Kyle Matthews is one of the most popular singer-songwriters around, especially within those circles populated by moderate Baptists. Jan and I have known him and his wife Susan for nearly 20 years, going back to their pre-children days when Susan frequently performed along with Kyle.
Word spread quickly when it became known this summer that Kyle and Susan (and their children) would be leaving Music City for Greenville, S.C., where both of them will serve as bi-vocational ministers on staff at the First Baptist Church.
Kyle’s afraid that many folks won’t catch the “bi-vocational” part of that equation, and thus think he’s no longer available for the concerts, retreats, and conferences at which he excels. To help him clarify just what his fans and friends can expect, I offered to conduct a bloggerview and post it here:
TC — Kyle, I understand you’re to be the “Minister of Worship and Mission” at FBC Greenville. What kind of expectations go with that impressive title?
KM — Well, I wasn’t worried about their expectations until you brought it up, but now I’m afraid that they’ll expect me to be able to move pulpit furniture around with my mind.
The best way to describe it would be to say that the church wants to implement a staff structure based not upon the conventional roles (which, by the way, few people fit into exactly) but upon the leadership gifts they perceive their congregation needing in the years ahead. GFBC has always had one of the finest music programs to be found anywhere, but always headed by one supremely gifted person. The idea now (pastor Jeff Roger’s brainchild) is to see if a team approach won’t bring some depth and breadth that one person cannot bring to the job. There will now be at least six of us contributing ideas and leadership to worship, all of us bi-vocational. This means that I do not have to try to be something I am not, and can contribute in the ways I know how while learning from the rest of the team.
The “mission” part of my job will be combination of helping keep the church’s mission front and center as well as help coordinate “missions” opportunities and community projects as I have done on a small scale in Nashville. I have spent 20 years traveling to be part of conferences, retreats and other special programs, and now I hope to be able to host those kinds of events at GFBC.
TC — How much freedom will you have to continue doing concerts, leading retreats, recording, and so forth?
KM — Thanks for asking! It’s part-time so that I can continue my work as concert artist, speaker, and sometime consultant. My chief concern in this transition is that people will hear I’ve left Nashville to go to a church and think I’m no longer available for bookings.
But GFBC understands that the publishing catalogue and support network I’ve spent 20 years building is not the kind of thing I can just walk away from, and they’ve indicated that they see a value in my staying connected with the larger Church and the ecumenical community. I may lack certain kinds of ministry experience the other pastors have, but what I do have to offer is the product of traveling to such a wide variety of churches and ministries over such a long period of time. I’m hoping that with the responsibility of contributing in specific ways in a local church, I will have the opportunity to be more productive, and better equipped when I do travel to other places.
TC — How about Susan’s new job as assistant minister of music? What will her work entail?
KM — I’m really riding into this job on Susan’s coattails, because the number of people on the planet who feel especially and specifically called to lead middle and high school choirs is pretty small. So, they were highly motivated to find someone with her background and interests. She will direct those two choirs and supervise the children’s choir program which, at GFBC, is strong enough to run itself. Her job, as well, is part-time, because she needs most of her time to compensate for all of my shortcomings.
TC — What things excite you most about this new opportunity?
KM — Too many to enumerate, but three biggies jump to mind. I’m tired of working alone, and I’m really excited about working with this staff. Each one of them has expertise I do not have and wish I did. Secondly, I actually get emotional thinking about being able to give my children the kind of church I had growing up. I’m excited for them. Thirdly, I remember that every family in the church has at least one really exceptional cook. I think about that a lot.
TC — Is there anything you’d like your friends and fans to know about what they can expect of you in the future?
KM — My fan base is so small that those actually constitute the same group. But having worked in entertainment-saturated Nashville for 17 years I wouldn’t have that any other way. I kid you not.
The first thing they can expect is a new CD in September, the first in three years. So, I’ll be looking for any and every opportunity to promote it. Secondly, they can expect my print catalogue to grow in musical pieces designed for church choirs and ensembles and non-musical resources for worship and discipleship. It’s time to focus my efforts where God can do the most with them: the local church.
TC — And that, friends, is the Matthews news.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.