Cliff Matthews shares life of faithPublished 11:00pm Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Cliff Matthews thought God was calling him to the ministry but it wasn’t until he chopped off the end of a finger that he was absolutely sure of the calling.
Matthews was the program guest at the Brundidge Rotary Club Wednesday. He shared the story of a shy boy who was more comfortable on the riverbank than standing before a gathering of people.
Matthews said that, as that young boy, the scripture John 3:36 kept drumming in his head. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.”
“I started reading the Bible and talking to friends about what it meant to be a Christian,” Matthews said. “I was not perfect but I wanted to do what God wanted me to do.”
Matthews realized that God had not called him to be a meat cutter so, the morning after his accident, he went to his minister and told him that God had called him to preach.
The minister knew that God had been dealing with the 17-year-old Matthews and offered him the opportunity to preach on Sunday night.
“I preached on everything from Genesis to Revelation and did it all in 12 minutes,” Matthews said, laughing.
A group of young believers decided that Troy needed a revival and rounded up a crowd of about 200. Matthews got a chance to preach and embarked on the road that God had laid out before him.
He accepted “half-time” calls to local Baptist churches and ministered to vagrants sleeping on park benches when he was a student at Howard College.
Matthews attended seminary in New Orleans and, for a while, hitch hiked to attend classes there.
“Hitch hiking is a real test of faith,” he said, laughing.
Matthews’ first experience as a church planter was in the Brewton area in the 1950s. Much of his ministry has been in the role of planter and/or pastor of churches in his home state and in New York and the Panama Canal Zone.
“I might have stayed in the Canal Zone except we were there in 1964 when the anti-America riots broke out,” Matthews said.
He was caught in a situation where rocks and bottles were hurled at his vehicle.
“But, I kept driving and got to the Canal Zone,” Matthews said.
“It was not the time to be in Panama.”
But for Matthews, it has long been time to serve the Lord and he has done so in many capacities.
He was saved as a teenager when Northside Baptist Church in Troy was a new church. He went back to help them “redream the dream” in 1997 after 19 years in New York state.
He is serving as a consultant of the Church Planting Department of the Florida Baptist Convention. He assists churches in the Panhandle in planting evangelistic, reproducing churches that proclaim Christ. He also serves as a church planting consultant and worker wherever God opens a door.