The Land of Love (Why I Am Leaving Northview Church)

I met the mother of a friend of mine the other day and instantly thought, “Ooohhh…so that’s where he got his eyebrows.” They were Big black Jewish looking eyebrows – the kind that give eyes a certain kind of intensity.

Sometimes when I laugh really hard or scrub a spot off the counter I can feel my mother’s face pushing it’s way into my expressions. A part of her is imbedded in my DNA, literally. And like any of us, I love it and I hate it. I have her determination, which I’m okay with. But I also have her ability to deny a powerfully bad situation, which has gotten me in trouble from time to time. I’m working on it.

I’ve come to believe I look a bit like God too. It should go without saying that he is so high above me, beyond me, his greatness no one can fathom, of which mine is so completely fathomable. But I have his eyebrows. I didn’t used to think so, but I do.

I want to talk about love for a second.

God’s love is unconditional, or so we’ve heard. But when the rubber meets the road, I have found the unconditional part of love can be tough to receive…and to give out. But here’s what I know about unconditional love:

It is patient, kind, it doesn’t envy or boast, it doesn’t hold the past against you, allows you to tell the truth, shields you from harm (and often takes harm upon itself). It always trusts, always perseveres, and always hopes.

I recently had a friend tell me, “TRUE unconditional love raises the inner Pharisee in all of us.” This idea made me sad, but I knew he was right on. We approve of love that plays by the rules. But when love doesn’t play by the rules, we get a little uncomfortable and start trying to qualify it.

Qualify love.

No no, my friends. That will never do. If something is amiss where unconditional love is present, I promise you, it’s not the love part (nor the unconditional part) that needs fixing.

That said…

LOVE is the reason for this announcement. I have fallen unconditionally in love with people. I look at them, even real strange ones like me, and see nothing about their lives that is disturbing to me. Instead, I only see them. I see their souls, how they are hard-wired, and have a wealth of understanding for how they have arrived where they have in life. I appreciate and respect their journey. Without condition.

For several years I have felt God’s hand moving within me, to share my life with others in a personal way. It’s why I started this blog in the first place. For me, every word I write here is about the calling, the compassion, and the love I feel.

That said, I have resigned my job at Northview Church. I have been with these amazing people for the last nine years – leading worship and hoping all of our lives would be useful in some way. These nine years with “the good people of Northview” are a time in my life I will always look back on with gratitude. This congregation of 7,000+ people…they are unbelievable.

But it’s time for me to go.

I won’t be leaving the Land of Love, however. In a manner of speaking, I will simply be moving across the street.

Matt Worship3

Below is the letter I shared with our staff, and now I share it with you. For those who read my blog and are a part of Northivew Church…a most sincere thank you. I may not know you, but I’m sure your spirit has added to the vast love that’s so alive and accounted for at the corner of Main Street and Hazel Dell Parkway in Carmel.

Dear Northview Staff and Elders,

Over the last several years I have known God was leading me away from worship leading. I wasn’t sure when it would be time for me to step away, but that day has come.

Let me explain.

Most of you know I’ve had a tumultuous childhood. For the last decade I’ve been on a powerful journey of inner healing, and on this journey, God has been calling me out of my personal hiding places. Walking this path has been difficult, but all along the way, God has been entrusting me with some of the most beautifully broken people I’ve ever seen. And he has in turn been asking me to call them out of their hiding places.

As many of you know, becoming a writer has been a significant endeavor of mine and a new way for me to express who God is, his love, and the deep healing he can bring to the wounded. I can’t think of anything I enjoy more than sitting before my computer and finding meaningful ways to articulate God’s compassion for the hurting in this world.

About five years ago I remember sitting with Steve (our lead pastor) and saying, “Worship leading isn’t really my calling.” He looked a little confused, probably because…ya know…it was my job! I wasn’t sure back then what WAS my calling, and while I knew music and worship were something I’ve always loved and was gifted to do, I also knew that for me they couldn’t be classified as “calling.” But I continued to do what God had so graciously given to me, and have been leading worship full time for TWENTY-ONE YEARS! That’s a lot of music ya’ll.

But I have made the decision to step out in faith for what I believe is my next step in ministry.

Matt Worship4

I do not have the next leg of the journey mapped out, but I couldn’t be less worried about that. I have a massive faith that God will be revealing his plan as I step out of the boat and do my best to walk on water.

Heather, the girls and I plan to make our home locally and remain in Hamilton County…same neighborhood, same street, same house. For now, that’s the plan. But our final weekend at Northview will be the weekend of May 16/17th, and I would LOVE to see you there!

The last nine years have been a tremendous blessing in my life. As I’ve described Northview to people, I’ve even had pastoral family members tell me, “NEVER LEAVE! Because it doesn’t get any better than that.”

The blessing of this church – of Steve Poe, Stan Killebrew, Mark Crull, Andrea McCaffrey, Adam Hiatt, Greg Wallace, Garrett Edwards, Marcia Schwartz and the rest of my team…thank God for them. And thank God for YOU! You have all become like family to me.

When I left my last church, Heather and I were pretty beat up from ministry, because ministry can be a tough vocation. When we arrived at Northview, you took us in powerfully and loved us so graciously. Be assured that we are leaving with our hearts intact and that the abundance of love you’ve shown is our greatest comfort as we say our goodbyes.

I’ll never regret one day at Northview. How could I?

I am looking forward to the abundant growth I know God is (and already has been) bringing to Northview Church. And also to share the love I have (which you are partly responsible for) with those God is calling me on to.

So I am raising my metaphorical champagne glass (alcohol free for me) to say, “Here’s to wishing I could enjoy the ride with you for a bit longer, but knowing I must step out in faith and follow the voice behind me saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

You are so terribly loved.

Grace, peace and love always,

Matt Bays

I guess that was a very long and poetic way of saying, “I’m unemployed!”

I haven’t been without a job in twenty-one years. And who leaves a job before having another one? Apparently I do.

The truth: I could’ve stayed at Northview forever. It’s easy to be loved the way we’ve been loved by this group of people. And as an artist, doing my job with all the toys around that place was a total and complete blast.

But I’ve felt this three-year whisper in my spirit that sounded something like this, “Hey…I’m speaking a calling over your life. So when you’re ready, step out of the boat, Matthew, and let’s see what happens. It may not be easy, but be assured, I will be calling you into the Land of Love.”

The Land of Love…God, thank you. I can’t wait to get there.

Matt Worship2

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