Replanting and Eternal Bonds


Christa and Matthew (September 2014)It began about a year ago—an unusual journey of receiving and waiting and grieving and anticipating. The culmination of this special season is that beginning in August, Christa and I will be replanted with me as the senior pastor of New Hope Church in the Minneapolis metro.

Over the past twelve months or so, and much to our surprise, Christa and I have had about a dozen different ministry opportunities come toward us; opportunities that would take us away from our beloved Bethel Church. Some of these bore a unique significance, and the idea that we would even be asked to consider some of them remains an honor that we will always carry with us. Among these prospects were many different churches and a small handful for parachurch roles.

It didn’t take long for me, at least, to feel profoundly overwhelmed. In the midst of receiving these invitations to consider these ministries, we began to really grieve the notion of leaving Bethel Church. Bethel Church is a healthy and stable place with a wonderful commitment to help the spiritually hungry experience the life-changing power of Jesus. We are invested. We love these people and this whole community.

But the Lord seemed determined to loosen our soil. With each opportunity that came our way we took on a growing understanding that God desired to replant us. We prayed diligently. We fasted. We cried out to God for understanding. We told Him regularly that we were not wise enough on our own to process what He was doing. So we asked Him to close those doors that were not for us, and to push us through the one that was.

And that He did. New Hope Church is a phenomenal Evangelical Free Church situated in the western part of the broader Minneapolis area. It has this high and holy calling to become one of the leading multicultural churches in the Evangelical Free Church movement—a Christ-centered community for all peoples. What they could not have known about us, and we likely did not fully appreciate about ourselves, is that if there were one thing our family has really missed since leaving Dallas is ethnic diversity. We celebrate the beating heart of God for the beauty of all peoples and tribes and tongues coming together. The idea of stepping into an environment that is so uniquely poised to grow in this regard is extremely exciting to us. And leveraging such a high and holy calling for a strategic global, Kingdom-minded reach, strikes a very deep chord within us.

But with such change comes for us some measure of pain. We dearly love our Bethel Church family. We believe in what God is doing in this region of the country, through an amazing staff and trusted elders and some of the most special people we have ever known. As we leave our hearts are very full; indeed, over-flowing. These several years in Fargo-Moorhead have been years of great healing, joy and fruitfulness for which we are very thankful.

For our New Hope Church friends with whom we are beginning a special journey, know that we are eager and humbled and anticipating knitting our hearts together for a noble Kingdom-cause. Lord willing, we will be stepping in formally in early August. We are praying for favor, wisdom, energy, protection, and the kind of vision that can bear real, lasting fruit.

For our Bethel Church family that we so greatly love and for whom we give thanks, as you step into the days ahead I need you to know four things. These are very important. First I need you to know that I have complete confidence in Bethel’s elders. They are godly men who treasure the Bethel family and will trustingly depend on the Holy Spirit for God’s counsel. You can count on them to lead you well. Secondly, I really believe in our staff. Every single one of them are sterling people filled with God’s Spirit. They are lovers of the church who serve superbly. Support them and trust them to care for you. Thirdly, I want to invite you to lean into each other. God does marvelous things during pastoral transitions. Many churches find a special grace during such times. Stay together. Rejoice in God’s favor. Believe in God’s care and provision. And anticipate that He already has in mind that special person who will fill the role of being Bethel Church’s next senior pastor.

Lastly, pray. Pray for the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. Pray for wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Pray that encouragement would flood into the souls of Bethel’s elders and staff. And pray that God will continue to bring spiritually hungry people across your pathways, so that as you move toward Jesus you can take them with you.

One of the beauties of the Body of Christ is the eternal bonds that shall never be broken. This truth brings deep solace to our souls as we step away from people we love and embrace new friends. When all is said and done, we are bondslaves to Jesus our Lord, and our partnership under His authority will really never, ever end. Oh, what joy that truth brings!




  1. John and Carol Baker says:

    Matthew and Christa:

    We have loved both of you for over 15 years and have continued worshiping with you since Heaston, occasionally at Scofield, and via Bethel Live at Bethel-Fargo. We will miss seeing you on Sunday as you go to New Hope to mission to another congregation. I know there is little we can do to serve from 900+ miles away, but if anything comes to mind, please let us know.

  2. Pastor Matthew says:

    Thank you so much, Jeannine! It’s been such a privilege to be with you and the rest of this special Bethel Church family!

  3. Jeannine Ridgway says:

    Dear Pastor Matthew- My heart is heavy as I write this because I had been searching the F-M area for several years for a church but mostly a Pastor who loved doctrine and knew the Word and preached it with fervor. You were that man. I loved your enthusiasm and I loved it when you would “unpack” a verse or idea. The Holy Spirit told me several months ago that you would be l waving and I ran. I ran from God in anger and pain. But, I learned that was exactly what Satan wanted. He wanted me to leave Bethel. I wanted to too. I told myself that it just wouldn’t be the same without you teaching and preaching to me. I was ready to jump ship when God placed an unlikey person in my path at my Gym in the pool with me. She told me that I was doing exactly what the Devil wanted. I re-examined my life and prayed and knew that God had stopped me in my tracks and wrapped His arms around me add said, “It will be OK.We will weather this together.”
    That’s when I knew that I would survive the pain and be stronger for it. I will miss your teaching greatly but undetstand that you must go when God calls you.
    I thank you so much for what you have taught me and have enjoyed your teaching so very much. I guess God is writing the next chapter in all our lives. I truly do wish God’s best for you and your family because I have grown to love you all from afar. You will always be my family and I rejoice knowing that we will meet in Heaven when God calls His elect to meet Him in the air.
    I thank God for sharing you with us in Fargo. I know that I am better for it. I wish you all God’s best.
    May the roads rise to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back
    And, until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the hollow of His Hand.
    Blessings always – Jeannine Ridgway

  4. Kara Tweten says:

    Wishing and praying for the best for you and your family. You had seemingly “big shoes to fill” when you came to Bethel , which you did so wonderfully. Now you leave the same for someone else to fill. Thanks for the blessing you have been to Bethel, the whole community, & mostly to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
    Blessings ~

  5. Rick and Debbie Olson says:

    Pastor Matthew and Christa, please allow me to be the first person in this particular forum at least, to say thank you!! Thank you so very much for your leadership and for your shepherding of the Bethel Church – Fargo family for these past seven years. As you know, Debbie and I became a part of the Bethel family just under three years ago. Time sure does fly by, doesn’t it? During the time we’ve known you, Christa and your daughters, you’ve become very special people to us. We so very much appreciate your becoming a trusted spiritual adviser to us. Words can’t begin to adequately express our gratitude for your willingness to come alongside of us when things weren’t so great. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come and visit Debbie at the hospital before she underwent her procedure. As far as Bethel Church goes, you are right. We’ll be okay. We have a truly dedicated group of elders and pastors who will lead the way during this transitional period to come. I believe God has already chosen the next senior pastor for Bethel Church, and it will be up to us in the Bethel Family to pray earnestly, seek God’s face, perhaps even fast; until such a time as God makes our new senior pastor known to us. Meanwhile, we will undertake all due diligence in the search process. As you may remember, Debbie and I came to Bethel from Fargo First Assembly, and we were a part of the church there during the 2 1/2 years that the church was searching for its new senior pastor, to replace the Rev. Dan Rothwell who served the church faithfully for 31 1/2 years, until God promoted him to Heaven, following a brave battle with cancer. 31 1/2 years is a practically unheard of length of time for a pastor to be serving the same church. Yet, the congregation made it through the 2 1/2 years it took for the congregation to be in a position to offer a call to its present senior pastor, Bob and Sharon Ona. Pastor Dan went to be with the Lord in March of 2004 and Bob and Sharon joined us in December of 2006. It was a long time of searching, praying, fasting, and waiting upon the Lord. In closing, Pastor Matthew, it’s been our joy and honor to be under your ministry and we wish you and your family nothing but the absolutely very best as you step into the next chapter of life’s journey. New Hope Church is about to be blessed with an outstanding family and a truly great man of God as their next senior pastor. Be Blessed!!

    God Bless,
    Rick and Debbie Olson

  6. Pastor Matthew says:

    Bill . . . . thank you. Your affirmation is so meaningful, as I always reflect on you with great admiration and gratitude. I can assure you that we have been as surprised as anyone in the Lord’s handiwork these recent months, with joy both for what is coming and that from which we are stepping away.

    Love you, Friend, and so thankful for your imprint in our lives!

  7. Bill Lawrence says:

    Dear Matthew and Christa,

    I was surprised to learn on Facebook early this morning that you are leaving Bethel. Of course you are following God’s leading. No doubt. Just that I had no thought you would leave. At the same time I am delighted you are moving to such a strategic ministry and out standing opportunity. I pray for Bethel and plraise God for His grace in giving you a great privilege in serving Him and also for your continued responsiveness to him as you move into greater opportunity than ever. I have very fond memories of you, am grateful for God’s work in your life, and look forward to seeing how He uses you in the days to come.

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