Upon walking into First Baptist Church in Stryker Ohio and spending some time in conversation with Matt Dodd, a person quickly sees a very mature dedicated young man that will leave a lifetime impression.
Matthew says, “God placed me in a family with a Dad and Mom who knew and loved Jesus. My Dad’s name is Peter and my Mom’s name is Cindi. I was born in 1985 in Sandusky, OH. I am the oldest of 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls and they are not just my siblings but my friends. My brother’s name is Zach (27) and my sisters’ names are Abby (23), and Andrea (20).”
He states on his decision of Salvation the following,” It was an act of God’s grace that I was placed in a home with a mom and dad who taught me the Word of God and the way of salvation through Jesus. My parents modeled to my brother and sisters what it meant to read God’s Word, pray, be faithful to a local church, take care of what God gives us, serve others, and have a relationship with God. My parents would pray and read God’s Word with me and my siblings. Even though my parents believed and lived the Gospel, this is something that I had to choose to follow myself.
When I was six years old, on New Year’s Eve my family gathered around the dinner table and Dad led a family discussion about what we wanted to see happen that upcoming year. This is when I said I wanted to accept Jesus as my Savior and Dad led me in prayer asking for the gift of salvation. I can remember Mom telling me that night that I needed to tell others about this Good News. As I look back, I can see signs of spiritual life after that decision; I hungered for God’s Word, was convicted when I sinned, and I desired to serve.”
“God has used a number of things up to this point to grow me in my walk with Him. One of those things is my struggle with self-righteousness and pride. This misplaced trust in myself led me to question my sincerity in my salvation decision and my struggle with sin. My first year as a student at Baptist Bible College God used His Word to target my self-righteousness and pride. Romans 8 was one of those passages He used. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” I was the ungodly enemy of God that Jesus died for. This reality woke me up to the freedom from my performance to dependence on Jesus. And although this battle with my pride still rages within me, it is something that God continues to use in my life to trust Jesus instead of myself.”
Matthew went to Danbury High School in Marblehead, OH. He says he was the gullible, computer geek who turned in his home work on time, played trumpet, and looked forward to spring so he could play his favorite sport, baseball. He graduated in 2004.
He says God’s leading him to the ministry of a youth pastor was a gradual process. He grew up watching his dad pastor in a few churches and in Junior High that was one of the things among others that he considered in one of his life skills class. However, it wasn’t until 2001 it became a conviction of his to do what God wanted him to do instead of what he thought would be nice to do. It was at a week of summer camp at Camp Patmos when the pastor challenged him with these words of Jesus, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” The pastor asked anyone to stand who was willing to be a worker. Matthew stood dedicating his life to fulltime ministry, if in fact the Lord would lead him in that direction.
The next five summers, God allowed Matt to serve at Camp Patmos in many roles. God gave him many opportunities to serve in his home church, Grace Baptist in Port Clinton, OH as well as his church at college, Open Door Baptist Church in Scranton. Through those ministry experiences, God gave him a passion for sharing His Word, working with people, and making disciples of young people.
Matthew went to Baptist Bible College in the beautiful hills of Clarks Summit, PA. He looks back at his time there with much thankfulness because this was the place where God worked in his life, taught him about His grace, and he learned solid Bible teaching from professors and pastors who loved Jesus and God’s Word. He graduated in 2008.
After he graduated from college, Matthew did a summer internship in Toledo at Emmanuel Baptist Church. There he was exposed to a model of ministry that firmly believed that teens were not just to impact but to be trained and equipped to impact their world for Jesus. This is a belief that Matthew has implemented in the Youth Ministry at First Baptist of Stryker.
Through a series of events, God redirected his plans as a young, green, single guy and moved him to Stryker, OH as a Youth Pastor at First Baptist Church in January of 2009. Matt says, “God’s plans are better than mine for in this move and over the course of the six years God has given me a sweet church family that has become dear to me. Youth leaders that have a heart for young people and a desire to see them follow Jesus, teens who genuinely want to learn from the Word of God, and the privilege to be a pastor. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Last November, Matthew married the love of his life, Evangeline. He says, “She is a gift from God to me. She encourages me in her prayers, help, and support. So I am learning quite a bit of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, first as a husband and then as a pastor. And I pray I will never stop learning. Evangeline serves along side of me as a Youth Leader in our church, and as a team, we are serving in ways that just wouldn’t be possible with me doing it alone.”
Matt says, “The position of a pastor is a privilege. Pastor means shepherd and I get to be someone who cares for, teaches, trains, and leads young people to follow after Jesus. As with anything, there are discouragements, disappointments, and difficulties. But in those times, God reminds me that it is a privilege to serve Him in this way. Then He graciously lets me see fruit of my labor”
Recently Matthew was encouraged when a young man who graduated from Stryker high school a couple years ago told him what an impact on his life he had been. Matthew then had the honor of marrying this young man and his fiancée.
Matthew says, “Being a youth pastor is God’s work, needing to be done in His power, in His way, with His Word, for His glory. I just to get to be a part of it! It is a privilege!”
He has just started a new teaching for his Wednesday Night Youth Group that is called “Gospel-Questions”. Teens have been given the last few months to write in any questions that they are wrestling with in their minds. Matt and them are going to take those questions and see what God’s Words has to say about them, then bring it back to the question: in light of what God has done for us in the Gospel, how should we respond?
Two folks that Matthew has looked up to are his dad, who has always taught him by his example what it means to be a man who loves Jesus. Matt says about his father, “He is not perfect, but even in his imperfections he showed me how to respond to failures. Much of how I do ministry, I learned by watching him.” And the other person in his life that he looked up to is a friend, professor, and a “dorm dad” that he had in college, Ted Boykin. God used him in Matt’s my life to teach him about finding his identity in Jesus and His finished work on the cross.
Matt loves to spend time with his wife. Even in things that don’t interest him like shopping, because it always becomes an adventure. He also enjoys getting his exercise by running. And music of all kinds interests him.
On Political & Social Issues Matthew states the following: “I am not one to “air” my political views or preferences because I believe that first and foremost, as a Christian, I am an ambassador for the Gospel of Jesus. Political parties and debates can just put barriers up in reaching people with the Gospel. However, I cannot separate myself from the times that I live in. There is one issue that I am pretty passionate about and will speak to. It is one that is not primarily a political issue. It is a “God”-issue. However, our culture and country is making it a political issue. It is the issue of marriage and family. It is a “God” issue because God is the one that designed marriage and family. It is the desire of every human to belong, to be loved, and to love within a family. It is the basis of society. However, as rebellious human beings, we have perverted something that God set-up as good and make it how we want it. We have switched up, abused, or all together abandoned our roles in the home as husbands, wives, and children. We turn to divorce because keeping marriage vows is not easy or convenient. And we are going to the extent of redefining what marriage is. We stand guilty of making ourselves gods and taking God’s place by over-turning what He has set up. There are no quick, easy fixes. And change does start with legislation. Change starts with the people of God. May God grant us revival! May Christians take a stand by praying for revival, putting Jesus first in their lives, in their marriages, in their homes with the desire to model grace, hope, and healing in Jesus for others to see and receive for themselves.”
Another excellent example of one of the fine folks we have living here in our small rural communities and leading dedicated lives.
John may be reached at