God is Good and He Cares for His People and His Church

God is Good and He Cares for His People and His Church

By Pastor Matt Read, senior pastor, Jersey Church

In January of 2023, after more than four decades of faithful service to Jersey Church, New Albany, Pastor John Hays informed the church of his intent to retire from his role as Senior Pastor. “This has been forty-two years of the most joy-filled pastoring anyone could ever dream of,” he shared. 

Jersey Baptist Church began in 1981 in the middle of the Jersey Township cornfields with thirteen dedicated believers. God called John and Jan Hays to lead this small group of believers, and the communities around the church would never again be the same.

What God did through Pastor John, Jan and that little group of faithful believers is amazing. The church experienced tremendous growth requiring multiple construction projects over the next 20+ plus years.

Pastor John led the church to become a pacesetter for missions giving, locally and around the world. Since 1981, the church has given over 11-million dollars to missions and sent both short-term and long-term volunteers and career missionaries all over the world.

Today, we have a staff of over 40, over 500 volunteers serving in ministry areas, 600 in small groups, and 1500 in weekly worship. Jersey has baptized over 4,000 people in the last 43 years.

Upon his announcement, our Church Council immediately began the search process for our next Senior Pastor. Pastor John continued to lead the church until the new Senior Pastor was called.

In the years leading up to his announcement, Pastor John worked behind the scenes in the hopes of setting the church up for a healthy transition. The church leadership and Pastor John knew that a well-planned and implemented search process would be important.

In anticipation of Pastor John’s announcement, church leadership planned to take the church through an intentional journey to discover God’s will. As the search process began, they wanted to make sure everyone was looking at where God was at work and joining Him there. The church participated in the Experiencing God study through a preaching series and in small groups. This was a pivotal part of our overall process. It set the direction and the spiritual tone for the entire nine-month search by uniting the congregation to seek God’s will together. 

The search process included intentional times of prayer on Wednesday nights and during Sunday morning worship. The Search Team met frequently with lay leadership along with times of question and answer with the broader church. The Search Team and church staff did a wonderful job of communicating important and relevant information along the way.

The entire process was centered on God’s will and His leading and it has given me the confidence to fully embrace the role that I believe God has entrusted me to steward and shepherd.

It was with great excitement that I preached at Jersey Church on August 13, 2023, in view of a call. The following Sunday, the church voted to call me as their next Senior Pastor with over 93 % approval. Along with my wonderful wife, Mary, and my three amazing boys, Caleb, Sammy, and Lucas, I accepted the call. Having served as the Next Gen Minister at Jersey since 2015, the process was long for me, but I am thankful for the care and attention it was given.

On August 27, Pastor John preached his last message as our Senior Pastor and our church took the opportunity to honor both Pastor John and Jan for 42, Spirit-led, integrity-filled years of ministry at Jersey.

On Sunday, September 3, Pastor John officially passed the mantle of leadership as he and Jan prayed over Mary and me. I was honored and humbled to be anointed by Pastor John for service to Christ in the new season of leadership at Jersey Church. The reception I received and continue to receive from the faithful and godly members of Jersey Church is overwhelming. They have loved me as their own. 

The reminder I have had through the entire transition is that God is good and he cares for His people and His church. I am humbled by the support and encouragement of the members of this faithful church. Every week   I have received multiple words of encouragement from the members of Jersey Church. I feel blessed by God and grateful for the opportunity to shepherd this wonderful church. 

Since September, we have been blown away by God’s faithfulness. Attendance continues to grow as does our financial giving. Prior to the announcement of Pastor John’s retirement God was moving as we saw attendance increase by almost 300 people from 2022 to 2023. God’s gracious hand continues to bless us as we have grown over 170 people in 2024. 

Upon the transition, I asked Pastor John to stay on the team as Pastor Emeritus. He agreed and has become my biggest supporter, mentor, and advisor. I can’t tell you what that has done for me and the example it has set for our church. He is currently focused on helping me in this first year of senior pastor transition and he is also focused on helping us move leadership development forward in our church.

Further, Jersey has always had a wonderful staff team dedicated to the ministry within Jersey and in the surrounding areas. I am so thankful for this next statement. We have not lost a single staff member and our team is as strong as ever. I am truly blessed to have the amazing staff that God has placed around me as we lead and minister together.

Earlier this year we had a wonderful all-staff team retreat. We prayed together, we learned together, and together we mapped out the focus of our upcoming church year. We will focus on leading our church through the book of Acts learning what it means to be the church with a specific focus on sharing our faith. We will also lead our staff through a focus on what it means to develop leaders. Ministry is a heavy lift most weeks. We realize that to keep moving forward, we need to develop the leaders around us as we minister to our church and the community.

The last nine months have filled my heart with peace and joy because it is clear to Jersey Church and me that God has spoken and moved through this transition. We rest in that confidence. In all this, our motto has been from Matthew 6:33 to “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.”

As God leads us into the next season of ministry for Jersey Church, we are going to keep Him, His Kingdom, and His righteousness our number one priority. As Pastor John would say, we believe the best is yet to come.