Saturday, September 15, 2018

Simple Song

Enjoy this little song I wrote on a beautiful, rainy, slow day home with my family, with my piano and with God.  (...and with my dog, who is scratching next to me as I was recording :)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Big Dreams Start Small

We celebrated our 10 Year Birthday as Christ Fellowship in Stuart, Florida!

Dreams are exciting.  Dreams are what living is all about.  To dream is to move.  Without a dream, there is no forward motion.  Life would become boring.  Static.  Monochromatic.  
What a privilege it has been for me to get to do ministry with my nephew, Alex Burns! Such a gifted Leader.

All of us are designed for dreams.  It is in our DNA, implanted by God.  

If you are privileged to have a dream, you have experienced the absolute joy and excitement that is produced in your spirit.  Your dream wakes you up in the morning.  It gets you searching on the internet.  You become distracted by your dream because it has captured your heart, and fills your mind.

However, at some point in your dream journey, you will inevitably experience what I call "dream-drain.”  I am talking about that point where, after months, or maybe years of working towards your dream, you are not seeing the results you had hoped for.  You have invested so much time and energy, only to see that your dream has not yet been fulfilled.  Not even close.  

A dream-drain makes our heart sick.  We go from dream to depression.  From faith-filled to frustration.   Our dream becomes our detriment.  What once filled our heart with oxygen now fills us with pain.  Are you there right now? Did you dare to dream only to become disappointed?

I had a dream to start a church.  I was raised in church.  Not only was I raised in church, My parents were the Pastors of our church.  My mom and dad started a church with a few families in a small town called Turlock, California.  Growing up, I had a front row seat in watching them launch, lead, and love.  I saw them sacrifice. I saw them sow. God used my parents to build a church made up of great people.  That church reached their community.  Many lives were transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.  The church grew and thrived.  It stands today and continues to have impact in that community.  

So proud to have our daughter, Madison leading worship in our church!
Ten years ago, an opportunity came for me to start a church.  Up to this point in my life, I had always focused on music.  I served in the church, but always as the musician, the back-up to the Pastor - never the Pastor myself.  When my Pastor at Christ Fellowship church called me up to help launch a Christ Fellowship campus in Stuart, Florida, my dream leaped inside of me.  It was if God was confirming to me “Matt! This is it.  This is your time I will begin to fulfill the dream I planted in you years ago.  I AM going to do it in you.” I was so excited, I began planning, recruiting, and working.  I began dreaming.  I had big dreams, big goals.  I remember driving around the little town of Stuart one day by myself praying big prayers for what our new church campus would do, where we would serve.  I was scared AND excited.  I was faith-filled AND fear-filled, all at the same time.  Is that even possible?

With many long months of preparation, we launched our church in Stuart.  It was awesome! We had 1250 people attend our first service.  I had my Pastors, Tom and Todd Mullins come.  Many friends from other Christ Fellowship campuses came to support.  But, when all of the friends and Pastors went back to their campuses, I was left with 300 people in a high school and a portable church to tear down.  In the beginning years, we did not have as many people give their life to Jesus.  We did not have opportunities in the community that I had hoped.  Doors were not open to us.  I could not preach very well - I had been the musician, remember? Other Pastors from great churches would share great stories of life transformation and community impact.  Hearing these stories did not inspire me.  Instead, they drained me.  Dream-drain.  

Portable church events were awesome!
Moment of honesty: In those times, I had moments of temptation.  I was not good at being a Pastor.  I did not have the developed skills.  I felt like I was playing catch up to Pastors much farther along than I was.  When I received opportunities to go be a music leader in a church, I must admit, I was tempted.   I remember refreshing my resume, if not for anything else, to just remind myself that I was good at something, even though not as a leader or Pastor.  However, God did not release me from my role as Stuart Campus Pastor at Christ Fellowship.  If God was not clearly leading me away, I knew that I needed to just bear in and stay committed to where I was. 

Teachable Moment #1
If God does not say GO, you STAY
When the dream does not seem like it is working, our logic tells us that we missed it. It’s time to quit, time to re-focus.  In these seasons, we must slow down, get quiet, and go back to the dream that God gave us.  Is God changing His mind? Did God miss a detail? No! God did not put this dream in you to frustrate you.  He gave you this dream to fulfill you!Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.  If God does not clearly say GO, you STAY.

We met in High Schools for seven great years

I remember my mom encouraging me when I would share my insecurities with her.  She understood all too well the dream drain I was experiencing.  She could relate with my tendency to move on, having lived through starting their church in Turlock.  She would quote me a verse in the Bible: “Despise not the day of small beginnings.” Zechariah 4:10.  

Teachable Moment #2
Big Dreams start small
What my mom was teaching me was that BIG dreams start small.  Dreams take time to develop.  Just like a child does not start going to college at one year old, neither will your dream take off and be all that you see it could be.  We think that if we are not seeing big results now, we had the dream wrong.  No! You are sowing the sacrifice now that will reap the success later.  

Pastors Todd and Julie Mullins recently spoke to our Christ Fellowship students before they were starting a new year of school.  They taught them that there is a gap between their dream and where they are now.  They said “fill that gap with faithfulness.”  Faithfulness is the path to your dream.  It’s the quickest way from point A to point B.  It’s not talent.  It’s not who you know.  It’s not cutting corners.  God honors our faithfulness.

Luke 16:10 Whoever is faithful with little things can be trusted with much

God was teaching me lessons as we were building a church in a High School in Stuart.  We worked hard. We gave our best.  We remained teachable so that we could be usable.  God kept me in the background, in the hidden.  Every week, set up, tear down.  Loving people.  Earning trust in the community.  We were proving ourselves.  We were demonstrating our heart for God and our passion for people. I learned the power of staying faithful and staying committed, whether I saw great results or not.  God would honor our faithfulness.  

The last service in a high school.  We were finally moving to a permanent church location!

Teachable Moment #3
God is Faithful
What was amazing was that as I was faithful, God was faithful.  While I was working, God was working.  We began to see impact within our church family.  Leaders began to emerge, the most unlikely people.  The community slowly began to embrace our church and doors began to open.  Our church started to grow and reach more people.  God provided a beautiful piece of property in Stuart.  Our church family all pitched in to purchase the property, from all Christ Fellowship campuses. God was developing my skills.  The best training is not in the classroom – it is on the battlefield.  

So many lives transformed.  This is my friend, Dorothy!
This Sunday, August 19, 2018, Christ Fellowship Stuart Campus is celebrating our 10 Year Birthday - Wow! Our first Sunday in Stuart was August 24, 2008.  I was 35 years old.  My kids were very small, and I was full of dreams.  Our church has had great impact, and God has done great things:

  • Hundreds of people have made decisions to follow Jesus 
  • Our church property and building are paid for
  • Stuart Campus helped birth the Port. Saint Lucie Campus
  • Pastors, Community leaders and ministries have emerged from Stuart Campus
  • Stuart Campus supports ministries and Martin County churches through Church United

This is what I do at church - I see the God-potential in people.  Here, I am talking with an up-and-coming leader for Stuart Campus!

I want to encourage you.  Hold on to your dream.  Do not go.  Stay. Fill the gap from where you are to where you want to go with Faithfulness.  God measures success not by results, but by our faithfulness. Remember that as you are working, you are sowing.  As you are grinding, God is working.  I can tell you from experience that God will fulfill the dream He planted in you!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Open Doors

Do you have a dream for your life?

Do you feel God has given you a gift to use?

If you do, then you have likely felt at some point early in your journey a sense of frustration; frustration that your dream has not yet taken flight, that your gift has not yet been highlighted.  You have been stuck at the starter’s gate, never getting that opportunity to shine, to have real impact. 

Nothing is more discouraging than watching others achieve success in realizing their dream, in harnessing their gift, and you watching from the sidelines, in obscurity.  It’s as if you are watching others have a big party in a room, but you are on the outside looking in.  The door is locked to the room, and all you can do is press your face up to the window and watch from a distance.

Question: how do you get access in to the party? What is the magic key that unlocks the door to achieving your dream, to using your gift for great impact?

The answer is not WHAT
The answer is WHO

I am a dreamer.  I wanted to discover my gifts.  I remember feeling frustrated thinking that I was miles away from achieving what God had planted in me.  I would watch my dad  as the Pastor lead his church and think “how will I ever get to that?” I watched my Worship Pastor, David Basel sing and lead choirs and musical presentations and thought “could I ever be good enough to lead that?”  I remember going to Christian concerts seeing Michael W. Smith, watching him play keyboard with great musicians thinking “how does he do that?”

I played my first solo in Kids Church at 6 years old

Most people would watch around me and simply enjoy and admire.  But me, I had a burning desire to DO THAT.  I admired, for sure, and fell in love with these heroes, watching what they could do.  I prayed to God for an opportunity to begin my personal journey to discover my dreams.

My dad and I are best friends, and have always enjoyed music together
Early on, my dad gave me opportunities to serve in church.  He challenged me to learn hymns (classic songs sung in the church many years ago) on the piano.  My dad was not only the Senior Pastor who led the church, but he was musically gifted.  So, he would many Sundays go to the piano before he preached his message and lead the church in a song.

I could only play decent in 3 keys, so my grandmother covered me on the organ
As I got proficient enough on the piano, he would start the song on the piano and get people singing.  Then, he would motion for me to come over to the piano.  We would literally switch seats on the piano midway through the song.  It was exhilarating for me! I was not very good at piano early on, so my grandmother would play the organ very loud to cover my mistakes.   My dad made space for me to use my gift.

David has always been part of the Pilot Family
My Worship Pastor, David Basel took an interest in me, seeing that I had the dream of leading music in church.  David invited me to assist him with preparation for choir rehearsals.  He gave me small singing parts, and even let me play keyboards after church.  When he saw me trying to learn songs, he celebrated me and invested time in me.  David inspired me to go to the same Christian college as he had in Springfield, Missouri, to audition for their school traveling choir.  Also, he told me stories about a great pianist and music arranger, Winnie Swaim, who taught only the most gifted music students.  As David told me about his college days, my eyes lit up like Christmas lights. 

With the support of my parents, and the belief of my Worship Pastor, I was soon off to Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri.  There, I auditioned for the school choir, and met Winnie Swaim, who I had the distinct privilege to study music with. 

Winnie Swaim is a legend in the Assemblies of God
She taught me touch on the piano, how to create atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to speak to people as I set the tone with music.  She taught me to arrange music with my eraser, meaning that music needs space and silence, not just lots of notes.  Mrs. Swaim introduced me to my wife, Kellie and called out the gifts and destiny in me as a young man.

Mrs. Swaim introduced me to a young, talented music director, Nate Carter, who founded and led a music group, Frontline – the hottest ticket in town.  I was awe struck by Nate’s edgy music arrangements and cool, talented band and singers.  Nate was a protégé of Winnie Swaim.  It was her endorsement of me that gained me access to Nate’s inner circle.  Nate not only let me play keys in his band, he also gave me opportunities to arrange songs! I could not believe it – to actually hear his Frontline music group singing my arrangement.  I was living my dream.  Nate actually hired me to do music arrangements in the Assemblies of God Media Studios.  I was a college student who was getting to work with the best engineers and musicians in Springfield, all because Nate gave me access.

With Nate and another great Music Director, Dominique!
 While traveling with Frontline to perform at events,  I met friends like Aaron Unthank, Devin Webb, and Michael Neale, who were part of the group.  Michael was the team leader, and was also an aspiring song writer.  Nate Carter had a heart to help us all develop our gift, so Frontline not only sang Nate’s songs, we sang Michael’s songs.  After we all graduated College, it was YEARS later when I moved back to Florida and re-connected with Michael.  I was working in a church in Boca Raton and Michael was leading music at Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens.

Michael gave me the opportunity to come serve with him at Christ Fellowship.  He actually made room for me on his team.  Michael introduced me to his Pastor, Todd Mullins.  Todd did not know me, or know what I could do.  But it was Michael’s influence that gained me a place at Christ Fellowship.  Michael writes beautiful songs, and can lead churches in to the presence of the Lord with music like no one can.  Yet,  Michael included me in helping to arrange his songs, to play for him as he sang, and maximized my gift as he attached it to his.  

After serving at Christ Fellowship, where I learned health in ministry and learned leadership, Pastor Todd began noticing me and took a chance in trying me out as one of his Campus Pastors.  Pastor Todd trained me and invested in my life.  He gave me the assignment of starting Christ Fellowship in Stuart, Florida.  After nine years of building the Stuart Campus, now I have built great relationships and influence beyond Christ Fellowship, throughout all of Martin County.  I have connections with Pastors, School Board Members, Law Enforcement, even Florida State Leaders! This all happened because Pastor Todd put me on his platform of leadership and created space for me to build influence through Christ Fellowship.

Pastors Todd & Julie Mullins celebrated with us on the first Sunday in the opening of our new building in Stuart!

I look back at my journey thus far and realize that key people were the key:

Larry & Susan Pilot
Parents who modeled pioneering leadership
David Basel
Music Pastor who gave me a front seat to his ministry
Winnie Swaim
Master Teacher who opened my eyes to the heart of God and to the gift of music
Nate Carter
Music Arranger and Band Leader who gave me a chance to do what he did so well
Michael Neale
Friend who made a place for me on his team and was always helping me win
Todd Mullins
Pastor who saw more in me than just a musician, and gave me the tools to become more

Not only are these people significant to opening doors for me – notice that one connected to the next.  My mom and dad connected me to David, who connected me to Mrs. Swaim, to Nate, to Michael, to Pastor Todd.  One door leads to another.

The key to opportunity is
always finding a key person in your life

If you are early on in your journey, and feel like you are on the outside looking in, here is my advice: go find someone that you want to be like, and serve them.  Now let me warn you: DON’T start with sharing your dream, and then ask them to mentor you.  Here is the key to connecting with them: serve them.  Add value to them.  Don’t even ask them.  Just find ways to support them, solve their problems, lift their load.  If you care what they care about, you will find that they will care about helping you get where you are going.

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.

If you have already experienced great results in achieving your dream, I bet you have had help getting there.

What is your legacy lineage?

3 generations of Pilots in church.  Proud of my son, Michael!

I am sure if you thought about it and wrote down all of the people that impacted your life along the way, you might have some thank you notes to write and send.

My daughter, Madison sings beautiful and I play the piano for her!

I would encourage you to BE THE KEY for someone else.  Unlock the door.  Who is the young person standing over in the corner watching you? Who is always early and stays late just be around you, be around the great things God is doing in you and through you? Maybe they deserve some of your time.

The greatest gift we can give people is our time.

Here’s a challenge to you if you are successful/fruitful in your life:

Never do what you do alone
Always take someone with you

When you go to a job, or an appointment, stop and ask yourself: who could I invite to go with me? The car ride to the appointment is gold for them.  When you are planning your next event, stop and ask: who can I invite to be in the room with us as we plan? If you are a singer or musician and you are planning this week’s concert, or church service, ask yourself: can I give a solo to someone else? Can I give a part of the song to this musician to play? Let me encourage you: the song may struggle, but their dream will soar.

People are the key to opening doors to dreams