Welcome to the Website of Pastor Stephen Matthew ...
It has been my privilege to serve as a pastor, teacher and leader for over 35 years. I now use my experience and skill-set to help Jesus build His church, wherever He wants me, through speaking, coaching, consultancy and writing.
What makes a city beautiful? Opinions vary. But for me, one of the greatest contributing factors are the green spaces that break up its urban sprawl. Parks add colour through the seasons, bring nature into the city and allow people to breathe.
Some time ago I found myself working in a new city and starting to feel a little overwhelmed by its sheer size and frenetic pace of life. My inner conversation became, ‘Thank God I don’t live in the middle of all this’ and ‘Get me out of this urban jungle’.
Then I found a large park, right near the city centre. What a contrast! There I found some solitude, head space and peace in the midst of the urban jungle. And breathing deeply of the sights and sound of nature, changed my attitude to the city. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
Every busy life needs a few ‘parks’ – spaces to step into from the hustle and bustle of everyday life; places that do your soul good, allow you to reconnect with God and regain perspective.
It may be the ‘park’ of a quiet place to think, or reading a good book, listening to uplifting music, doing a hobby, walking the hills or riding your bike. Whatever does your spirit and soul good, is your ‘park’ in the midst of the city.
It’s an everyday choice. You have to consciously step out of the busyness into the peace of your ‘park’. And if you will ‘still and quiet your soul’ (Ps 131:2), God will meet and refresh you there (Ps 46:10).
If you are feeling the need for some ‘green pastures, beside quiet waters’ that will ‘refresh your soul’, the Good Shepherd will lead you there (Ps 23:1-3).
It’s time to go to the park.
An envelope arrived in the mail that immediately piqued my interest. It was unexpected for a start, hand-written which is unusual these days, and it wasn’t my birthday.
Inside was a beautiful, hand-written thankyou letter from one of my former students who had studied and served alongside me for a few years, before moving on to pastures new some time ago.
Their gratitude for my investment into their personal spiritual journey was moving. It warmed my heart and encouraged me to keep helping others become more like Jesus. What a lovely letter.
But then it struck me, THEY were the real letter. Their life was now being read by the people they did life with and I’d simply had the privilege of penning a few lines in the ‘letter of their life’.
As Paul said of those he’d poured his life into in Corinth, ‘You yourselves are our letter, known and read by everyone, you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of human hearts’ (2 Cor 3:2-3).
Our enduring legacy are the ‘living letters’ of people we did life with, writing on them the ways of Christ as we navigated it together. And the ‘writing’ goes on, so let’s do it more intentionally today.
Conversely, we too are ‘letters from Christ’, penned by our godly friends, family and mentors for others to read, for which we are also grateful. Maybe it’s time we dropped them a note of thanks too.
‘Have you put the bins out?’ has been the question on bin-collection day for as long as I can remember. And the answer used to be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but those days are long gone. These days it’s more likely to be, ‘Which bin? Green, brown or Grey?’
But the principle remains the same: we need to put our household rubbish out regularly, otherwise we end up with a whole lot of unpleasant, smelly and potentially dangerous problems.
The same is true for the inner life of our soul. Rubbish collects in our heart, mind and emotions, the rubbish of unhealthy thoughts, irrational fears and debilitating attitudes towards others. Unless they are regularly removed, their build up can lead to life-limiting problems.
The Bible encourages us to maintain a healthy soul by speaking out about the rubbish that builds up inside us. In anguish, Hannah ‘poured out her soul to the Lord’ (1 Sam 1:15) and Jabez did the same with his pain (1 Chron 4:10). The Lord’s Prayer is in part, confessional. And many Psalms are vocal expressions of ‘putting the rubbish out’ (Ps 42).
How good to know that ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 Jn 1:9).
So, don’t let the rubbish build up. Regularly ‘put the bins out’ to the Lord and keep your inner world healthy and sweet-smelling.
And if needed, talk to an appropriate person too, so we can pray for one another and find healing (James 5:16).
‘Have you put the bins out?’
Every few months my power washer comes out to blast away the algae, lichen and moss that relentlessly build up on the paths around our house. It’s a long and messy job but must be done if they are to remain safe and looking their best.
It is always satisfying to survey my finished work. But deep down I know that despite my best efforts the grime is relentless, and I’ll soon be doing it all again.
Life without Jesus is like that. We try our best to find a place of lasting safety and to be the beautiful person God created us to be. But things build up – negative, fearful and debilitating things that soil our lives like the build-up of grime on my paths. And it weighs us down.
So, we get the ‘power washer’ of human effort out and make a resolution to change, be better, be kinder, think more positively. We blast the grime away. But deep down, know we are powerless to prevent its gradual return.
Jesus didn’t come to clean you up for a season, he came to give you a brand-new start. He has removed your inherent sin once-for-all time and given you the ability to live free from sin’s stain and the gradual build-up of its poison.
‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ (Eph 5:25-27)
Faith in the saving work of Christ and the power of God’s Word is the ultimate, once for all time ‘power wash’!
This VERY good book by @jaykimthinks should be read by every serious church builder and leader.
He is PRO digital and PRO analog, seeking the radical middle ground on which to build genuine church community. Like most of us he believes the future is hybrid.
But as Scott McKnight says: ‘We live in hybridity - but hybridity only cuts to the heart and soul if it is rooted in the embodied realities of analog. ‘
A challenging and timely read. ...
‘Stephen always brings a life-giving word in season … that’s why the church always cheer when we announce he is coming!’
Dave Edwards, Kings Church, Newport
‘We retained Stephen as a Third Party Advisor to the Senior Leadership Team during our Senior Pastor succession process, helping us turn a very challenging season for the church into a strong new beginning.’
Gowan Wheeler, Senior Pastor, London Riverside Church
‘We have been working with Stephen for more than five years as a church coach and external advisor. With his experience and God-given wisdom he has offered valuable input and helped us navigate through the challenges of building both physical buildings and building the church as a spiritual house.’
Martin Lorenzen, Senior Pastor, Alive Kirken, Hillerod, Denmark