My name is Matt McGill, and this is a little introspection.
I’ve love Jesus and have been taking him seriously since 1986.
I love to think (I’ve had to learn this because I’m aggressively impulsive by nature.).
I hate inconsistency (especially in myself).
I am ambivalent towards time and calendars (“now” and “not now” is good enough for me).
I love to see other people express their passion.
I ask a lot of questions, some of them are good. I’m interested in everything. I am more confident than most. I think carefully and speak carelessly. I’m too blunt and work to be sharper.
I am reasonable and logical (most of the time). I argue with passion and persistence. I lack persuasion and a strong desire to be liked by others.
I can bring out the best in people, but it’s usually not comfortable. I push, I pull, I poke. I’ll find if the center holds.
The process is the product because every finished thing can be made better through another process.
I’m challenger and a crucible. I am a catalyst and a crusader.
I’m always watching, always wondering and always testing and always considering and always comparing and always examining. Always learning and always growing.
This is a summary of my life.
Part One: WOMB
In 1973 I was in my mother’s womb and somewhere inside her bones were the seeds of a cancer that would take her life when I was nearly five years old. I still remember the funeral. From time to time, I still need to forgive God for letting that happen.
Part Two: THREE THINGS FROM 1986
Words can’t express how much I experienced in a single year. In 1986, I decided to take God seriously. I clearly understood my calling to full time ministry, and I burned my house down to the ground.
Why did I start taking God seriously? I had friends that were the best at everything. I was friends with the best athlete. I was friends with the most popular person on campus. I was friends with the toughest kid, and even the smartest kid. I wondered what was the best of all these things. Being an athlete would only last into my 30’s. Being the most popular wasn’t worth it cause eventually I’d get married and it can’t be that tough to be popular with one other person. Fighting was obviously worthless. Being smart would probably last the longest, but smart people weren’t necessarily good people.
I wanted to pursue that which was the best and would last the longest. I decided that my soul lasted forever, so taking care of it was the best thing I could pursue. I would be the best I could at this, and do whatever I could to help others take care of their souls.
It was months later that I knew I’d be doing this for the rest of my life. How could I not spend most of my life helping other people take care of their souls? I have since learned that there are two kinds of people in the world: smart people and dumb people. For the smart people, God takes his time revealing to them what he wants them to do; and after a while, they figure it out. For the dumb people, he tells them his plans early on, in no uncertain terms, because he knows they aren’t smart enough to figure it out and will probably screw things up. I was in the second group.
I also burned my house down cooking french fries. It was seven days after my birthday, which also happens to be two days before Christmas. My dad wasn’t happy. We built a new house. I was the first kid on the block to have a CD player because insurance replaced my tape player. For some reason, I’ve never really regretted burning my house down. Mistakes happen.
Of course, this was the third fire I had started within a four months. My first fire got out of control because I was eating deviled eggs for the first time in my life. Of course I was eating and burning at the same time. When I was all out of this new delight, I went back to the house “real quick.” I was too slow. My second fire burned out of control right away. I view this one as my Dad’s fault because he mentioned in passing that a green branch can’t burn. He was wrong.
Part three: HIGH SCHOOL and COLLEGE
High School was amazing in every way. There’s too much to write about. My dad, my football coach, and my youth pastor (Doug Fields) taught me everything I needed to know about life. I started dating Misha because she asked me to her prom. College was great. I studied in Israel for 4 months. I learned Hebrew and translated the book of Jonah. After college I lost all of my Hebrew since there’s not much need for it in youth ministry.
Part Four: MINISTRY
In 1995 I graduated school and went to work at Saddleback as an intern. I was making between 400-500 bucks a month. I ate out a ton which I could afford because I didn’t buy car insurance. Before the Mish and I got married, I discerned the specifics of my calling in life: I was to serve Doug Fields. I loved Saddleback and really loved youth ministry, but God wanted me to help Doug. He needed a lot of help, so it was a good fit. I said to Misha: I’m called to serve Doug, what do you think about this? She was on board.
Doug and I worked wonderfully together. We’re different enough to complement each other and we’re similar enough to communicate clearly and quickly with one another (most of the time). This is true of our skills, but also of our ministry values.
This scripture has been best picture of my service to Fields: “Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, ‘I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.’” (2Sa 12:27-28 NIV)
Doug is a man of kind words and thoughtful affirmation. Of the thousands of encouraging words he’s said, one that sticks out the most was when he thanked me for being a kingmaker to him. He said, “I feel like you’ve been like a Samuel to me.” Including this is self promoting, but it’s the best illustration of these years.
Part four: THE SUNDERING
In 2006 I made the most difficult decision of my life: I quit Fields. I’m going to try really hard to boil down the most difficult decision of my life: I was unhappy for about 2 months. This has never happened in my life. There was nothing different about Doug, there was nothing different about me. Everyday I’ve welcomed the day knowing what I was supposed to do and how I was going to do it. If I got sad, I either changed the person or I changed myself. I’ve never been sad for more than 2 days…let alone 2 months. I worked HARD to understand it. I couldn’t. In the third month of my discontent, I surrendered it all to God. I refused to think about it. If it came up, I’d read a passage in scripture, or do something else. Then I had the feeling, the idea, that I needed to quit fields and do something different. I was SO ANGRY AT MYSELF. That I’d give up just because I was feeling discontent for 3 months?!?!? Most people live with 83 years of discontent, and I was going to give up!?
The most difficult thing about this decision was that I made it WITHOUT knowing why. I had no reasons… no explanations. So I made the decision to move on. It was the right one, I had a peace that I hadn’t had in two years. That night I talked to my best friend. I was babbling like a moron. I couldn’t string together three coherent words. I made the toughest decision of my life and I couldn’t explain why.
Don’t get me wrong: there have been PLENTY of things that I couldn’t explain in my life. Plenty of areas where I let God do his thing, and accepted the mystery or paradox for what it was—something beyond me. However, this was totally different.
Over the next two weeks, each day, God revealed to me where he’d been working for the previous 2 years. It was amazing. I won’t go into detail, but there were more than 10 key events that were all working to get me to a point where I’d let go of serving Fields. I had no idea what I was going to do next. I knew two things: Step out in faith, and do something different.
Part Six: THE DESERT
I was gone from Saddleback for 10 months. They were an amazing 10 months. Met great people, worked alongside some great servants, tried some great things…every step of the way I was doing something different. It was very obvious that it was time to move on after 10 months. This decision was as easy as the other one was hard.
Even when I came back to Saddleback, it was something VERY different. In fact, I felt like I was at a different church. I was using some of my lesser gifts, leadership and organizing and neglecting some of my greater gifts (teaching and discipling). I was not discontented, for I was convinced that I was in the exact place that God had for me. Frustration: of course. Discouragement: definitely. Growth: absolutely.
Reading about Moses in the desert struck a chord in me. He was doing things he’s never really done…he was in a foreign land…and he built his family. I too was doing something really different (in the land of ADULTS…leaving the (blessed) land of students.
Now, I’m not saying this is good bible study skills…I’m not saying that everyone ought to allegorize the narratives in the Bible and apply them to their lives. I’m saying that I feel like God was talking to me specifically. He said, wait. Be faithful. Do what you’ve never done before. Build your family. This time is preparation for what’s next.
(Of course, that last sentence is always true. Today is ALWAYS preparation for what’s next… however, it has never been more personally significant than it has been these past few years)
Part Seven: SIMPLY YOUTH MINISTRY
Now I’m working at Group Publishing, in the youth ministry department. I’m excited for this new season, where I’ll be doing lots of writing and editing. Very much the opposite of my last season.