PODCAST | Salvation Has Come feat. Gregg Matte
In today’s podcast, William Vanderbloemen talks with Gregg Matte, is the senior pastor of Houston's First Baptist Church and the founder of Breakaway Ministries at Texas A&M University, one of the largest college Bible studies in the nation. He is the author of numerous books, including Unstoppable Gospel and Difference Makers.
In this episode, Gregg talks about his latest book, Salvation Has Come, a set of twenty-five devotionals to center readers in the beauty of the Gospel of Luke, with a reflection for each day in December leading up to Christmas.
We hope you enjoy this conversation about staying present and mindful during the Christmas season.
About Greg: https://houstonsfirst.org/people/gregg-matte
Follow Gregg on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pastorgregg/
Pre-order your copy of “Salvation Has Come” at: salvationhascome.com
DOWNLOAD the first 2 days of this devotional at salvationhascome.com
Welcome to the Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast, where our team talks with top leaders about how to better serve and lead your team. Our goal is for you to gain tangible tips on topics such as culture, leadership, succession, and navigating people problems. We hope you enjoy today's show.
William Vanderbloemen: Well, hey everybody, thanks so much for joining us today. It's a busy season, but man, that's what I want to talk to you about today as we head into the busiest of seasons. A good friend of mine has written a resource to help kind of prepare your heart and your soul for that busy Christmas season.
And how do you do that? You're getting ready to deal with a bunch of extended family. You got to figure out gifts and you got to try not to, you know, gain 10 pounds eating food. That's so good and I'm just so excited to have Greg Matte here today. Greg welcome. Thanks for being here.
Gregg Matte: Oh, my pleasure. Great to be with you, William.
William Vanderbloemen: Yeah. And let's see, am I right in, is this your 21st or second Christmas at Houston's First?
Gregg Matte: Actually, I'm coming up on 20. So I'm at 19. So you're ahead of me. Okay. Okay. I think I'm going to make it to 20. That's good.
William Vanderbloemen: Yeah. Oh, you know, Greg's at Houston First Baptist, which many of you know, has been a huge impact in our city.
Before that, Greg started a bible study called Breakaway. Which is at Texas A&M and, golly, how many people do they have going to that now, Greg?
Gregg Matte: I bet we probably have four to five thousand and on, like, a big night, maybe seven to eight thousand.
William Vanderbloemen: Yeah, I think, so, we did the search for the new exec director or whatever the right title is, and, which was so humbling. So Greg has had an amazing impact starting a bible study that that literally scatters seed all over the world when those graduates leave and working at Houston's First Baptist. Little known fact I came to Houston right after 9/11 and I was 31 to be the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church.
They really should have used a search firm. They didn't make a very good decision there, but I think there were some mutual friends. From the search committee at First Prez and at Houston's First Baptist, and they started comparing notes and they said, well, how's it going with hiring that boy to run your church?
And it was early. So they said, oh, it's going great. And then lo and behold Greg and Kelly came to Houston not too long after I got here. Right.
Gregg Matte: Yeah about three years, we got here in 2004.
William Vanderbloemen: And here we were these two young guys with these, these big, great churches and Greg did a good job. So here we are after a long time of knowing each other and, and things have changed, but man, I am so thankful for you and your friendship and what you and Kelly have done for our city.
And really want to, want to hone in on you've written a book. I got it here. Salvation. Has come and it's as you can see, it's not a Karl Bart. Doctrine book. It's no, this is not a readable, exactly. This is the unabridged version but it's a, it's a devotion for Christmas. And I just, you know, anytime I interview an author, I I want to hear how that book came about.
Cause I, I, I tell people with seven kids, I have been in the labor and delivery room a lot. And I I've never given birth, but watching. People do that. It's like, that looks like it feels like when I try and get a book out of me. Something deeply embedded. So how in the world did this book come along? And give us just a little bit of the origin story and then where we can use this.
Gregg Matte: Yes, well, every Christmas, like many of us do you're trying to find something to do with your family, and so we have Advent devotionals we've done every year for who knows how long. So, I just pulled out one, and I started reading it, and I thought, no, not this one, not this one, and then I felt like they were all so similar.
I thought, you know, let's do something different, and I didn't really know what to do, and then my... Sister in law put up an Instagram post that said what if you read the gospel of Luke over the 24 chapters of Luke in the 24 days of December. And when you get to December 24th, you'll know the who and the why of Christmas.
So I thought that's a great idea. So I started reading Luke, just a chapter a day. And then about chapter three, maybe four, I thought, you know, I'm going to challenge myself. To write a devotional based on one verse of scripture from each chapter of Luke on this day to really feel what December feels like, you know, like when you get to December 12th, it has a certain feel to it.
That's different than December 18th and December 22nd because there's so many things going on. So I just each day I would read the gospel of Luke. That chapter corresponding with that December day. So Luke five on December 5th, I'd open up my, my computer and I would just write a devotional on one verse that really struck my heart.
And it was just for me, it was just for me to do it. And then I would read as a bad pastor. You should not do this. I'd say, Hey, do you want to hear dad's diverse devotional from the day? It'd be like, no, so we would just read Luke. But then I started doing it. And when I got on a roll, I thought. I got to keep doing this.
So I took the computer with me. There's some of these devotions are written in a coffee shop in literally off Times Square in New York City because we went on a vacation as a family and we're, we stayed around there. And so I'm in the coffee shop writing and it just came. And then, and when it was all over, I thought.
Well, maybe this is a resource and Lifeway took off with it, you know, with Robin Holman. And so it's really a miracle that I've written something last December and it's published and in our hands sitting here right now and will be used this December. I mean, books don't go that fast. No, they don't. So, but they jumped on it.
And so I love William, the, just the freshness of my heart. What did December 7th feel like and what was the verse that hit me? And then a devotional coming out of it. And I hope that the reader will feel that connection. December 8th was written when they're reading it the same day a year before. That's what it felt like.
You know, when kids school stuff's going crazy, I'm feeling it. When Christmas Eve is coming, I'm feeling it. When you're talking about relatives coming over, I'm feeling it. And that's going to be what they feel. And so it's kind of an odd book. Most books aren't written in a timely manner like that. You know, you pick it up at the beach or at the ski slopes, but this is a real December, let's get ready and get our hearts for Christmas based on reading Luke.
William Vanderbloemen: That's good. So you would have to go to Times Square for, like, December in Houston. I think we're having winter on a Thursday this year.
Gregg Matte: Yeah, right. I tried not to use too many snowy illustrations, you know, unless they're very symbolic of Santa's sleigh or something.
William Vanderbloemen: Well, I just think it's going to be a super good resource.
And is this something that you see families being able to do together? I mean, is this like, is it PhD level? Is it no kindergarten level or does it cross?
Gregg Matte: Yeah, yeah. No, I think it's perfect for, for a mom or dad to grab for a church member to grab and to say, Hey, let's, let's take this book. And like you said, it's, it's small, it's readable.
You put this in somebody's hands and folks that have had it, my friends that I've already got when they're like, so it feels so good. It feels readable, doable. And so I think somebody, what I would, what I'm going to do and what our church is going to do is every church member is going to get one we're going to do as a devotional as a church wide devotional over the month of December.
So we're all connected. The whole church is connected together on these devotionals, and then they're reading it to their families each night, or if they do it once a week, however they want to do it. And so you could, you could definitely sit around with, with your kids and read it, but it's not you know, a first grader is not going to get as much as a 12th grader out of it, you know, but it's, there's no pictures, you know, so but it's, it'll be a great read.
It's a good family resource. It's a good church resource. Hopefully it'd be good for leaders to have in their hearts, just to kind of breath because, you know, sometimes if you're a Christian leader, church leader. December's coming and you feel like it's a freight train coming and you're a little more anxious than you are excited.
William Vanderbloemen: Oh my counseling when I was the pastor my counseling load tripled in December.
It's not a fun time for most people.
Gregg Matte: And we're taught to fake it, you know, we've got to make it. It's the most wonderful time of the year. So we have to put on our happy face and there's really some things going on in the heart.
And hopefully, you know, if you can get with the Lord and you get in Luke, I mean, imagine the end of December and you read the whole gospel of Luke and you went through a devotional based on each chapter, man, you show up to Christmas Eve with that. You're singing Silent Night in a different way than if you've just been worried about Amazon Prime deliveries and school functions and grandma coming over and uncle so and so that you don't like or what, you know, I mean, you know, that's a, that's hard on the heart.
William Vanderbloemen: That uncle so and so will get you every time.
Gregg Matte: Oh yeah, his whole movie called Christmas Vacation about it, you know, I mean, so, you know, it's a classic for a reason.
William Vanderbloemen: That's right. Well, I wonder I want to, I want to finish with the book, but I want to take a, Slice of time in the middle. And I wanna, I wanna ask you questions.
Like sometimes I've, I'm like, all I have is a hammer, so everything looks like a nail. Right? And when I think about the work we do with succession and the work that we do help in churches like pass the baton what would, what would you say you've learned the, the break, the breakaway ministry that you have that is so amazing on your.
Fourth leader now, is that right?
Gregg Matte: Fourth director. That's right. Fourth in 34 years. So that's a pretty good run.
William Vanderbloemen: That's pretty good for a college ministry. So what are some things that you didn't know when you first left Breakaway that you're like, Oh, I'm glad we did it that way. Or I wish we'd have done it different in terms of getting the handoff right.
Gregg Matte: You know, you guys, one, just to give a shout out to you, y'all done such a great job. We've used you at our church and at Breakaway and we just appreciate because y'all really have got this really figured out in a great way. And, and so the thing I would say is what's the, the personality and the passion is going to override anything that you hear in an interview.
And so, you know, are they passionate about, You know, preaching. Are they passionate about, you know, hospital visits? Are they passionate about, you know, those, where's their spiritual gifts and passions? That's, that's really going to be what they do each day. There's things now being in ministry 30 years. I got a text today.
Hey, could you check on such and such? And I texted back and said, that's really not my spiritual gift, but yes, I'll do it. And I kind of haha, because I was supposed to do it and I forgot. Because I don't, I don't want to do it. It's not a part of my passion, but I've got to do it. There's necessary evils.
And then secondly, the personality. What's the personality of that person? Because they're either going to build something or they're going to break something. And if you need it, if you need it broken, sometimes you need things broken. And there's some guys that they don't know how to operate in something fixed.
They got to break stuff to fix things. And then there's other folks that maybe they don't know how they don't know what to break. And so they can't ever get anything new. So what's that personality? Because the personality of that pastor is going to become the personality of the church, I think, in maybe five years.
And so that leader personality, that leader passion has to be a cultural fit. With the church and if it's not, then you're, you're, you're mixing, you're putting gravel in the gears because it's just not the right thing. So I took over here after, you know, 30 plus years of a patriarchal man of God, incredible John, John Bassanio.
I mean, wow. And heaven now. But I was the right personality for it because I took my time, I knew what to work on a little bit, what to leave alone, what to just not mess with. There's still stuff I just, I'm not even going to mess with that. Why mess with that? And work on the things that are really going to get you the results.
So that personality and passion, that helps the baton pass. And then lastly, I would say in today's culture, being really clear about the character of the person and their, their Christian character. Passions and then that character foundation there's really important in today's world.
William Vanderbloemen: Yeah, I've got a good friend who's a trial attorney and he represents a lot of colorful people.
And I'm like, how do you deal with that? And he said, Oh, I can handle anything except a surprise. So just if there's a surprise and tell me now, so we can go ahead and deal with it. That's right. Now, [00:13:00] Golly, I could talk to you for hours about this. How in the world do you know what to say? Well, I'm not going to mess with that.
And what to say? Well, that needs to be tinkered with. How do you figure that out?
Gregg Matte: You know, I try to gain some wisdom and some knowledge and think what's really going to happen if we, if we do this, is this, is this really going to change anything? And then I always like to say, and I sure could have gotten this from some books.
So if I should be quoting somebody, I, I, I just have forgotten but you know is, you know, don't just have change plans have transition plans and show them a preferable future. So like there was something going on in my mind the other day and I thought, what if we did, and then I thought, okay, that would change 200 people, maybe.
And not, not, not spiritually changed, but we'd grow by 200 people because of that, but I would have to have the grief of 400 people that would be upset about it. So that's bad math. You know, I want to, I want to spend a dime to make a dollar. I don't want to spend a dollar to make a dime. And so. You know, those, you just got to, and then you kind of, I'm listening to an audio book on Winston Churchill right now called the Splendid in the Vial.
It's about the war rooms and the Blitz Krieg of, of of the Germans. And William Churchill would practice his lines that we now know as these amazing lines from the sermon or from the speeches. He would practice those on people throughout the weeks and see how they went. And then if it worked. He would pop it into a message or a parliamental speech.
And I thought, you know, that's some pastoral wisdom there. What is such and such? And people go, I don't know. And then, okay, well, let me check it out on somebody else and just get some, get some kind of thing before it becomes official. But I think as pastors, lastly, we feel this, this kind of a, Moses on, on the mountain.
We've got to go up, we've got to get the 10 commandments and we're bringing them down written in stone. And this is how it's going to be. And, but, you know, the thunder and the lightning happened on top of the mountain, not at the bottom of the mountain, you know, and that's the difference
We don't want, I want the thunder and lightning with the Lord.I don't want the thunder and lightning with the church.
Let's keep it calm. But instead, you know, the Ten Commandments is obviously different than a new vision. But how can I, how can we do this? By the time it gets to the church and I declare it from the pulpit, we, we know what we're doing by then. You know, it's not just, I'm going to throw this out and then try to backtrack.
I'm going to do my due diligence and then come in to the moment to declare.
William Vanderbloemen: That's good. That's good. So one other question and it's about your Breakaway time, which is a little different because you, unlike the churches we've served where you've got families that have been there for generations and generation, you got a college kid for 4 years and they move on.
You got a new crop of college kids, but there had to be like. A challenge in letting go of some of that, especially when you, the Lord, but through you gave birth to that ministry and you kind of had to hand your baby off. Like any, any wisdom you've learned, like about, there's a senior leader listening right now who's trying to let go and they're getting a phone call from the member saying the new guy changed this and like, yeah, what, what would you offer to that person who's listening and saying, I got to figure out how to let go.
Gregg Matte: Yeah. Oh, man, I, I know it. You know, Breakaway started my apartment. It was me and my four roommates. I mean, it [00:17:00] was literally from baby to them. We were in a basketball stadium with, you know, thousands of students, staff office. I mean, you know, so I, I was, I watched it from baby to, you know. 16 year old. I don't know.
18 year old. Whatever it is. Here's the thing. I would say is just keep your mouth shut. You know, I remember the first board meeting. I went in. Ben Stewart took over after me and they were changing everything. I was like, the reason we did that was this. And the reason we did that was that. And I was like, just be quiet.
Be quiet. This isn't exactly what I don't want to hear in my realm as pastor. Well, Brother John did it like this. So just keep your mouth closed. And if you will keep your mouth closed, what will happen is that new leader, possibly not, not everybody's the same. They will come to you for advice and wisdom.
If, and especially if they're smart, cause you know the history. And so you're able to that, you know, unsolicited advice is the worst kind. So just wait, you love them, call them, encourage [00:18:00] them, shoot them a text, hear for you anything you need, and then they'll kind of turn back with you on that. And then two, if it's not a change of the gospel, I mean, you know, if it's heresy, if we're talking about a true diversion from the truth of Scripture, the truth of Jesus, you know, we're talking about the deity of Christ or something like that, I mean, step in, raise your hand, you know, that's not going to fly.
When you're talking about doing something different, then that's... That's not, that's don't, don't worry about those things. It's gonna be better. And then lastly, this sounds selfish. Maybe it is. Your legacy is going to be better by the church being better. They'll look back on you and go, you're amazing. I get more credit for Breakaway stuff that I didn't do and more thank yous for things I wouldn't even, I'm like, I didn't know.
Did we do that? Haven't actually, Ben did that, or TA did that. You know the other guys, it now is the founder. I walked. You know, I went to A& M, the football game just recently, and people are thanking me for [00:19:00] things. And it's because I let it fly and let it be its own thing. And that's good. It needs a new voice and be the encourager, not the controller.
William Vanderbloemen: That's good. That's really good. Be the encourager, not the controller. I've said to people many times, and I think, I think I think I stand by it. I think people remember how you leave a ministry long after they forget whatever you did while you were there. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's part of it. That's super helpful.
So, so back to the devotional, this is something that like, I want to get this podcast out sooner rather than later, because I feel like it feels like something pastors could purchase for their church and maybe I'm thinking like a marketer and I shouldn't, but like, is that kind of the idea? I mean, I know you're going to do that with your church, right?
Gregg Matte: Yes. Yeah. Big time idea. Because I love pastors, you know, you love pastors too. I want to help pastors because you know, you have one pastor, you help possibly hundreds, maybe thousands of people. And so so yeah, that's, that's a heart of it. You know, obviously one person can buy it at a bookstore, order it and, and, and, and have it.
But if a pastor said, Hey, we've got a devotional resource, we're going to do this. And they announced it kind of late November. Everybody buy one of these. They're cheap. They're small. And we're all going to do this devotional together. And then what, what I'm going to do is on, on December 3rd, I'm going to preach out of Luke three and December 10th.
I'm going to preach out of Luke 10, which is a great passage of Mary and Martha about worship or busyness. That's going to be perfect for Christmas. And then December 17th, Luke 17, December 24, Christmas Eve. I'm actually going to talk about the resurrected Christ. And how the cross and the cradle are connected because everybody's got baby Jesus, which is we love baby Jesus, you know, but to be able to say, here's the end of the story, the resurrected Christ, the walk to a mass, the [00:21:00] burning in their hearts, their sad downtrodden faces, the joy of Jesus, man, it is a Christmas Eve message.
It'll preach. And so. Rodman Holman's gotten about that as well. We put together a basically a one sheet pastoral helps page that has, you know, the passage, the idea and what you, the sermon title even, and then the idea. So it doesn't prepare the whole message. Cause that's got to come from your heart, but it's like passage sermon title and, and, you know, thesis.
And then you build that out. Gets you asking the right questions. That's right. And then you can do that. And then, so then here's what happens. Here's what's the joy for the pastors. You've got your whole church reading the book of Luke. Which is, that's a homerun right there. They're reading a devotional, and then you are matching each Sunday where they are, you're connecting with them and saying, you know, this week in the devotional, and when you're reading, because I know as a pastor, if I can get my people to spend time with God each day, they're going to grow in their relationship with Christ.
They just come once a week to hear me. It's not going to, it's going to take a lot longer. So it's a whole package of [00:22:00] being able to do that. And, and, you know, it, I think it's gonna be a lot of fun and we've had other churches doing this. I mean, obviously our church is doing it, which doesn't say much, cause I'm telling us we're going to do it, you know, but, but other churches also are doing this.
And you know, we've got one, one denominational entity, they bought 500 copies and I think they're sending it to 300 churches. A North American Mission Board, a national organization is using it with church planters. I mean, so it's, it's really catching some fire and that's, I want to help the church.
William Vanderbloemen: That's great. Well, I couldn't thank you enough for spending time with us. I know you're busy and you've got a lot going on, but I was just taken by this and I, you know, I get books. I've got five sitting here that came this week from publishers or whatnot. This one actually caught my eye and we're gonna buy seven copies. I got seven kids. So , that's happening at least. So you gotta start somewhere. Well, and you know what? They all live in different places, so at least it gives us a common, like, okay, here's what we're going to talk about this week when we catch up, you know.
Gregg Matte: Yes, oh, it's great.
Well, you know, somebody can go, if a pastor is interested, Lifeway, on their website, has done a great job where you can open it up and you can read a few devotionals. It's got the bulk discounts right there on the, on the website. I mean, they'll, they'll take care of, they love churches. So, so be able to do that, but man, I'm, I'm glad your family will be reading it.
That'd be awesome.
William Vanderbloemen: Is there a website people should go to that's, that's like the one stop shop?
Gregg Matte: Yeah, I think that would be Lifeway dot com would be, be the best thing and then there's also Salvation has come goodness, I should know these things, shouldn't I? Salvation has come and it's like dot org, dot something.
I don't know what it is. It shows you I'm not a very good salesman. So, but, but it's in there. Just Google the book in my name and you'll find it, you know, something like that.
William Vanderbloemen: I'll help sell the books. You keep selling the eternal fire insurance.
Gregg Matte: There you go. That's right. That's right. You don't want a password that's too good of a salesman.
You got to kind of be a little careful, you know?
William Vanderbloemen: Well, Greg, it's always good to talk to you, man. And thanks again for what you're doing for our city and for the kingdom at large. It's been a joy to have
Gregg Matte: you on the show. Well, thanks, William. I appreciate you and all you're doing for the kingdom too. And it's always a joy to be with you as well.
So God bless you.
William Vanderbloemen: And thanks for joining us. So make sure to go to vandernews. com and you can get all of the show notes and all these things that will point you in the right direction. We'd love to hear from you. Love to know what you want to hear about and hope that you will take a chance to use this resource to get ready for Christmas.
Thanks until we talk again.