Australian pastor finds home in Missouri
CHILHOWEE—The new pastor in town comes from down south, in a place where it would be hard to find a Southern Baptist church.
Matt Goodsell is Australian. He was born in Sydney and raised along the south coast of the country/continent before an encounter during the 2000 Sydney Olympics changed his life.
Goodsell was being called into the ministry, and his focus during the Olympics was to serve with The Pocket Testament League of Australia. A woman named Katie was doing the same thing with The Pocket Testament League of America, and the two of them fell in love. They were married in America in July 2001, and as part of his college training, Goodsell did a year of volunteer ministry work for the American Pocket Testament League in and around his wife’s hometown of Tekamah, Neb.
“I traveled from church to church sharing the Gospel and specifically encouraging Christians to be active in sharing their faith,” he said.
He graduated from Tabor Bible College in Australia with a bachelor of ministry degree. His wife then came with him for a year to Australia, where he wound up serving as a youth pastor in a Sydney church.
“I enjoyed it immensely,” he said, noting that he was used by the Lord to start a kids club before his time there ended in December of 2002.
God was calling the couple back to the United States. They left Dec. 16 with a sense that they were not to live among the kangaroos and koalas.
His 10-year permanent resident visa—the so-called green card—was approved. He was married to an American citizen, but after two years the authorities checked to see if their relationship was permanent and real. The birth of their daughter, Juliet, in May of 2003 was evidence that the couple intended to stay together and make a go of it in the United States.
For the first couple of months they lived with Katie’s family in Tekamah, a town of about 2,000 people located 40 miles north of Omaha. They then rented a home as Matt went to work for the city street department of Tekamah.
“It was just a labor-intensive job, but I had some good opportunities to minister in that town and within that job while I was doing it,” he said.
He sent his resume to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), which led to First Baptist Church, Grant City, the county seat church of Worth County, contacting him in August 2003. The very next month he became their pastor.
“We spent the next three years and 10 months there,” Goodsell said.
On Aug. 1 of this year, he moved from Grant City to Chilhowee. He went from a county seat of about 1,000 to a town of maybe 350 people.
“God calls you where He calls you, and you go where He tells you to go,” Goodsell said.
“This one was very different. The first time that I walked into the church during worship I really felt that the Holy Spirit was very evident in the worship, in the people. It just felt like I walked into my next home. It was phenomenal. The church was so helpful. We had so many people from the church help us move in.”
Goodsell, 36, immediately began to see some of the knack he displayed for youth ministry in Sydney emerge again as the Holy Spirit worked through him in Chilhowee. The church did not have a youth group at all when he came; by Nov. 14 it had zoomed up to 28. The church as a whole has grown to 79 people in Sunday School, which represents an increase of about 20 since he came, and around 90-100 in Sunday worship.
Theologically, Goodsell lines up with Vance Pitman, pastor, Hope Baptist Church, Las Vegas. At the MBC annual meeting Oct. 30 at Tan-Tar-A, Osage Beach, Goodsell heard Pitman preach about kingdom-focused churches reaching cities for Christ, and he thought about the congregation at Chilhowee being willing to evangelize and being quite sincere in its desire to reach out to the lost.
“I think we’re definitely kingdom-focused,” Goodsell said. “It’s not about building the church or gaining members of the church or just trying to focus on baptizing people, but being out in the community.”
The Chilhowee community is strategically, and perhaps providentially, located about 20 miles from both Warrensburg and Clinton. Australia is both a continent and a country; perhaps Goodsell can see the Chilhowee church grow in both directions at the same time.
“I feel a great call to evangelism,” he said. “I think Christians need to be active in sharing their faith as much as possible. Be not fearful but be courageous.”
On Nov. 8 at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Goodsell became a United States citizen. The Honorable Robert E. Larson, a magistrate judge, congratulated him amid an environment that included 57 people from 30 different countries.
So Matt Goodsell is an American pastor now, and proud to say that he is one. On Nov. 11, Chilhowee Baptist Church held a special patriotic service on Veterans Day. After the service, the naturalized pastor was presented with an American flag and a money tree.
“I opened the service with singing the National Anthem!” Goodsell said.