Bio

Hi!  Thanks for visiting my website.  I hope you find it inspiring and encouraging.  Please drop me a line and introduce yourself too.  I’d love to know more about you.

I serve as the pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran Church, in New Kingstown, PA.  We’re an ELCA Lutheran congregation.  That means we welcome people because we are called to love our neighbor and because all people are made in the image of God – that includes people who have been traditionally marginalized and rejected by the church in the past.  God loves you too and so do I.  You can find out more about St. Stephen by visiting the church website – https://www.ststephenlc.org/home, or search for St. Stephen Evangelical Lutheran Church, New Kingstown, PA on Facebook.

I’m engaged in a variety of ministries and welcome your engagement in them too.  Since the very first day of my serving as pastor at St. Stephen, I’ve had a focus on homelessness – thanks to Michael who was staying under our church pavilion.  Since then, we’ve been engaged in accompanying people who experience homelessness in a variety of ways.  We launched a truck stop ministry in which we do laundry with people, make sure they can get a shower, and we eat with people who are living in their cars, motels, or in other arrangements.  We provide sleeping bags, blankets, hats and gloves, and other supplies for people that are essential for survival, as well as try to link people to health services.  We even do a worship service with people who want to worship together, including the sharing of the Lord’s Supper.

You can read more about this ministry in The Burg and in Living Lutheran.

There’s also a group of us launching a non-profit called Emmaus Village – it will be a village of tiny homes dedicated to getting people into shelter.  I serve as the President of the Board.

In addition, there is another organization forming called Arkaios – which means new beginnings.  Our goal is to provide the funds necessary for a security deposit and first month’s rent, which building relationships with people in order to get them into stable housing and stay there.  Many of the people we are looking to help with this currently live in motels in our area and pay anywhere from $250-$450 a week for a motel room.

In July, 2020, I joined Pat LeMarche, a homelessness advocate, and several other dedicated people for what we called Sleep Out in the Park.

We set up shop in a pavilion in one of the Carlisle Borough Parks and live streamed interviews with about 17 people and organizations and stayed the night in the pavilion in an effort to raise awareness about homelessness and the challenges people face.  This has led to the launch of the Still Left Out in America podcast that I co-host with Pat.  You can find us on Facebook and YouTube and you can read and watch the news coverage here.

In addition, I serve on the leadership team of the West Shore Zero Barrier Emergency Shelter.Along with our ministry with those experiencing homelessness, I am engaged in many other ministries.  Every week I record what I call the weekly Stroll through Scripture, a first look commentary on the lectionary readings for the coming week.  (I invite you to subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure you don’t miss any).

Some of the other ministries I’m engaged in include leading small group huddles, Tapology (a great opportunity to gather with people and talk about important issues and share food and drinks together),

Leading a weekly Bible Study, Confirmation, working with all of the church committees and task forces, and writing for our high quality quarterly church magazine – Anastasis.

And of course, leading worship, which is a real joy for me.  We worship each week along with other special worship services throughout the year including Holy Week services, Advent and Christmas Eve, Pre-Election Day Prayer services, among other special services.  We worship in person and online, recognizing that we now live in a hybrid world and that we have an amazing opportunity to carry out Jesus’ mission in new and exciting ways.

During my time as pastor at St. Stephen, we have received $36,000 in grant funding for social ministry and mission launch ministries from various sources like the Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA World Hunger, and Community Aid.

In addition to my responsibilities at St. Stephen, I co-host another podcast – Longa.  My co-host is Moses Kavishe.  Longa is a podcast dedicated to story-telling related to the ministries found in Matthew 25 – feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned.

I also have leadership responsibilities in the larger church.  I serve as the Policy Council Chair of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania.  LAMPA advocates for wise and just public policies in Pennsylvania that promote the common good.

In addition, I am an elected member of the Lower Susquehanna Synod Council, the governing body of the Synod.  I serve on the Executive Committee, chair the Mission Committee, and serve as chair of the Homelessness Task Force.  In 2019 I also served on the Synod Renewal Team and the Assembly Planning Committee.

In 2020, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to begin teaching with the Stevenson School for Ministry.  I teach a course on faith and politics, as well as a course on living evangelism. In October 2020 I had the privilege of co-leading an online seminar on evangelism with the school.  You can see the video of the seminar here – https://youtu.be/Y09axDWQih0

In 2020, I was also invited to service on the advisory council for the Journal of Lutheran Ethics – a great publication exploring ethics.

In 2021, I was invited to serve on the advisory council of the Community Partners for Change of Cumberland County.  It’s a public-private community partnership that is working to end homelessness in our county.

Blogging is something I also enjoy doing.  You can check out my own blog at www.pastormatthewbest.com, where I am a prolific writer – writing about faith, politics, and more.  I also post an almost daily prayer as well as videos and podcasts.

In addition, I am a contributor to the Towards Racial Justice blog of Lower Susquehanna Synod.  You can check out my posts here and here.

In 2020 I started working on several writing projects.  I began writing a book, which I’m calling “The Tired Christian.”  It’s a book about being a tired Christian in a society that doesn’t take faith seriously.  In addition, I’m also working on another book, which I’m calling “The Christian’s Guide to Public Expression of Faith.”  This book is about how faith and politics intersect.  And I’m working with a couple of other pastors on something called “The Purple Bible” – a translation of the Bible that highlights the political nature of Scripture.

I am someone who loves to explore new mission ideas.  Please reach out to me if you have an idea for a new mission.  Some of the ideas I’m playing with right now are online church, pub church, house churches, parking lot church, technology and church, and more.

My educational background prepared me well for the work of ministry.  I graduated with honors in Political Science from Grove City College, in Grove City, PA in 1998.  In 2017 I graduated with my M.Div. from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Now United Lutheran Seminary).  During my seminary time, I also had the opportunity to study at the University of Helsinki, Finland.  Our family spent a year in Finland, immersed in Finnish culture and exploring the many aspects of faith in Finland – it was one of the best experiences of our lives.  You can an article I wrote for a Finnish Lutheran Church publication at the conclusion of our time in Finland.

My work history also prepared me well for this vocation.  After college, I went to Washington, DC and worked as a Legislative Correspondant for US Representative Phil English, then as a Legislative Analyst for a Capitol Hill Lobbying firm – The Redding Firm.  Upon moving to Carlisle, PA, I started my own government affairs firm, The Atlantic Firm.  I then became a Legislative Assistant for PA Representative Will Gabig.

I then shifted careers, starting Best Solutions – an entrepreneurial coaching firm that worked with clients on strategy and messaging.  During this time, I also managed and did strategy for political campaigns for a variety of candidates and had a 75% success rate.

In 2009 I began discerning a call to ministry.  As part of this process, I gained valuable experience in the non-profit sector, working for Project SHARE – a food pantry in Carlisle, PA.  I began there as the Volunteer Coordinator and within six months became the Operations Manager, overseeing all of the staff and projects until 2012 when I began seminary.

During seminary, my internship took me to Evangelical Lutheran Church in Duncansville, PA where I learned valuable lessons in pastoring.  And I was fortunate to be a Senior Seminarian Vicar who served the people of Center Lutheran Church outside of Newville, PA.

In my personal time, I enjoy running (I’ve run 11 marathons, 16 half marathons, and a slew of other shorter distances), traveling (I have traveled across North America, in Central America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa), reading (mostly non-fiction politics, philosophy, theology, and churchy stuff), and writing.

I am married to my college sweetheart, Abigail.  And we are blessed to have four wonderful children and a dog, Jimmy.