Interview with Matthew Gambleby A. Allan Martin

Matthew Gamble, an atheist fascinated by the Rastafarian religion as a teen, was involved in drug smuggling in his early young adult years. Encountering GOD through the Bible and the love of a small, African-American Adventist Church in North Florida [USA], Matthew’s life was transformed. Recently completing his doctorate focused on preaching to postmodern culture, Gamble speaks around the world at youth and young adult gatherings, often a featured Biblical presenter for GODencounters [www.GODencounters.org]

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Back from Chile, off to Los Angeles, briefly back home in Connecticut, Matthew’s been globe trotting, so we opted to catch him via Facebook to chat a bit with Dynamic Steward.

Q: In today's postmodern milieu, what role might the Bible play in people's lives?

Many people find the Bible to be overwhelming. As many of you already know, the Bible is a large book, comprised of sixty-six smaller books that span some four-thousand years of history, written by roughly forty different contributing authors. Add on top of this all the translations that are out there today, many people simply don't know where to start. Often, the only dose of the Bible that a church-goer receives in a given week is when they go to church. I believe that the Bible can play a significant role in a person’s life so long as they learn how to approach the Scriptures. As they turn to the Bible with a desire to better understand God and this world they live in, they will find a perspective, not of this world, guaranteed to change their paradigm.

Q: What role does the Bible play in your life?

For me personally, I look to the Bible as a textbook from my Rabbi Jesus. I believe that He wants to reveal the way that He views life, this world, decisions that are made, etc. in hopes that I will begin to think and behave more like Him, as well as see things the way that He does. For instance, this year I started reading Leviticus for my devotional time in the Word. While reading it I started to recognize how much pain and suffering sin causes and how intentional God is to create a way of forgiveness and restoration. So even in biblical books that may initially come across confusing and dated, God is still in the midst of the words speaking truths into our lives so long as we are willing to listen.

Q: As GODfollowers, describe our way of relating to the Bible (aka the Word).

I truly believe that it is a living Word that has the power to transform lives. Shortly after I had moved from being an atheist to becoming an agnostic, I met a Seventh-day Adventist pastor. I told him my life story of sin and confusion.He then prayed with me and gave me a New Testament Bible. In the Word, I was introduced to a Man by the name of Jesus, Someone who I had heard about, but didn't know. God used the Bible to speak truth into my life by revealing to me the life and teachings of Jesus. At the core of being a GODfollower is the recognition that Jesus is your Rabbi and that you are His disciple. A disciple of Jesus recognizes that He is the Word (John 1:1) and because of this, the Bible contains words that testify of Him (John 5:39). It is out of this recognition that a GODfollower views the Holy Bible as one of the most significant sources of direct connection with Jesus whereby they are taught by the Man Himself. This direct connection is at the core of the GODencounters movement that is emerging among new generations.

Q: Tell us a bit more about GODencounters and your experience.

GODencounters is a Spirit-led movement among Adventist young adults seeking a 24/7 experience of the living God. The transformation taking place in the lives of those experiencing GODencounters is from being spectators of church, to becoming the Church (aka the body of Christ). Young adults are being empowered to recognize that God is alive and well today and that He has a plan and purpose for their lives. At the core of GODencounters is the Word of God, as young adults are seeing afresh the relevance of Jesus' teachings in the 21st century.

Several years ago I was invited to preach at a GODencounters gathering in Florida [USA]. From the moment I arrived and started to meet the team of organizers, I knew that something was different. It was not about the event, but truly about people experiencing God in a tangible way. All aspects were taken into account by asking the question, “what might be done to better enhance a persons ability to experience God?” Intentional, sacred space was made for Jesus to be lifted up that in so doing He would draw all people unto Himself (John 12:32).

Q: As a young adult, but also a minister, what inspiration might you offer to local churches that are living, submitting to, abiding in, and giving the Word in their communities?

To the pastor, I would say preach Jesus in every message in a way that is relevant to new generations. I am not suggesting that you try to become someone you are not, I am simply asking you to consider what they are going through and make Jesus plain to them in every message.

To the church attendee, I would simply invite those of you who this speaks to, to discover Jesus afresh in your life. Seek out a personal experience of Him. Start with the Gospel of John, and just take it a section at a time seeking to learn from Jesus. Allow Him to speak to you, challenge you, and engage you. Surrender your life to Him, His teachings, His lordship in your life. From this posture you move forth into the world as one who has encountered GOD and is a disciple of Jesus called to serve those around you in His name.

Go to www.GODencounters.org or email info@GODencounters.org for more details and information. GODencounters: Pursuing a 24/7 Experience of Jesus is available at your local Adventist Book Center or online www.adventistbookcenter.com/GODencounters.

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Author bylines:

Matthew Gamble, DMin, is the founder of Vagabondservant International. For more information go to www.matthewgamble.com

A. Allan Martin, PhD, CFLE is Associate Professor of Discipleship & Family Ministry at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and voluntarily serves as curriculum coach for GODencounters.

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April–June, 2009

Revival