Jim Mathews is already a seasoned trumpet player, journalist, photographer, communications director, college sports information director and salesman, but starting Sunday, he’ll take on the role of head pastor at Ivey Memorial United Methodist Church in north-central Lincoln County.
The Charlotte native received his license to preach last month at the United Methodist Church’s annual Western North Carolina Conference and is currently working toward a master’s degree in divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte.
For nearly two decades, Mathews tried to ignore God’s call on his life while he worked various jobs in numerous career fields, he told the Times-News recently.
“I am a jack of all trades and master of none,” he said.
In addition to serving as Director of Marketing Communications for United Way in Charlotte, he worked as a sales manager at a Gastonia furniture store, a sports information director at Savannah College of Art & Design and even took photos and wrote a historical column called “Know Your Heritage” for the Gaston Gazette.
His column primarily focused on historic properties in Gaston and Lincoln counties, where he instantly fell in love with the area’s culture and people.
“I have always found the people here to have a certain charm and laid-back style that make it a very nice place,” he said.
It was during his time in Georgia, while taking a Bible class with his high school sweetheart and wife Cindy that he realized for most of his life he “had been running from a call from God.”
“I wasn’t happy in any of my career paths,” Mathews noted, “but each step along that road was a way of God preparing me for my ministry.”
The class instructed that he read the Bible for at least half an hour nightly, but Mathews claimed he became “ravenous for the Word” during that time and read hours on end.
“I had read the Bible as a child but never to the depth that I was reading it then,” he said. “God had opened my eyes to what I’d been missing my whole life.”
Shortly after, he began the process of becoming a pastor.
While Mathews took a five-year break at one point to determine whether ministry truly was his calling, he soon felt confident enough in the career path to enter seminary last fall.
He previously spent two decades of his life serving and volunteering at Covenant United Methodist Church in Gastonia, fulfilling the roles of liturgist, layman and worship leader.
Following a 16-year stint of shooting weddings and special events, he has continued to pursue photography as his primary hobby outside of preaching. Mathews particularly enjoys using the camera to capture landscapes and other outdoor scenery.
“It’s a way I can express myself,” he said, “and I’m sure it will probably find some way into my ministry. When the world closes in, and I need to get away to be with God, I grab my camera and head to some beautiful place.”
After trying nearly 50 years to reach the place where he believed he could fulfill God’s call on his life, Mathews plans to take Ivey’s pulpit stand Sunday with nothing but joy.
“If I can reach just one person and make a difference … to bring them to God, that would be the greatest success,” he said. “That wouldn’t be my success but God’s working through me.”
Mathews and his wife have two grown daughters, Caitlin and Carissa, and reside in Gaston County.