Yesterday, Matt Shamblin accepted the call of Rose Hill Baptist Church of Ashland, Kentucky to serve that congregation as their Senior Pastor.
This West Virginia pastor truly has mixed emotions in light of this development.
As a 35 year resident of Ashland, myself, I am thrilled that the Lord has opened this wonderful door of opportunity for Matt to advance the cause of Christ in our city. I have many close personal friends at Rose Hill, and my younger son and his family are members of that great church. Two of my grandsons were baptized there and both are actively involved in their Student and Children’s Ministry groups. I am thankful that my family members will have the blessing this godly young man, who has a pastor’s heart, as their undershepherd. There is no doubt in my mind that Matt, Chrissy and the girls will be a great asset to Rose Hill church in particular, and to the Ashland community in general.
On the other side of the coin, I am saddened for our State Convention at our loss that will result from Matt's coming departure. He has grown to love West Virginia, and served us admirably at Good Shepherd, North Charleston, and (interim) at Witcher Baptist Churches. In his last few years as our Director of Evangelism, his love for lost people and zeal for evangelism has been evident, and he has been a true asset helping our pastors and churches as we seek to penetrate lostness in the Mountain State.
At the end of last year, he was called upon to take on a responsibility that he did not seek. Following the retirement of our State Executive Director, the hand of God was evident in the events leading up to bringing Matt into the position as Interim State Exec.
Saying that he inherited a very difficult situation would be an understatement.
Financially our State Convention was in a free fall. Over the past few years Cooperative Program giving from the churches had taken a nose dive. At the end of 2014 our State Convention coffers were nearly totally depleted. In that twelve month period alone, our Convention’s deficit totaled $167,803.07. Only two months in 2014 saw us finish in the black with overages of $13,287.27 (March) and $3,721.57 (August). We were literally on the verge of bankruptcy.
In January Matt gave the State Convention Executive Board a clear and transparent report of there the WVCSB was financially and it was a scary picture. He told them where we were, how we got there, and what was needed if we hoped to survive as a state convention. He encouraged those board members to ask questions and to be informed. Most importantly he encouraged them to join him in seeking God’s face for our needs in this state. He encouraged the Exec Board to be catalysts in casting the vision for the future of the WVCSB. He also apologized for the times when board members felt anxiety or stress in feeling that they could not ask questions of state convention leadership. He stressed transparency, and the need for all of us to work together in order to rebuild trust and unity.
Thus far in 2015 we see the financial trend reversing. Over the past four months we are $49,265.10 to the good, with only a $712.35 deficit taken in the month of March. Furthermore, during Matt’s tenure, our Finance Committee has hammered out a new proposed budget that hopefully will keep our positions funded and actually increase the percentage of CP dollars that West Virginia will pass along to International and North American Missions and the other SBC entities.
Matt has been instrumental in re-building bridges and relationships, beginning with the State Office staff, and with our associations and churches. One would have to have had their head in the sand to not be aware of the deep division that has existed in our State Convention for the past five years or so. An “us against them” mentality has been an ugly undertone that has fractured fellowship among many, caused some churches to reallocate giving, and hampered the Kingdom work here. Matt has gone above and beyond the call of duty in trying to bring transparency and trust to a higher level between the state office and our associations and churches. His efforts have been well received. He has offered to go and speak to each association and any church who wanted to know more about the financial update and the condition of the WVSBC. My understanding is that he has been welcomed in all of our associations except one.
I first became acquainted with Matt several years ago, in a situation when he and I had opposing viewpoints on a particular issue. Nothing doctrinal, please understand, but involving methodology. Each of us felt strongly about our particular viewpoint. He made a trip to my office and we spent a couple of hours in deep conversation and closed with prayer. We agreed to respectfully disagree on the particular issue, but out of that meeting a friendship was born, as well as a mutual respect for one another and our respective desire to work together as we could for the cause of Christ. I value his friendship deeply, and I do hate to see him leave our convention, but I also thrill to know that God has opened another door of ministry for Matt and his family. I pray that he will realize much success for the sake of the Name!
I believe that the West Virginia Convention owes a strong debt of gratitude to Matt Shamblin for his faithful service to the Lord and the churches of our state. It hasn’t been easy for him, and he has actually faced some opposition along the way, but he has been faithful to the task, and I believe he has left our convention in much better shape than he found it when he was placed in that position of trust.