Thursday, January 07, 2016

My Friend Russell

Photo of Russell Muilenburg from the Spencer Daily Reporter 04/03/14
Upcoming Trip

In just two short weeks I get to visit Hope Reformed Church in Spencer, Iowa to present the Resisting Gossip Seminar. I'm excited to meet the good folks of Hope Church and share with them some of what I've learned about winning the war of the wagging tongue, but I'm even more excited to get to once again see their pastor, Russell Muilenburg, a long time friend from back in my seminary days.

Mutual Admiration

Russell and I have had a "mutual admiration society" for almost two decades. In a recent letter to his congregation, Russell wrote about our friendship:
For years I have referred to “my friend Matt” in sermons. I quote him so much, that some people have asked me if he really exists, or if he’s some sort of imagined alter ego. Yes, he does indeed exist. His name is Matthew C. Mitchell. He was in my seminary class and he pastors the Lanse Evangelical Free Church in Lanse, Pennsylvania. He also maintains a blog called “Hot Orthodoxy” at He includes all his sermons on his blog, so whenever I preach on a passage, I always check to see if Matt has preached on it yet. He is an excellent Bible expositor. If he has preached on the passage, he immediately becomes one of my primary sources. Thus the quotes.
What Russell doesn't share there is that I have often used his sermons as one of my sources in research for sermons, too. One time, we "stole" from each other so many times back and forth on messages on Psalm 103 that we couldn't remember who said what the first time!

Ya Think The Lord Might Want This Seminar to Happen?

I love the story of how this particular seminar came about. This last Sunday, Russell told it to his church family this way:
Last November I was working ahead and planning my sermons for the first half of 2016. Inspired by Matt, I decided I would begin the year with a series called Taming the Tongue, focusing on some of the ways our speech can get us into trouble. I planned out messages on grumbling, swearing, dishonesty, and gossip.
The very next day, I got an email from Matt letting me know that he was thinking about coming to a conference in Des Moines in January. He was wondering, if it wasn’t too far from Des Moines to Spencer, if it would be worth it for him to stay an extra day or two and come do a seminar on his book, which is something we had talked about when it was first published. When I checked the date, I realized the weekend he was looking at was the very same weekend I had scheduled to preach about gossip!
I, of course, do not believe in luck. I believe in providence. And it seemed that God had providentially arranged for Matt’s visit.
So Russell and I are very eager to get together again and to see what the Lord might do through this seminar.

A Small Spark

If you are interested in the rest of the story and hearing my friend Russell's first sermon in this new series called "Taming the Tongue," you can watch the video below. Russell is always engaging to listen to, funny, and insightful (even though you have to wonder about some of his sources!).

Tomorrow, I plan to post an interview Russell and I did together on gossip and other sins of the tongue.