Pastor Matt Goodsell felt the tug on his heart to minister to political public servants more than 20 years ago when he was a youth in his home country of Australia.
Even so, since that time he has dedicated his life to serving as pastor of local churches. But this year, he sensed an intense call to teach God’s Word to political leaders in the Missouri State Capitol and he found it to be irresistible.
And so Pastor Goodsell preached his last sermon at the Ashland Baptist Church where he had served as pastor for nearly nine years to become a full-time CapMin ministry leader in the Missouri State Capitol. And he’s incorporating one of the local church’s best ministry tools – the small group – to accomplish his objectives.
“This was not a decision I made lightly,” Pastor Goodsell said. “It is difficult to leave a vibrant church. I have close friendships with many members and it was heartbreaking in a sense to close that door. But I had to be open to the door that God was leading me to.”
Pastor Goodsell joined with Capitol Ministries in 2019 after he conducted an internet search to find Bible studies to teach to political leaders. As senior pastor of Ashland Baptist Church, he wanted to add a ministry to his state political leaders during the week.
The Missouri State Capitol is in Jefferson City, only 20 minutes away from Ashland where Pastor Goodsell and his wife, Katie are raising their four children, Juliet, 18, who is a first-year university student, Caleb, 16, Josiah, 12, and Nathanael, 10.
He found what he needed at CapMin.org. There, Pastor Goodsell discovered that the ministry was solely dedicated to making disciples of Jesus Christ in the political arena throughout the world. He found numerous resources including hundreds of Bible studies that Ralph Drollinger, CapMin President and Founder, had been writing specifically for political leaders since 1996.
After contacting CapMin, Pastor Goodsell was invited to a Ministry Leader Training Seminar where he learned more about the ministry, our mandate (1 Timothy 2:1-4), and mission to fulfill the Great Commission through the biblical top-down missions methodology of reaching political leaders first with the gospel.
The Missouri legislature was out of session after Pastor Goodsell successfully completed the training, and so he established a Bible study to legislative aides. He was in the process of launching a study to legislators when COVID-19 hit and the Missouri Capitol Building closed its doors to the public and most staff.
When meeting restrictions relaxed some in 2021, Pastor Goodsell was unable to find a location. That problem was solved by Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick who Pastor Goodsell had met at a prayer breakfast in February. After Treasurer Fitzpatrick learned about the Bible study and the logistical problems, he offered his office as a meeting place.
Among the studies Pastor Goodsell taught was “Faith and COVID-19, Biblical Truths to Recall During a Pandemic.” The Bible study examined seven points including, “we cannot add a single hour to our lives (Luke 12:25).” Psalm 139:16, which was written by David, confirmed: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (NIV).”
Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch (District 44) is among legislators who were grateful that the Bible studies continued “even during the height of COVID.” She lauded Pastor Goodsell’s commitment and persistence in encouraging people to seek and find Jesus and pray for and with representatives.
But Bible study coordination was further complicated when Pastor Goodsell contracted COVID-19. He was treated at the hospital and responded well, but he experienced atrial fibrillation (AFib), a rapid and irregular heartbeat.
The condition persisted for some time until Pastor Goodsell prayed, “I don’t believe this is my time to go, God, I believe you have more for me to do.” At that moment, Pastor Goodsell’s heartbeat returned to normal. Even though he has suffered COVID two more times, he has not experienced AFib symptoms since that prayer.
As soon as the Capitol opened again, Pastor Goodsell was there distributing Bible studies, meeting, and praying with legislators and aides, and availing himself of pastoral and evangelistic opportunities.
Rep. Adam Schnelting, District 104, one of the Bible Study sponsors, sees great benefit in in-depth Bible studies for legislators. “One of the most forgotten ministries that exists today is the ministry of serving our elected officials,” he said.
“The ministry of presence that Matt performs in the halls of our state Capitol is vital for the legislators who serve us and whose decisions affect all of us. His one-on-one style is helpful toward building meaningful relationships and nurturing spiritual well-being of those he serves.”
Early this year, the tug on Pastor Goodsell’s heart to minister to political leaders became stronger and he sensed that God was calling him to full-time ministry in the Capitol. With Katie’s full support, Pastor Goodsell took what he describes as “an enormous leap of faith.”
“Sunday, March 13 was my last opportunity to fill the pulpit at Ashland Baptist Church,” he said. “God had been convicting me since 2021, and I finally yielded.”
CapMin ministry leaders are self-supporting missionaries and so Pastor Goodsell is now meeting with like-minded Christian individuals and businessmen to explain the mission and raise support for his ministry.
One logistical problem that continued to prove problematic was establishing a meeting time because Legislators’ calendars are crowded with committee meetings and other required events.
As he pondered the problem, Pastor Goodsell realized he could model his ministry on one of the church’s best disciple making tools—the small group.
Rather than one large once-a-week meeting, Pastor Goodsell will be launching a series of small group Bible studies that will meet in the morning, at lunch, for dinner, or during the evening, depending on the schedules of those involved.
Meetings could be held in restaurants, at the capitol building, or in homes that many legislators rent temporarily and live in together as roommates during session.
As the small group option requires more time, this method would not have been available to him had he not committed to full-time ministry at the Capitol. “I never could have done this while pastoring at Ashland Baptist,” he said.
As he begins this new phase of his ministry career, Pastor Goodsell is excited about the work he believes the Lord has set before him.
“Political leaders are the most important mission filed in the world today,” he said. “My heart’s desire is to be a partner in this great effort to lead political leaders to the truth.
“And what I’ve seen lately is more and more Christians standing up and running for office and being successful. We have to make sure we are there to serve them as they serve God in that capacity. God has directed that Christians are to be discipled in His Word.
“You can push for better laws, but that would have to be done on every single bill. We go past that and go straight to the person who is going to vote. And I believe if that person is truly saved, I will trust God that he or she will be making the right decisions every single day.
“People can give to a lot of missions and ministries, but this one effects real change. The best thing that can happen in any nation is to have leaders who are faithful to the Gospel.”