Preachers need encouragement, help, and a regular reminder that God accomplishes his work in the world through his Word. That’s why three of the Apostle Paul’s letters were to pastors with words like these:
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. —1 Timothy 4:13–16
It’s in this spirit of encouragement and progress that Heritage has invested in area churches and pastors in a variety of ways. It’s also why we hosted a preaching workshop for area preachers this past January through a partnership with the Charles Simeon Trust. We were joined by 54 teachers and preachers from 32 churches, including 30 lead pastors.
Matthew Rawlings is one of the area pastors that joined us. I’ve asked him to share about himself, his church, and the workshop we just hosted.
1. Matthew, we’re glad that you could join us at the preaching workshop in January. I’ll ask you a few questions about that, but first, tell us a little about yourself, the church where you preach, and the network of churches you’re a part of.
I’m originally from Virginia. I have been married to Julie for almost 25 years and together we have six children. Our oldest is a Sophomore at Anderson University and our youngest is seven years old.
Prior to pastoral ministry, I worked for the US Government outside of Washington D.C. and then was an IT Director for Electronic Arts.
Back in 1993, I started a college ministry at George Mason University, and in 1997 the pastors in our church asked me to pursue pastoral ministry. I’ve been pastoring since 1999. I spent seven years as a bi-vocational church planter in Surrey, British Columbia, (outside Vancouver, B.C.), before moving to South Carolina in the fall of 2007 to pastor at Redeeming Grace Church.
Our mission is simple and it is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who are growing as disciples and making disciples. I love serving as a pastor in our local church and count is a privilege to walk with others as we together seek to love the Lord and our neighbor with all that we are.
In 2012, I moved into the role of Senior Pastor and we began pursuing being a formal part of the Acts29 network of churches.
Acts29 is a diverse family of about 900, gospel-centered, church-planting churches. We’re characterized by theological clarity, cultural engagement, and missional innovation. Acts29 is committed to praying for conversions through evangelism, planting churches, pursuing holiness and humility and equipping church leaders. Our Southeast region is comprised of around 125 churches which work together to mutually encourage, equip and support each other in our shared mission. I was excited that 10 of our churches and the Acts29 Director of the Southeast region were able to attend the Simeon Trust workshop and are already planning to come back and bring more men in the future.
2. Now, for those who are unfamiliar with the Simeon Trust. What is the Charles Simeon Trust and what is a preaching workshop? Tell us a bit about the goals and the shape that a workshop takes.
The Charles Simeon Trust is a ministry that exists to strengthen local churches and further gospel proclamation through equipping pastors and teachers in expositional ministry. The Simeon Trust is guided by the conviction that the health of the Church depends on the proclamation of God’s Word.
Workshops for preachers are the heart of their work. Workshops are held in strategic geographic locations to support churches in their ministry of the Word, and consist of three things: instructional sessions, expositions, and small groups. In those small groups men will spend a total of six hours presenting their work on various texts and helping one another improve.
Workshops are a means not only of equipping and encouraging pastors and teachers, but also stirring up gospel-camaraderie and collaboration. Since the very heart of pastoral ministry is the proclamation of the Word, the goal of a workshop is to increase a preacher’s competence and confidence in their ability to apply themselves to the task of expositional preaching. Workshops seek to provide preachers with practical tools and the means to grow in the use of those tools in expositing God’s Word.
3. You’ve been to a number of these workshops before, even traveling some distance. Detail a bit of your history with these workshops and why you prioritize them personally. That will give us some insight into the importance of this kind of investment for our church and for area pastors.
I had been preaching and teaching for about 15 years when I attended my first workshop and didn’t quite know what to expect. I travelled up to Wisconsin for my first workshop at the recommendation of Mike Bullmore, who has been a trusted mentor to me in the past. I was immediately impacted by instruction that was more focused on preaching and more effective than any seminary or homiletical class I had taken up to that point. I have since made it a priority to take advantage of these workshops each year, tackling different genres of the Bible, so that I am better able to preach God’s Word to my local church.
Through these workshops, I have also formed biblical friendships with other pastors that have helped to sustain me in the ministry of the Word. I cannot think of a ministry that has impacted my preaching and improved my ability to preach God’s Word more deeply.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God for salvation and Simeon Trust enables preachers to proclaim God’s life-giving Word of hope to a dark and dying world.
4. Finally, because many of our readers will be members at Heritage Bible Church, anything you’d like to say to our church family having joined us as a guest?
As a guest of the workshop you hosted at Heritage Bible Church, I want you to hear my heartfelt thank you. Thank you for sacrificing financially to provide a comfortable place for us to hear God’s Word and grow in an undistracted way. Thank you for how you served us all in both large and small ways, from letting us use your facilities, to warmly welcoming us, checking us in, providing snacks and lunches, running the audio-visual systems that were needed, and being all-around excellent hosts.
Thank you for giving up time and supporting your pastors, specifically Trent and Abe, as they lead and served us all. In supporting and freeing up Trent and the team, you made the workshop in Greenville possible, when it wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Your kindness and generosity as a church provided a few days of respite to encourage many pastors and enabled us all to receive from God without having to plan or take care of anything that could take away from us receiving from God. You enabled me and over 54 other preachers to grow in God’s Word and the seeds of your ministry will bear much fruit, as God’s Word is proclaimed and the gospel is preached throughout all of our churches. I am convinced that your investment will result in bringing many people to Christ and in helping countless believers grow in God’s grace for years to come.