Following Wherever the Lord Leads
Matt Sigler was born into a family of Methodist pastors (Alabama West-Florida) and he came to faith when six years old. Matt says, “In the summer of 1995, I experienced a deeper work of God’s grace in my life. It was an Aldersgate-type experience; one I still hold to as an anchor point in my walk with the Lord. Throughout that summer my friends and I witnessed powerful manifestations of the presence of God. Our lives were filled with an insatiable hunger for more of Jesus.”
Because so many in Matt’s family are ministers—at least four generations of Methodist pastors—he was often asked by church folk if he was going to be one, too. His answer was adamant: He was going to be an archeologist…or a politician.
Matt shares, “If I’m honest, there was some resentment at feeling typecast by this question—although I must say my family never put pressure on me to follow their path. My call to ministry began with a simple, but earnest agreement that I would follow wherever the Lord led—even if that meant ministry. In high school, I picked up the guitar (it was cooler than the trombone) and began leading music for our youth group. I spent many of my summers in college traveling around with a group leading music at youth weeks, summer camps, etc. All the while serving part time in youth ministry—first at a large urban congregation and later in a small-town church.”
After three years of serving full time as both youth minister and music minister, Matt realized he had a deep hunger to learn more—especially in the area of worship. His first love has always been history, and after years of serving in worship ministry he felt led to study more about the history of Christian worship. After taking every course he could in worship studies with Lester Ruth, he realized he had so much more to learn so his path to continuing doctoral studies emerged from praxis with a deep curiosity in how the church of the past can resource the church today. Relatedly, he found that he was experiencing the greatest sense of joy in teaching—whether in church or school contexts. These experiences coalesced into applying to doctoral programs.
When Matt first mentioned to his family that he was interested in pursuing a PhD, his father encouraged him to apply to the John Wesley Fellowship. His father was aware of the impact the Fellows were having in Methodist higher education. Lester Ruth also encouraged him to apply for a Fellowship.
Matt served two years as Visiting Scholar and Interim Campus Minister at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas then finished up his doctorate and began candidacy with the Great Plains Annual Conference where he is ordained. He joined the Seattle Pacific University faculty in 2015 and is Assistant Professor of Wesleyan Studies.
One of the key traditions of the John Wesley Fellowship is the annual Christmas Conference. As a new Fellow, Sigler says that he spent much of his first Christmas Conference in awe that he was in the same room with so many senior scholars who had shaped his own work. Matt said, “When I sat down for breakfast one morning with one such scholar, I was shocked to find that he was actually interested in what I was studying. Relatedly, I was blown away by how there seemed to be a genuine sense of comradery that was not bound by academic rank or status. There was seldom any posturing or self-aggrandizement that you so often find at other academic conferences. Every time I have attended the Christmas Conference, I think of Charles Wesley’s lyrics “We all partake the joy of one, the common peace we feel…” . Matt says he has never left a Christmas Conference without a deep sense of the Lord’s joy.
When asked how the Fellowship has impacted his career, Matt says, “Truly, I could not have imagined the way in which the Fellowship would shape my career and calling. From providing a vital community of earnest encouragement during my doctoral work, to fostering a network of scholars with a shared sense of purpose, the John Wesley Fellows have surrounded me with support from the moment I became a junior fellow. There were countless conversations with senior fellows that helped guide me as I was in my program. This community is still populated with some of my closest colleagues, mentors, and friends. I don’t throw this phrase around lightly, but the influence of the JWF has been life changing for me.”
Matt is forever grateful for the Fellowship and often thinks about the many parishioners and pastors who invested in AFTE not knowing the long-lasting impact their gift would have on someone like himself. Throughout his time as a Fellow, he has been deeply aware that the support from AFTE goes well beyond the circle of scholars but extends to the pews. It has given Sigler a deeper love for the church and an unswerving commitment to our Wesleyan heritage.
Matt and his wife Shannon live in Edmonds Washington with their son, Eli who is in the fourth grade.