more sin than a red Starbucks cup ever could. But, even if these cups were somehow sinful, the answer is not protest or boycott. Rather the answer is love and the sharing of the gospel. No one is going to come to Christ because they like the way Christians complain or fight. However, when they see how we love EVERYONE and they hear about the hope that is possible through Jesus Christ, then they just might be willing to give this Jesus person some thought.


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From Playdoh to the Pulpit

I spent close to 10 years in children’s ministry and I LOVED it. I loved the kids. I loved playing games, planning events, and more. I loved teaching kids. I loved seeing kids understand Biblical principles and values, often for the first time. I loved seeing kids learn to love Jesus, to receive the gift of Grace from Jesus, and to start living for Him. I LOVED children’s ministry. But, somewhere along the line God decided it would be a good idea to point me in a different direction.

I still love Kidmin.

Yeah, that’s what us insiders call children’s ministry. See what we did there. Kidmin. Get it? Children’s ministry… kid’s ministry… Kidmin. Yeah, we kidmin types are pretty cool. Whatever you want to call it, I still LOVE ministry to children. I still love all the things listed above and more. Truth is I was completely content to spend the rest of my life in children’s ministry. In fact I was pretty sure that I was going to. So, what do I do when God decides that now it’s time to step out of children’s ministry and into something new. Well, if your smart, you do what God tells you to do.

From playdoh to the pulpit.

Throughout all my ministry I had never really considered that I might be a senior pastor some day. Sadly some people see children’s ministry or youth ministry as simply as step towards the role of senior pastor. It’s a “foot in the door” position for many. It was never that for me. I loved it. It was where I wanted to be. Sure, I enjoyed the few opportunities I had to speak in “big church”, but I was not working my way up to a “real pastor” job. I knew that, for the kids and families I ministered to, I WAS a pastor. Somehow I now find myself spending much less time playing with playdoh and much more time preparing for the pulpit.

Why the change?

Well, I certainly can’t even begin to say why God would chose me for this. All I can say is that He did. As is often the case I can look back and clearly see the path that God lead me down that got me here. It was a gradual change. I wasn’t looking for a change. It was just that the things I felt God saying to me in my study, prayer, and quite times began to change. No longer where they really kidmin focused. They became broader, bigger. Over time it became clear that God was leading me to pastor a church. I still had no aspiration for planting a church, but I came to believe that He was calling me to pastor a church.

Over time He brought me around to the idea of planting a church. I still wasn’t convinced, but I was willing to do what He told me to. You see I remember a story about a guy name Jonah who was given instructions from God and chose not to do them. That whole three days in the belly of a big fish thing didn’t sound like a good fit for me.

So, here I am.

It’s kinda crazy. It’s one thing to think about possibly pastoring a church someday. It’s something completely different to look back and realize that almost four months have passed since God started a new church in your town. What’s even crazier is that He made you the pastor of that new church. God has gone a put a church where there didn’t used to be one and I get to be part of that. Man, it has been a lot of work ,but it has been so much fun. It’s so amazing to see what God has already done and I can’t wait to see what He does next.

What it’s like to make this switch?

I’d love to say that I have all this church planting stuff figured out. Truth is I’m kinda taking it one day at a time. I’m just trying to listen to the guiding of the Holy Spirit and do what I’m told. I’ve been writing on this blog now for several years now. Most of that has been about ministry to children and families. Now that God has changed my direction, I think I need to change the direction of my blog too. So, moving forward I’ll be writing more about my transition from children’s pastor to senior pastor/church planter.

What now?

Kidmin was my first love in ministry. I still have a big heart for ministry to children. I also feel that children’s ministry if a key component in building a healthy church. So, I’ll still be writing about ministry to children and families. My blog has always been an outlet for whatever God has placed on my heart and it still will be. Stay tuned as I share stuff about church planting, kidmin, family ministry, family, and basically whatever is on my heart.


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