Kearns looks to develop student relationships
MBC’s new student evangelism specialist
By Allen Palmeri
November 23, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Matt Kearns has a very simple reason for leaving his job as student evangelism associate with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to become student evangelism specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
“If revival could start in one place in the nation and I could pick the place it would be Missouri, because it’s key geographically and I care about so many people here,” Kearns said.
Kearns, 35, was born and raised in Festus, where he was baptized as a youth at Faith Baptist Church. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University, where he served as president of the Baptist Student Union, was licensed and ordained into the ministry in his home church and went on to graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1995. His ministry passion for nearly 15 years has been students, with much of that work revolving around friends who happen to be Missouri youth pastors.
When MBC State Evangelism Director Bob Caldwell, whom Kearns has known since 1988, approached him about the MBC job opening, Kearns began to plot several names of youth ministers, mentors, family and friends he knows on a map of Missouri. His wife, Julie, has family all over the Kansas City area, and Kearns has family in and around St. Louis.
“It’s just really overwhelming to think about being back around family, friends and ministry, all in the same place,” Kearns said. “That’s a big part of the appeal.”
His start date is Jan. 1.
“His strengths would be leadership, a teachable spirit and humility,” Caldwell said. “I think those are rare traits today.”
Not surprisingly, Kearns said he plans to wear out the word “relationship” as he talks about his ministry philosophy within Missouri’s youth pastor and student culture.
“I’m just going to talk consistently about that,” he said. “The approach to that, for me, is to begin with the leaders in our state.
“Building relationships is the key to evangelism and discipleship. It’s what Jesus did time and time and time again in Scripture. The thing that made the difference in the disciples when the beheadings and the upside-down crucifixions started was that they had been with Jesus. I think that testimony is so important and points so significantly to the value of the relationship time that Jesus spent.
“His strategy is very unique. He didn’t go to every home, knock on every door and meet every need. He focused His time on a few He knew He was going to leave behind. That’s a part of the multiplication strategy I believe we’ll have to have in place in Missouri.”
Caldwell said that Kearns has been working with state youth evangelism leaders since December 2002 as a NAMB employee, giving him powerful insight into what’s working in the field as he comes to Missouri. Even so, Kearns is careful to say that he is coming in as a listener.
“I have a lot to learn,” he said. “I do know that Missouri’s a big state, and I do know, last time I checked, that there are thousands upon thousands of students in the state. So we have our work cut out for us.”