By Rob Schellenberg
Editor's note: This story is the second in a four-part series about three college alumni at Moncton Wesleyan Church. Stay tuned for more about Dave Steeves ('00) and Jeremy MacDonald ('09).
ransforming a young freshman into the executive pastor of the largest church in Atlantic Canada is a challenge only God is up to.
God led Kevin Matthews (College '91) to Briercrest Bible College (now Briercrest College and Seminary) in 1988, and 22 years later, he is the executive pastor at the Moncton Wesleyan Church in Moncton, N.B.
Matthews admits that he was a typical freshman who thought he knew many of the answers, but the Briercrest training has helped him look for solutions to current problems using the love of Christ.
“When I came out of Briercrest, I realized how little I knew,” he said. “I (graduated) with a much healthier perspective.”
Matthews appreciated the way Briercrest didn’t tell him what to believe, but helped him formulate his own understanding, presenting three or four biblical views on issues.
“They always allowed me to land on my own conclusions,” he said. That was especially beneficial in his current role at a church that is attempting to serve the diverse Moncton community.
“Briercrest really helped me prepare for the body of Christ rather than serving one denomination.”
After Matthews graduated, he worked in a camp ministry in New Brunswick and helped that summer camp grow into a year-round ministry. He built that program up, but also started to become frustrated with turning camp kids back to churches that weren’t prepared to help them.
When he was offered a children’s ministry position at the Moncton church, Matthews saw it as a way to make a difference.
He remembers thinking, “this is my chance to stop whining and moaning about the local church, and try to change it.”
He began working at the church and quickly built up the children’s ministry programs—almost too quickly. He started to become frustrated that the finances weren’t there to support the changes he wanted to enact. L.D. Buckingham, the lead pastor at Moncton Wesleyan Church, met with Matthews, and together they determined that the children’s ministry had grown faster than the adult ministries. This meant there weren’t enough financial supporters to take the program where Matthews wanted.
Buckingham then encouraged Matthews by asking him to consider another ministry within the church. Buckingham understood that if Matthews could see the problems, he probably could also see the solutions.
“He explained what we needed, and so I just looked at him and the lights just came on for me,” said Buckingham. “I said, ‘Kevin you are the man for that job’.”
Buckingham went on to explain that moving Matthews into the executive pastor role created a new dynamic on the staff, but the lead pastor was confident it would work out well.
“If Kevin did his job, this would enable these other guys to do their job in a way that they really wanted to do their job and better than they’ve ever been able to do it, which turned out to be true.”
It was a new role for both the church and Matthews. He also admits that he is in a role that he would never have considered when he left school.
“In my Briercrest days, I certainly didn’t know that there was such a thing as an executive pastor,” he said, adding that it is a perfect fit for the gifts God has given him.
“If I could do anything in this world, I would do exactly what I’m doing.” His role is to implement the ministry vision of Pastor Buckingham, oversee the pastors and finances, and deal with the complaints and criticisms that are part of everyday life.
“At the end of the day, I’m ultimately helping people help people.”
“I look at myself as a resource to the other staff members,” he said. Moncton Wesleyan Church has 21 staff, nine of which are pastors.
The Briercrest alumnus is amazed at how the church has grown. Its 2,000 seat auditorium makes it the largest church in Atlantic Canada.
“When you look at things, God has blessed in amazing ways.” The church and the Briercrest alumni working there are also a great resource to the other churches in the area. Matthews works with three other Briercrest alumni: David Steeves (2000) and Jeremy MacDonald (2009), and in association with Korean Church, Pastor Hyan-Kilee (known as Pastor Sam).
“Briercrest has had a pretty big impact on Atlantic Canada,” Matthews said.
That influence will only continue as the Briercrest alumni in the church continue to recommend a Briercrest education to the people of New Brunswick.
“I have no hesitation in recommending our students go there.”