Lory Matthews wasn’t one of the cool kids growing up. In fact, she barely had friends. So when she felt God tapping her on the shoulder to start a youth ministry at her church, she wasn’t so sure He had the right person.
“I came from a very dysfunctional family,” she said. “We weren’t allowed to have friends over, and I never had pajama parties or anything ‘normal’ kids do. I couldn’t believe it when I felt like God was leading me to step out and lead a youth ministry even though I had teenage kids.
“But that was the beginning of a tremendous learning curve for me. I didn’t become a Christian until I was thirty-nine. He showed me I didn’t have to be cool or hip; that I didn’t need to speak the kids’ latest jargon. But what I did need to be was willing to allow Him to love these kids through me.”
Matthews had no way of knowing then that starting that youth ministry in her Syracuse, New York, church (eighty members at the time) would merely be the first of many ministries she’d help launch. Matthews has since helped Northside Baptist Church, now with twelve hundred members, start special needs, recovery, and mothers of preschooler ministries while offering her expertise as a certified biblical counselor. She recently added “Life Coach” to her list of credentials. Her training instructor says it is no surprise to him.
“I’ve known Lory for years,” said Tommy Echols, Northside church member, director of church growth for the New York Baptist Convention, and a certified life-coaching instructor. “It doesn’t surprise me that Lory added coaching people to her toolbox. She is finding that it moves people forward in their lives in ways differently from counseling. It is also one more way for her to influence people for Christ.”
That’s not where Matthews started with the idea. She wrestled with the idea of coaching people who could then use the acquired skills to become greedier, and questioned the logic of trying to help someone “make a million bucks” if at the end of it, that person would still be headed to hell. That mindset changed with a single statement.
“Tommy said something very interesting,” Matthews said. “He said that last year he won fifty-five people to the Lord through life coaching and I thought, ‘Wow, what an opportunity.’ I really like the idea of helping people and it opened that avenue to share my faith and to share a bit of my personal testimony.”
Her personal testimony and the pain of a dysfunctional childhood gives her an entrée into the lives of youth, even though she has passed the baton to the church’s full-time youth minister. She said there is a lot of pain among teens. So many youth have so many expectations put on them and seem to look somewhere other than Jesus for salvation. That waywardness can linger for years.
As a teenager she took out “fire insurance” from hell, as she calls it. There was no true conversion as she sees it. Nothing really changed until she realized she had no control of her life. One morning, sitting in her kitchen as a thirty-nine year old, she cried out to God asking Him “to truly save her.” At that point, she said, there was an immediate and dramatic life change.
“When I talk to someone, I don’t know if I’m ever going to get the chance to talk to them again,” she said. “I always make sure to get the Gospel out there. I find that most people have a church tradition but no real knowledge of the Savior and don’t fully understand what it means to be a sinner before a holy God.”
It is that passionate concern for the souls of other people, coupled with her deep love of Jesus, that fuels her passion for getting involved. She doesn’t see herself as being exceptional, but does see herself as someone committed to investing in the lives of people.
“I get the greatest joy from seeing someone come to Christ,” Matthews said. “Whenever the Lord gives me the opportunity to usher someone into the Kingdom, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”
Lory Matthews offered five suggestions on how any Christian can make a Gospel difference
Pray for God to work in and through your life and in the lives of people with whom you need to connect.
2. Be a Daniel.
Don’t look at what others are doing but concern yourself with your relationship to God. Too many people compromise way too much.
3. Look at your gifting.
God equips everyone to be involved in some ministry in some way.
4. Look outward.
God is always working in the lives of people around us. Find where.
5. Be willing.
Listen for what the Lord is calling you to and be willing to allow Christ to work through you for the benefit of other people.
Chris Turner is a freelance journalist living in Brentwood, Tennessee, and a member of Grace Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee.