Yohaan: Matt, your sermon at the Men’s Weekend on the Sunday morning was spoken of very highly. Thanks for being with us! Can you tell me how you became a Christian?
Matt : I was born in to a strong Christian family. My parents, John (who was an elder at CCK till he retired last year) and Sue, brought us up teaching us about Jesus from the Bible. At a young age I decided to become a follower of Jesus and accepted Him as my Lord and Saviour.
When I was in my teens, we moved to Brighton. That was my undoing! At our previous church the youth group had been small and I was one of the few who was serious about pursuing Christ – I think having to take a stand like that made me stronger. But when we moved to Brighton there was this massive youth group in which loads of people seemed to be passionate for Jesus but in reality a whole load of us just drifted into partying instead. That inevitably lead to living like everyone else did. At 17, I began to backslide, and made a complete hash of my A levels, as well as other things. I was desperate to join the army but my parents insisted I went to uni first.
After school, I wanted to have a year out and go to either India or Africa. I ended up in Swaziland in Africa working on a farm there. It was a bit disastrous and 3 months later I got kicked off after a massive clash with the man in charge of the farm. I decided to hitch hike down to Cape Town.
I was pretty miserable at this time and knew I had to sort myself out. Somewhat ironically, I was more aware of God through this period of backsliding. My rebellion made me more conscious of His presence! I met another English guy and so we hitched hiked to Cape Town from Swaziland. He was very interested in Christianity and wanted to quiz me all about it. I didn’t really want to talk about it and it made me increasingly uncomfortable. I remember being about halfway through the journey at a place called Oribi Gorge near Durban which is a very amazing natural feature and I suddenly realized that I was miserable and needed to get right with God. So by the time I got to Cape Town I had decided I wanted to get right with God.
Dave Holden was preaching in Jubilee church the weekend I got to Cape Town. And it was at that sermon that I came back to Christ. And the English guy I was travelling with became a Christian at that meeting as well!
Yohaan: Fantastic! You joined Dave Holden in Sidcup later?
Matt: It was January 1989 then and I ended up staying on in Cape Town till September. I came back and went to university in Newcastle then went back to Brighton for a year and worked at the Natural History Museum in London during that period. I went to Canterbury to do a PhD in zoology which was a disaster! I married Grace whilst in Canterbury. My supervisor for the PhD was spookily reminiscent of the man in Swaziland, who I had such a major clash with! In every way physically and personality-wise he was almost the same person. And I just couldn’t get any results going from the research I was meant to be doing. So I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. At Stoneleigh that year (1994), Dave Holden prophesied over me and that led me to chuck in my PhD and go to Sidcup to join Dave.
Yohaan: Men align themselves to men who they regard highly and respect. What about Dave Holden made you move to Sidcup?
Matt: I would never have gone to Sidcup in a million years had it not been for Dave! When Grace and I left to move there, people would say that Sidcup was a great place to live in because it’s so easy to get out of!
There was lot’s about Dave that caused me to move to Sidcup. There was this connection we had – he had been at the church in 1989 when I came back to Jesus and then 5 years later in 1994 he prophesied over me. It just seemed a great opportunity to be with him. The plan was that I was to be with him for 2 years and then go off church planting. But things changed when I got there and I stayed on for 13 years.
Yohaan: And now you lead Gateway Church in Poole. What are some of the core values around which you want your church to be built?
Matt: Generosity. A prayerful people who how know how to pray and who believe in the power of prayer. A culture which is family in the fullest sense – a place where there’s real faithfulness and trust. Our culture is very faithless and we see that in all kinds of personal relationships which is then reflected legislatively. We have so many rules and regulations in place basically because we don’t trust people. I want to build a culture where there is real faithfulness and reliability and that’s reflected in the church family and then in the biological family. Men are fathers even if they’re not literal fathers. Paul says to the Corinthians, ‘imitate me. I’m your father in Christ.’ I want to build a church full of men who can make such claims.
Something else we’re working hard on is that we’re called to be missionaries. We don’t just send missionaries to foreign countries and send them a bit of money every so often but we’re missionaries in the place where we live. I’m trying to model that myself to some degree by working hard at being with unbelievers. Having unbelieving friends should be a priority in your life.
I want to help build a church where adventure, purity and compassion are seen in our people. People who are adventurous in exercising faith and expect God to break in. A pure people who take holiness and discipline seriously. A people compassionate who reach out to the poor and needy. I want to build a church like that.
Yohaan: And lastly Matt, what do you want your legacy to be?
Matt: I have four beautiful daughters and I want to see them all faithfully following Jesus and pursuing whatever it is God has called them to with the gifts and talents they have got. I don’t want to constrain them by things I want to see them doing but I want them to know freedom to choose the path they feel God leading them into. I want them to be adventurous, bold girls who are too hot to handle by some slacker bloke!