About Matt Norman

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My Call to Ministry

It has been 10 years since God called me to ministry. Man what a decade that has been. It has taken me so many places and allowed me to do so many things. It has brought me blessings far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Here is the story of how it all started.
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It was a dark rainy night…
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No, that’s not right.
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It all started with I was born…
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That’s not right either.
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The year was 2007 and things were going great.
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That’s more like it. Now on to the real story.
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The year was 2007 and things were going great. I had a great house with a 3 car garage and a pool. I was driving around in a shiny new Chevy Silverado and had a 1987 Chevy Camaro Iroc-Z for the weekend. I know these two cars may not seem that great to everyone, but I’m a Chevy guy so this was pretty cool. I had a successful nursing career that was rising rapidly. I had a wonderful wife, far better than I deserve and great little son. Life was good!
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That’s when it happened.
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Here I was minding my own business, doing my church thing. Like any good baptist, sitting in the same exact spot that I sat every Sunday for years. Then all of a sudden God spoke. Now I’m not talking about an audible voice telling me that I needed to go have a chat with Pharaoh about freeing the Israelites, but I was no less certain that God was talking than if I had heard his voice. As I stood there listening to the praise team sing and play I knew that there was no way I could stay in that spot. It was almost like involuntary motion as I found myself leaving my spot and walking towards the pastor. I remember my wife giving me a look, obviously wondering what was going on, where I was going. I walked up to the pastor and told him that God was calling me to ministry. I distinctly remember gripping the back of the chair in front of me, trying to keep from going up front, but I simply couldn’t. God was getting ready to change my life, and it started with the first step I took into the aisle.
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I can’t say that I ever felt a call on my life prior to that, but as I stood there in my spot, it was completely clear what God wanted me to do. Not only had I never felt such a call, I had always felt that I was where God wanted me. God had guided each of the steps that had led me to this successful career and He had blessed that career in a mighty way. Yet now He was calling me in a completely different direction.
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I could never have guessed what the never decade would look like. I could never have guessed the paths this call would take me down. I would never have guessed that what started in this moment would the me 500 miles from the only place I had ever called home… and 13 months later bring me back. I could not have anticipated all the children and families that God would allow me to work with. I could not have guessed the many children’s ministry leaders that God would connect me with, many of whom would become my friends.
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The truth is that we can never really see where the path God takes up down will lead us. In fact, thats not even for us to worry about. It’s kind like when Aladdin holds out his hand and asks Jasmine, “Do you trust me?” She chose to trust him and the result was a magnificent ride on a magic carpet. Because she trusted Aladdin she got to see things and go places she had never before and, likely, never would have. The same is true of us, when we chose to trust God to lead us, and we follow Him.
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This has certainly been true for me over the past 10 years and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years look like.

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Kill the Spider

I could just leave this post with the title. Personally I feel that all spiders should be killed. Some have accused me of being afraid of spiders. That’s not it. I just think the should all die.But, that’s not what this post is about.
As you probably know I’ve been in Atlanta this week attending the ReThink Leadership Conference and the Orange Conference. That’s where this post comes from. When I saw the title of this session, “Kill the Spider”, I simply had to attend. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was about, but I’m sure my hatred for spiders was at least part of my motivation.
Kill the Spider: How to get over the things in life that are really holding you back.
That was the full title and MAN was it good. It was lead by Carlos Whittaker and related to a book he has coming out later this year by the same title. The book, and this session, we about things that we face in life that might be holding us back, or could even completely derail us. Let me explain. Carlos defined the spiders in our lives like this:
The spider is the lie that spins the cobwebs in our lives. The cobwebs are the medicine that brings false comfort to our lives.
Spiders can be any number of things. Spiders can be different for each person. In many cases the spiders are painful moments in our lives. They are wounds that we never took the time to heal. Heck, we may not even know that they are there. Even if you know they are there, you may not know what they are or what to do about them.
The spiders are always there.
Have you ever gone away on vacation and come back to find cobwebs in places you don’t normally get them? That’s cause the spider was always there. He was just waiting for the activity to slow down enough, or go away so he could come out and spin his web. The same is true in our lives. Whatever the spiders are in your life, they don’t just go away. They are always there and they are waiting for times when our life with Jesus has become less active.
Stop cleaning the cobwebs, KILL THE SPIDER.
Carlos shared a story from his father. His father was a revival preacher. During one event he had a woman come up two or three nights in a row and ask him to pray that God would remove the cobwebs from her life. After the third or fourth time his father looked at the woman and said, “NO! I will not pray that. You need to stop asking God to clean out the cobwebs. You need to kill the spider.” Carlos’ father then looked at him and said, “I’ve watched you clean out the cobwebs in your life for years. Now it’s time for you to kill the spiders.”
The spiders are always there.
In our houses it seems like there are always cobwebs popping up in the high corners. Often it’s easy to ignore them. They’re up, out of the way, and don’t seem to effect our lives. What we fail to see is that if there are webs, there are spiders. The same is true in our lives. There are always spiders in our lives. Sometimes they are easy to ignore. They’re way up in the corner of the wall. We can kinda see the web, when we look for it, but we really don’t see the spider so it’s ok. The spiders in our lives, just like those in our homes, will not simply go away. THEY HAVE TO BE KILLED.
How can I find my spiders?
If you’re like me then identifying your spiders could be difficult. God has really blessed my life and has protected me from all sorts of pain. Yet, I have spiders. Here are some of the suggestions Carlos made for finding your spiders. With all of these Carlos warned that finding your spiders is not a one day, single session, one event kinda thing. It is a process of self exploration and discovery.
  • Counseling
  • Examine your desires: Sometime we do things to cover the pain we are feeling that is the result of the spiders.
  • Intimate conversation with the Holy Spirit: Again this is not a one and done kinda thing.
  • Ask people who love you and know you well: Make sure they are people who truly care about you being the best version of yourself, not just people who want to tell you what’s wrong with you. Sadly, in ministry and in life there are plenty of people willing and eager to do that for us.

Great, but how do I KILL IT?

Carlos gave these three simple steps for killing our spiders. Just like losing weight or getting out of debt these steps are simple. Also like these things they are a lot of work.

  • Confess the lie
  • Reject the lie
  • Replace the lie with Jesus’ truth

Confess the lie

Hopefully through the process listed above you have been able to identify the spiders in your life. For Carlos and me, one of them was that I was a fraud. That I had faked my way to and through all the successes in my ministry. This simply isn’t true. I know that God was in it because I’m just not that good. If you’ve identified the spiders in your life, face the lies connected to them and confess the lie.

Reject the lie

Eventually you can get to a point where you can identify the spiders as they come up and will be able to reject them from the beginning. For now you can start by rejecting the lies that you have identified from your past. Reject it in Jesus name. Take away it’s power over you.

Replace the lie with Jesus’ truth

Jesus once told of a person who cleans out the demons in him, but leaves himself empty and open. The result is that the demon returns and brings friends with him. The same is true with the spiders in our lives. One of the lies from my past is that obstacles I have faced define me. The truth is that God knew about them before they came. In some instanced He may even have put them there in order to teach me something. In ALL instances God is in charge, even over the obstacles I face. That’s the truth that I put in place of the lie that these obstacles define me.

It doesn’t end there

Killing spiders in your home is an ongoing, lifelong process. No matter how many you kill it seems there are always more. Your life is the same way. This does not mean that your house, or your life, is overrun with spiders. It simply means that there are always spiders out there. So, we must remain diligent to recognize the spiders, and KILL THEM.


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Do You Love The Neighbors That Aren’t Like You?

 “The Church should be on the frontline for racial reconciliation in our nation.” 

Reggie Joiner spoke these words last night and struck me to my core. I very nearly broke down in tears as I thought back on my own failure in this area. I am by no means racist. I think that the many people of color that I have worked with, worshiped with, ministered with, or just been friends with would agree with that. Still, I think back to a very specific time in my life and ministry that I was guilty of not doing all I could to unite the people in my city of different races.

I sought out people like me.

Almost two years ago now my family moved from Alabama back to our home town in Florida. This was after just a year of living and serving in Alabama. During this season I didn’t know where my ministry was going or what I was supposed to do. I knew I had much experience in children’s ministry and that I had something to offer other churches in my area because of that experience. So, I reached out to other churches in my area and offered my help. As I look back on it now I realize that I only sought out churches filled with people that looked like me.

What am I doing now? 

Sadly, it is only in looking back that I see the ways that I failed in that season. However, at that time, I did feel a strong need to connect with my community, to serve my city, and to connect with people that were different from. So, I prayed for such opportunities and ended up being part of a great organization in my town called Haines City Unity in the Community

This group started as a group of African-American pastors in our city, hoping to unite to better serve their communities. They soon realized that Unity was about much more than just them. So, they began to connect with business leaders and even local government officials. Eventually, I heard of the group and started attending their meetings. After a time, they invited me to join their board of directors as the secretary.

I felt so honored to be included in their group. I was so awesome to actually be doing ministry along side people that looked different than me. It was awesome to be serving people that looked different than me. Heck, it was even awesome to attend meetings in the churches of these other pastors. Churches that, sadly, most white people would never enter. Truth be told most white people have probably never even received an invitation into a predominately black church. Please hear me, this is not a condemnation of my African-American brothers and sisters. This is something that we are all guilty off.

It’s only natural… at least on some level.

Truth is it’s natural for people to be drawn to other people like them. This is true of all races. Men tend to hand out with other men. Women tend to hang out with other women. Musicians tend to hand out with other musicians. Artists tend to hang out with other artists. I think you get the point.

Heck, we even see this in nature. Dogs tend to be drawn to other dogs. Cat’s tend to hang out in groups. You can have a pasture of many acres and most of cows will tend to all be in one area. It’s just natural. But, that’s not an excuse. Rather, it means that we have to work even harder to move beyond this natural tendency.

It’s note a one sided thing.

The rhetoric in mains stream media and even much of what is posted on social media would lead one to think that this is a one sided thing. I have even heard some go as far as to say that this is a WHITE issue. I would push back against that. The truth is that the only way that this sort of thing gets fixed is for ALL of us to step out of our comfort zone and reach out to people that are different than us. We ALL need to invite open and honest conversation about the things that bother us. The things that we feel. Our pains and our joys.

After all, the Bible only talks of ONE Kingdom of God. In THAT Kingdom we are all ONE PEOPLE. We are all children of the SAME Father. If unity is the goal, then none of us can sit back in our own churches, or neighborhoods and point fingers at others s

What am I going to different moving forward?

Truth is I don’t know all the opportunities God is going to give me to connect with and minister to people that are different from me. However, I know that I am going to seek out ways to connect with and serve people that are different than me.

Just like I reached out to churches that ARE like me, I’m going to reach out to churches that look different from me and see if there is some way I can help them minister to kids. AND, I want to minister to the kids in their church and in their neighborhoods.

I want to attend their churches. It’s not comfortable. That’s why so few people do it. But, God has allowed me to connect with many pastors of African-American churches. I will be visiting their churches on Sunday mornings. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. I don’t know what that’s going to feel like. I don’t know if it will make any difference, but I know that it will effect ME.

More than just the way we talk.

I hear many people talk about racism in relation to the things we say. They talk as if the key to fixing racism is to change the way we talk. Certainly we need to be sensitive, but improving race relations is so much more than about how we talk. If we change the way we talk, but we are still only talking to people that look like us then what difference does it make? If we change the way we talk, but never LISTEN to people that look different than us, who difference does it make? YES, be sensitive when you speak, but if it ends there, then what difference does it make?

What are you DOING about it?

If talking is not enough, then what needs to happen? I can’t answer that for you. YOU have to pray through it. YOU have to look around you for the opportunities. YOU have to step outside your comfort zone to connect with other people. YOU have to make a commitment to connect with, to reach, to get to know, and to serve people that look, think, and even worship differently than you do.

When you do this, I’d love to hear the stories. If you’re already doing this, please share your stories below.


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