West Cleveland Baptist Church

"Followers of Christ leading others to know and follow Christ."

Be a Light in a Dark Place

Today was a good day. We got up and got an assignment to go help Charles Moses. I found out that Charles was saved when he was in his early-30s, and he has been walking with God for around 30 years now. He serves at his church helping specifically in the lives of the drug-addicted. Charles had no way to do what was required to salvage his home, and he was extremely grateful! He said this to me, “It’s nice to get your house fixed, but it’s really nice to have a bunch of Christians in your home.” It was a blessing for us as well!

Our team was up to the challenge. A few thoughts…
1. The devastation is surprising. It has had an impact on our entire team to see it in person. We had all seen pictures and heard reports, but when you walk into a home that was ruined, amidst a neighborhood that was ruined – it’s amazing. We heard a reporter say on the radio on the way to the house, “It doesn’t sound bad when you say only 10% of Houston homes were affected… until you realize that’s 110,000 homes!”

2. We have much to be thankful for… Charles and I sat outside and talked about the Lord and how good He is with the pile of debris that used to be his home looming large in front of us. He is still thankful. Walking through his home flashing big smiles and encouraging words, Charles reminded me that I can be thankful for Jesus no matter what may happen in this world.

3. Abide in Christ – because your home can let you down at any moment. Jesus will never let you down. He says in John 15, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Abide means to “take up residence”. Find your residence, your comfort, your sanctuary, your joy, your life – in Jesus – and He will never let you down!

God bless,

Pastor Matt

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Sharing Your Passion

Well, we made it! A team of volunteers that were put together quickly to respond to a disaster caused by a massive storm in Houston came together at 4:30 A.M. this morning outside the Crossnet Baptist Network. There are 11 of us on the team, and we come from 4 different churches. We span different generations and genders, but we come together for the purpose of showing the love of Christ to a specific part of our world that is hurting right now. We drove all day in a convoy of trucks having to maneuver around accidents the whole way. We spanned six states in order to get here – but we made it! Whew!

First off, I will admit it… I am pumped! I love to have opportunities that are out of the ordinary but absolutely necessary. It is a unique showing of the unity of the body of Christ when a group of strangers can organize and come together for the purpose of missions. Our corporate witness to the world is strengthened when we see needs and step in with the gospel and love for our neighbors.

I had an experience last night, though, that I’d like to share as I reflect on this first day of travel. I was at church, and we had pre-planned Randy Bonner to come speak about Ocoee Outreach months ago. Little did we know at the time of scheduling that his night at our church would be in the midst of “mission chaos” at Crossnet. Randy runs point on organizing these teams to go forth – and our team today represents the third team to go forward from Bradley County in the last 8 days. Pretty impressive…

So after Randy speaks, I feel led to cancel the final song and just invite the 25-ish faithful Sunday night attenders to come forward and pray over Randy. Not to be out-ministered-to, Randy says, “Hey, let’s also pray for Pastor Matt” How dare he! Just kidding – please pray for me often.

As the people semi-crowd around us, I feel hands here and there. But there were two hands that stood out. One was a small hand that hit around my hip, and the other was an even smaller hand that kept jumping around in the area of my knee. I peeked my eyes open, and I saw my two boys – Noah (7) and Silas (4) laying a hand on their daddy for this upcoming mission. I know it is probably hard for them when I leave for things. Most of the time, those things are not voluntary. I leave because I am a soldier and I am ordered to leave most of the time. But this time is different. I am leaving because I am choosing to leave for a week. Silas seemed to have a particularly hard time with that thought this time. But when I looked down at his attempt to pray for his daddy, it hit me…

He may not understand it fully, but he loves his daddy, he sees his daddy’s passion, and he trusts that his passion must be a good thing.

Now, I would never go on a mission trip purely to show my children what “right looks like”. That would be dishonest and manipulative. I go because it is the right thing to do – but I sincerely hope they see and understand that. It sure does ease my burden when I think about the understanding my boys are going to have about the need for missions when they see me excited about missions and taking advantage of opportunities to go. I hope they dip their toes in the pool of missions so they can see for themselves the beauty of taking the gospel to the world.

Here’s where the point gets even bigger… I looked on Facebook today during the long drive (I was not driving – I was a passenger – DO NOT FACEBOOK AND DRIVE!). I saw this picture that Brother Don Nichols had posted. It dawned on me! There were a lot more than 2 hands that were reaching out to pray for me. There were a group of faithful believers in prayer. What if they don’t understand why I, as their pastor, would leave them to go on a mission trip? What if they are dipping their toes into the pool of missions by walking up and giving prayer support for this trip?

God is so good! He intends to use you wherever you are to impact the world in some way. That might be your next door neighbor… it might be playing with a child at your church… it might be making a new person feel welcomed… it might even be to come to Houston or Florida for Disaster Relief in coming weeks… However He is leading you to impact the world, be passionate about Jesus – and wear that passion proudly! When you are passionate about something, you might just have people that will watch – even if they don’t fully understand – and begin to imitate what you do. Truly, we can say to the world,

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1

Keep praying for me – this is just day 1 of 7…

Pastor Matt

Sticky Note Confessions

This past Sunday was a beautiful outpouring of God’s grace on those who confessed their sins and shortcomings. We looked at being truly satisfied in Him.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”

– John Piper

A pastor friend of mine had talked about doing “sticky note confessions” at his church, and I began to think of how meaningful it might be to write out a sin or a struggle and physically stick it to the altar.  So I challenged the congregation of West Cleveland Baptist Church at the end of the sermon to fill in the following blank:

“If it weren’t for _____________________, I think I could be fully satisfied in the Lord.”

Whatever is on that line belongs on a sticky note, and that sticky note needs to be left at the feet of Jesus. He died so that you could truly live – not barely get by. I was blessed and encouraged to see the neat little area of post-it pads turned into a mess by the several that came forward to leave something at the altar that day!

If you are out there reading this and you have something that is stopping you from being satisfied in Jesus Christ, I’m praying for you as I write this. I want you to hit play on the video below, and as the song plays, hear the word of the Lord. Tear down those idols of the heart and learn to trust Him more! He is faithful! This might be the most meaningful way to spend 5 minutes in your whole day!


Trust Without Borders

I have had the pleasure of practicing the song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong on guitar lately. Cinnamon Warnock intends to sing it at church in the future, so I am learning to play it to help her. As I sat in my living room practicing it tonight, I found myself really thinking through the words of the bridge as I sang. It says:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; Let me walk upon the waters, Wherever You would call me; Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander; And my faith will be made stronger, In the presence of my Savior.”

The line that kept resonating in my heart was “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.” God is in the business of calling His children to walk in ways that they never thought possible. He has worked in the lives of many faithful believers through the centuries so that His glory would be revealed to those trapped in darkness. He is the Light of the world, and makes us lights in the world when we call Him Lord.

We have an awesome opportunity to live for his glory, but all too often, we put borders and boundaries on how far we are willing to go. Would you join with me in asking the Lord to guide our steps and direct our paths… to lead us in a way where we have no limits to what we will do for Him?

Father God – we thank you for your guidance and direction. We thank you for Jesus Christ and His ultimate, life-giving sacrifice. We pray that your glory would be revealed in our individual lives as well as the church. In those areas where we have stopped short or decided not to follow with complete trust – we repent of our unbelief. Lord, help us to overcome our unbelief! Holy Spirit, lead us to places where we have no borders on our trust in you! In Jesus’ name – Amen!

Multiplying Disciples

This past year, we have had a precious few members from West Cleveland Baptist Church that have taken the challenge to pursue discipleship as guinea pigs.

You see, I went to a conference that challenged me to “make disciples that make disciples.” I was on board with that concept from the very beginning, but the million dollar question still remained – “How?” I had read books, talked to other pastors, prayed, and even experimented with some of the best advice that was thrown out there. I had attempted T4T, 1-5-1, and had looked into TTI. I probably would be trying some other catchy 3 letter attempt at discipleship if things hadn’t come together for me at that conference.

I had come to a point where I thought my only real option left for discipleship was to write my own curriculum. That’s a recipe for feeling overwhelmed and never following through. It’s also completely unnecessary!

Rather than a curriculum, set of books, or special diet, the recipe was simple and literally would cost zero dollars and zero cents. I was challenged to gather a group of Christian men that desired to be disciples. We would commit to a process of Christian growth that would last approximately 1-year, and it would feature:

  • Reading through the Bible on a common reading plan (roughly 2 chapters a day/5 days a week)
  • Responding to our reading through daily journal entries
  • Memorizing Scripture (we used the Navigators Topical Memory System – 1 verse a week)
  • Accountability for following through on the commands of Christ
  • Prayer support
  • Reliance on the Holy Spirit

Well – at the end of a year, I can say that I’ve never been more proud in ministry than I am of these men that have walked with me through this process. I found that I needed it as much as anyone – and I’m the pastor!

As our year draws toward the end, the most exciting part of all is about to happen. Rather than addition – we intend to multiply. A group that has walked patiently through the Scriptures should be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Our one small group of four men is praying for a multiplication into 2 groups totaling 10 men. Our ladies group will be following along with their own multiplication just a few weeks later. That may seem insignificant at first glance. But if you will watch the following video, I think you will see how effective multiplication can be in reaching the world with the gospel. I hope you walk away inspired, excited, and hungry to follow the commands of Christ (which includes the command to go make disciples).

If you desire to dig deeper in your faith and trust God for your spiritual growth, let me know as soon as possible so that we can get you plugged into a group of like-minded believers. Email me at or call me at 423.519.4890

My Story – An Easter Musical

On Easter Sunday, April 16 at 11 am the West Cleveland Choir & Drama team will present the Easter Musical Drama, My Story.

Using a script by our own Cliff Donachy, The Storyteller narrator & several other characters – Biblical & otherwise – will share their eyewitness testimonies of what happened in the last few days of Jesus’ life & ministry including His death and resurrection.

Director, Don Nichols & the choir are excited to share the following songs in support of those accounts, all followed by a powerful Easter message by our Pastor, Matt Ward!

Invite your family and friends to join us for this special occasion!

1. Because He Lives Medley
2. My Story
3. Redeemed
4. Victor’s Crown
5. Because He Lives (Amen)

West Cleveland Baptist Loves Bradley Place Apartments

When fall arrives every year, it brings with it some familiar experiences. Football games are played, the leaves change colors (or at least they should), the temperatures begin to dip (again – it should), and holidays roll in. With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming quick in 2016, it’s a time to be very thankful and grateful for how good God is to His people.

To kick off fall, our West Cleveland Baptist Church family came together in beautiful fashion to reach out and show love to our neighbors at Bradley Place Apartments. Our folks dressed up in Halloween costumes and brought fun, games and great attitudes to our neighbors. It was a great success!

While there were many people in attendance both from our church and from the apartments, we have to redefine success in ministry.  Yes – it would be easy to write a narrative specifying how many people were there and we could celebrate purely based on numbers. But in order to truly find success in ministry, we have to be in it for the long haul. Out of an event like our Fall Festival, relationships should be formed, followed up on, and nurtured in the days, weeks, and months ahead. This event was absolutely a successful start, but I am truly excited about the opportunities to show the love of Christ as we continue on our journey. Christ reminded us how important it is to love our neighbors. He went as far as saying that loving God and loving neighbors were the most important commands in Scripture. He said that everything else hangs on those 2 major commands! I am blessed and encouraged to pastor a family of believers that take those commands to heart. Let’s drive on and continue loving our neighbors!

Pastor Matt

Catching Missions

2016 marked the 2nd year that West Cleveland Baptist Church has partnered with Pillar Church of Woodlawn in Alexandria, VA. When we visit Pillar, we try to write them a blank check as far as what we are willing to do. Whatever and wherever you need us, that is what we want to do. I can’t speak first-hand about everyone’s experience, but I can share a few tidbits of mine. If you’d like to hear other perspectives, make sure to visit SERMONS ONLINE! and listen to the message from July 10.

First of all, I enjoy going to Pillar because I have a brother there. The lead pastor is Brian Collison. We don’t share a last name and we don’t look alike, but we are both covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, we both wear an Army uniform proudly, and we are both alumni from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is a breath of fresh air to see and fellowship with a like-minded friend in the ministry. Praying for one another, venting to one another, and just hanging out is great for me. The Bible teaches us in Proverbs 27:17 that “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” It sharpens me to be there. You should also find brothers and sisters that can sharpen you – no matter where you are.

Secondly, I love attending Sunday morning service at Pillar. In the two years we have been there, we have taken part in 2 Sunday morning services. And yet, I have never heard a sermon there! How in the world does that happen? Both years, one of my favorite parts of the week has been taking my leave from the service in order to go back to a room dedicated to prayer. During the preaching of the word, a very small group of people go to do battle in prayer. I looked at my phone as we began this year and noted the time. We spent 65 minutes in prayer! You might think that is excessive or unnecessary, but prayer changes things. While the word is going forth from the pulpit, we were praying for the preacher and the hearers. After all, the Bible teaches that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We should pray for our preachers to communicate the word of God effectively and for the hearers to be focused and attentive to what is being said.

Lastly, we did something a little different this year. We took one day to assist Waterfront Church of D.C.  The day was miserably HOT! It was in the upper-90s with a high level of humidity. We were not indoors in an air-conditioned building, we were outdoors walking around attaching door-hangers to the front doors of several neighborhoods. During that time, we had one member get stung by an unidentified insect, one member have sinus issues, and one member get a severe headache. The rest of the team was hot and a bit cranky. I fully expected to hear mumbles and grumbles from the team – but they weren’t really there. Most of our members had a major sense of accomplishment, and they were proud to have been sweating for the Lord. I was blessed to hear their positive attitudes in the midst of bad circumstances. Our trust in the Lord is never supposed to depend on circumstances. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Many in the team even mentioned this rough day as one of their most memorable!

I could go on and on telling you about every detail of the trip – but the old adage is still true – Missions is caught more than taught. I can tell you what it means to be on mission, but until you catch the fever, you will be hard-pressed to truly understand. I want to encourage each and every one of you to watch our mission video, listen to our testimonies, read this short blog, and even pepper us with whatever questions you may have… but at the end of the day, I hope that you are encouraged to step out in faith and step forward for Christ to serve on the mission field. There are several opportunities to take that first step in our own community very soon. Plug in and catch the mission fever!

God bless,

Pastor Matt



Holy, Holy, Holy

“Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud crashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” – Psalm 150

It was a Thursday night. I was sitting at the church in my office with three other men as we have become accustomed to. It is a time of discipleship – intensely seeking God in His word and allowing iron to sharpen iron (Prov. 27:17). As I have recently taken up guitar with my son Noah for lessons, I have pushed myself to lead a song or two in our Thursday night meetings. Playing in front of 3 makes me nervous! We sing through Matt Maher’s “Lord, I Need You” and follow it up with the old hymn “Holy Holy Holy”. It went well enough – I didn’t miss too many chords and we worshiped together in a special way… just the 4 of us – alone in the church on a Thursday night. And then it happened…

Brother Don Nichols, our Choir Director, spoke up to say, “Hey men, we should do this together on Father’s Day Sunday.” Tony Richmond, our chairman of the deacons, and I exchanged a frightened glance. Cliff Donachy, brother in Christ and fellow minister, was stoic. Tony said, “I’m out”, and I knew in my heart I wasn’t far behind. Don challenged me to consider it, and I agreed to pray over night. If playing before 3 is tough – imagine 60 or 70!

But when it comes down to it – I can’t play for 3, or 70, or 700 for that matter. If I am really worshiping, I am only playing for an audience of 1. Sure – as I strapped on my guitar that morning, my hand still shook a little, and my nerves were all over the place, but in my heart I kept telling myself that no matter what sound my guitar made, my heart better be in the right place before a holy God!

Psalm 150 really hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it? Let everything praise the Lord! Give it all you’ve got if you are a child of God – lay it on the line – and praise Him with  your best. God will be glorified, and you will be blessed. We serve an awesome God – let’s act like it!



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