5 Seconds And 10 Words That Wrecked My Life

5 Seconds And 10 Words That Wrecked My Life

I was not familiar with the name Nettie Cooper before April 23, 2018. I’ve still yet to have the chance of meeting her. I’ll be as honest to say that at this point I may not recognize her even if we were standing in the same room together.

Though her face and physical stature stood only briefly in my memory, her chosen words that filled a crowded sanctuary on that April evening are immovable and inerasable.

It was the first night of the 2018 Louisiana District Council for Assemblies of God ministers. Nostalgia was the guest of choice in the room as the District’s campground was the host location for the annual meeting.

Generations were united. Though some decades apart in age, Baby Boomers and Gen Z’s alike could walk along the same path and both say with gratefulness, “This is where I experienced the Lord.”

A proud companion to Nostalgia goes by the name of Honor.

One certainly makes for a sore celebration guest without the other. In fact, the only thing that makes Nostalgia so pleasant is its paired attention with Honor. Pleasant and powerful feelings of the past only continue when we can identify and attribute the source that brought about those moments to begin with.

Honor was certainly in attendance with us that night. Firstly, honoring and praising God – the ultimate source -- and then honoring each other. This is how I came to hear from Sister Nettie Cooper.

The Unwritten Rule of Ministry Advancement

The Unwritten Rule of Ministry Advancement

A few days ago, as we were reflecting on previous church ministry experiences, I looked at Kayla and immediately started laughing.

“Why was I ever a youth pastor. Teenagers and I don't mesh well – then or now!”

As a young 20-something I had the desire to serve the local church, and I was confident that it was God’s plan for my life. In a conversation with our former lead pastor, I told him I would “do anything” because I just wanted to serve.

Shortly after a youth pastor position opened at the church -- so naturally I was a good fit. I was eager to serve, I was young, and if I took it ... I could be paid.

Done, done and done.

What transpired over the next couple of years was a result of a person serving out of need and not passion.

This car ride of reflection got me thinking of the unwritten stages of ministry advancement. In the church world, we’ve created a path of advancement, "or rule," without even knowing it.

You Will Want to Quit Ministry

You Will Want to Quit Ministry

Two weeks prior to my college graduation I had my first-job lined up as a youth pastor at a church in Central Louisiana. I was excited and ready to change the world.

In mentioning this to a co-worker, he scooted his chair near mine: "Matt, I'm telling you. You will always want to way to quit ministry."

The backstory to this comment was unfortunate. My co-worker previously held a ministry position and after years quit. This was the first time he shared his transparent story with me, but full of zeal, I brushed off his comments. I knew there was no way I would ever have those feelings. 

Five short months later I contemplated everything. I was barely surviving financially, the youth group was stagnant, and my peers I graduated with were loving life in their big jobs in their big cities. I wanted to quit.

Maybe my co-worker was right? 

Next month will mark five years of ministry for my wife and I. We don't have it all figured out as people still give us crazy eyes when we say we are both 26-years-old -- but in five years, we've had some beyond unique experiences.

You're going to read about my inner battles. Kayla had those too. She could equally write her own lessons as we both traveled a long journey in a short time. But, the one constant of Kayla was her rock solid relationship with Jesus. She never wanted to quit serving Him or His church. She was our strength, so while I lashed out and went on a spiritual hiatus, she was the constant voice and person on the other side.

I'm going to take you through my perspective and battles of each year. Hindsight is so valuable. I'd love to go back to May 2012, shake myself, and move my mindset to present day. It's my hope that this blog offers a perspective for a young leader (and someone leading young leaders) of my struggles and conclusions.

It's my hope you can identify one of these "wanting to quit" moments and obtain a self-aware nature to change before it's too late. Also, be aware that I've not arrived (nor will I ever). I'll look back to 2017 in five years and laugh again, but perspective is key for others to share in seasons of life.

So, let's jump in!

Thirty-Six Emails And Counting

Thirty-Six Emails And Counting

I crawled out of bed and slowly walked to the kitchen. I threw away the old coffee in the filter from the night before and started brewing some fresh coffee.

I took seven short steps over to my dining room table, which in all actuality was a coffee table so short you had to sit on the ground to use. I turned on my computer, wiped my eyes, and prepped for my voyage to send out a sea of emails.

As my computer loaded and with coffee in hand, I turned on the new live episode of SportsCenter. I logged onto journalismjobs.com and begin firing away. I was four months away from graduating college and I felt pretty confident about my job prospects.

Despite the fact that we were in the wake of another Great Recession that saw 53 percent of college graduates jobless or underemployed in 2012, I thought my resume was fail proof.

Boy was I wrong.

I cracked my knuckles and got to work. One email after another ... one email after another, until I applied or inquired about 36 jobs. By 8 a.m., I shut my computer and got ready for my day filled with classes, a job, and an internship without pay.

This process continued the next day and every day after. Despite my 36 emails and counting I was jobless, and being jobless left me in a state of constant rejection.

At this point many of my peers and professors were alarmed by my job search. They knew my resume boasted some heavy hitters in the journalism field, but it didn't matter. Every day I felt like I was sending emails to space as I often heard no response. It hurt. It was embarrassing. 

Weeks before graduation I felt a shift in my purpose and started to pursue ministry careers over the journalism field. This decision was grueling and difficult -- and coincidently the day I decided to go full in on ministry, I got an email response with a dream job offer -- GO FIGURE! (Read full story here)

I emailed churches, like I did with the media companies, and still no luck. The lowest point came when I applied to be a receptionist in various towns and no luck. I was defeated and gave up.

One month from graduation I decided to stop waking up early to send emails. I did nothing. Interestingly enough the week was peaceful and I wasn't worried about my future. The Friday of the week I took my email hiatus, I received a call from a church I had previously connected with. It was about an opportunity.

The offer was significantly less than normal part-time pay, but I committed to working full-time hours. I assumed God would take care of me (He did, by the way). It wasn't the job or career field I ever thought for myself, but hey, I got a job offer!

By Monday, I accepted the job and started working two days after college graduation. 

1,570 Miles to the Swamp

1,570 Miles to the Swamp

I took a sip of coffee and placed my left hand on my forehead. As I scanned over the paper in front of me, I intently marked the paper with my red pen.

It was my second semester of college, and I wasn’t studying for an exam. I was deciding my top three colleges choices of where I would transfer to. The list of 25 wasn’t well thought out – in fact, it was random and had no strategy.

Two hours prior, I threw on my clothes and left me door room at Dean College in Franklin, Mass., to meet with my guidance counselor. To my surprise, she was elated to see my GPA. She told me something I thought I would never hear – “you can transfer to almost any school in the country.”

As I quickly walked back to my dorm I needed a strategy to collect my thoughts and endless opportunities. So naturally, being a football fanatic, I printed out the Top 25 NCAA Football Teams from the fall and started my college search. 

The next round of criteria was a little more thought out:

  • Round 1: Cross off any state I refused to live in.
  • Round 2 (10 options): Cross off any school that cost over $20,000 per year.
  • Round 3 (5 options): Rank the top journalism schools and boil list down to three.
  • Round 4 (3 options): Take campus visits.

In March 2009, I took my first visit to Baton Rouge. When I returned home, I knew LSU was the school for me. I applied, got accepted (kinda), and turned a page in my life journey.

Three months later I packed my 1996 Saturn (without air conditioning) and was ready for the 25-hour drive. As I trekked into Louisiana I set my GPS for my new address, which was a house with two roommates that I had never met and discovered through Craigslist.

I moved 1,570 miles away from home without knowing a single person all because I wanted an adventure. More importantly, I wanted to set myself up for the best education and degree I could position myself with for the future.

When I made the decision to move to Louisiana, I was provisionally accepted to LSU. If I did not maintain a 3.25 GPA for my first semester, I would have to move back to Massachusetts. In high school, my average GPA was a 2.4. While my GPA was high at Dean College (3.8), a junior college and LSU were on two very different academic levels.

I took a risk on a dream. I took a risk on something most people thought wasn’t for me. I risked everything for the sake of looking like a failure in six shorts months.