Matt Mitchell really does have free range chickens and I am now the grateful recipient of two dozen very fresh eggs. For anyone who has ever read Matt’s blog, Hot Orthodoxy, you will know that Matt is a small town pastor in Lanse, PA who lives with four kids, a wife and a dozen chickens. He is also the author of CLC’s newest book, Resisting Gossip and owns a few rabbits as well. Today was the official pre-launch celebration at his church and Deb and I were privileged to be a part of it.
Writing about gossip in a place like Lanse, PA is not an easy task. Matt took us on the grand tour of the “Village of Lanse” and its surrounding communities last night and you would have thought he was actually the mayor, not a local pastor. When he says that he know everybody, he really means it. As we were driving around he pointed out house after house of church members, friends and people he knows – pretty much the entire village. After fifteen years of pastoring in the community, he has become a pastor to many more people than just those that attend his church, Lanse Evangelical Free Church. Imagine what it would be like if a person is “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart” (as Matt defines Gossip) in a town of 300 people. Even worse, what if the gossip is about the local pastor? To Matt’s credit, this has not happened often and when it did, God taught him some big lessons. Many of those lessons ended up in this vital new book.
Having been intimately involved with the book production process as Matt’s publisher, I had read and heard a lot about the people of his church and couldn’t wait to meet them. As it turned out, hearing about Matt’s church from afar was nothing like being there in person. He loves his church and they love and respect him deeply in return. They loved him enough to give him the time to write the book, supported him at each step of the publishing process and threw a party for the book launch today. Matt generously made sure everyone had a free copy and he signed each and every one personally. His people were rightly proud of him, and are looking forward to seeing how God will use the book to influence people far outside of their community.
One of Matt’s key solutions to resolving the problem of gossip in the local church and in personal relationships is to create an atmosphere where people do the opposite – they intentionally go out of their way to look for the good in another person and highlight it. Matt must have been doing that a lot, because his people do it pretty well too. Person after person I spoke with commented on what they liked about their church, their community and their pastor.
I think I also discovered one of the reasons his people like him so much. He not only knows each and every one of them, but he seems to know something about each of them as well. Now that may seem like fodder for a gossip mill, but Matt uses it to show how much he loves and cares for them. If someone has recently gotten married, he knows. If someone is sick and still in the hospital, he knows. If someone has just gotten a promotion, he knows. Several times during the book signing today, I watched as Matt stopped to talk with someone and comment on a child who had just left for college or a person who was getting married. He used this information to affirm and empathize with his people. He really cares about them and it shows.
Matt got the idea for his book as a part of his doctrinal thesis. Somehow, though, I think it is his love for people and the church of Jesus Christ that drove him to complete the project and get it published. It is a true gift to a global church that suffers from acute gossipitis (yes I just made that up). I could not be more excited to see this book hit the store shelves on Tuesday and see what it will do to convict, change and correct the hearts of God’s people.