Matt Mosler is still known to many as a weatherman, albeit one of the “whatever-happened-to” variety.
And in a way, he still is, even as he has transitioned to the pastorate full time. The only difference is, instead of reporting on the big winds and mighty earthquakes referenced in 1 Kings, he now listens for the still, small voice that is the Lord.
“There’s a story in the Bible about a guy named Joseph whose brothers threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery, and then he’s a prisoner,” Mosler said. “He didn’t quite understand why he was going through what he was going through, but it ultimately prepared him for this position that God had for him decades down the road as the second most powerful man on the planet.
“I feel like everything I’ve learned in television as a reporter, as a meteorologist and as a host, I think all of that has prepared me for where we are right now.”
It’s a fair bet there are few pastors whose training for the pulpit included meteorology, let alone achieving the kind of success and recognition Mosler did in his previous career. But as the fast-talking, bottomless pit of energy will tell you, there’s more alike in the two fields than one first imagines. Being face-to-face with the awesome power of nature will provide a reality check on just how smart and in-control humans really are, for instance — lessons equally apt concerning the Almighty.
“I use weather a lot in my speaking. There are a lot of things that are outside of your control. The weather’s going to do what the weather’s going to do,” he said. “Well, God’s going to do what God’s going to do. The key to Christian life to me is submission. Total submission.”
Born and raised in California, Mosler spent time living in Germany with his family before attending the University of Alabama. The connection to the deep South for the California kid was through his mother. (“As they say in Alabama, ‘All my mother’s people were from Mobile,’” he quipped). While there, he immersed himself in three things — the weather, a campus ministry group and getting on television.
“I wanted to be famous! I’m type A. I look like a little boy, I sound like a little girl. I didn’t have a whole lot of tools to attract women, man. I needed some outside force,” he said, laughing. “Seriously, I never really considered going into the ministry as a profession. I loved doing the TV thing, reporting and doing the weather.”
While in Alabama, Mosler accomplished his professional goal as well as another important element in his life’s overall mission. That came when he first set eyes on his future wife, Camille.
“I knew the first moment I saw her,” he said. “I went to church Sunday evening and afterwards, they had a college career gathering. She was standing on this staircase in this townhouse, and I was like, ‘Wow!’ It was like in the movie, The Godfather, and Michael sees Appolonia, and he gets hit by the thunderbolt. That was it; we had one date, and we knew that we were going to get married.”
Arriving in Arkansas, Mosler became a popular figure on Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV, building speaking appearances at churches on the side a part-time ministry that, at its peak, encompassed 150 engagements a year. And although God kept asking for his full-time attention — once, he said, “in a clear, tenor voice in the choir loft” — Mosler resisted.
He’d eventually move to NBC affiliate KARK, which embraced his side light ministry while putting him in front of the camera. He enjoyed it until the still, small voice became too loud to ignore.
“Eric Liddell, the Chariots of Fire guy, had a great quote, and I’m going to paraphrase this: ‘I know that God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast,’” Mosler said. “That was kind of the way I felt. In retrospect, I can see God had something for me 10, 20 years down the road that I never would have been able to do had I not taken this really stupid, crazy step of faith back then.
“When they say, ‘Whatever God feels,’ I think that’s God giving you passion, giving you vision. He gives you ideas. I don’t want to say I’m self-taught because I seek out a lot of people’s advice and instruction, and that helps me understand. I want to know why I believe what I believe and then, I think I’m a pretty good communicator of the truth.”
Still, Mosler had many of the same growing pains of any new clergy. Jumping in with New Life Church, he had fire and enthusiasm for Sunday to burn. It was the things most congregants don’t see about a life in ministry that took some getting used to.
“There’s a big difference between being a preacher and being a pastor,” he said. “I thought I was a pretty good preacher, what I’m doing when I’m speaking to an audience. The pastor side is totally different. Being a pastor, dude, that was hard.
“When I first got to New Life in 2014, I’m like, ‘When’s my day off?’ In television, I got two days off where I could go play golf. Being a pastor is a 24/7 thing, and there’s always something. You have to embrace that; it’s the honor bestowed upon us to help people through some of the highest and lowest moments of their lives. You can’t schedule those.”
Still, Mosler never shied away from the big challenges. When he’d developed to the point where New Life leadership was ready to put him in charge of his own congregation, they had a couple of locations in mind. Matt and Camille had other ideas.
“New Life Church had begun to think about opening other campuses, and they asked if I would consider being a campus pastor, which is the lead pastor at a location,” he said. “I said, ‘If you want me to be a campus pastor, I’d really like to go to Pine Bluff.’ They looked at me and went, ‘Ha, ha, ha…really?’”
Mosler was dead serious about the assignment, despite its steep challenges. Not only had poverty, addiction and various social problems eroded the once-proud community from within, but New Life would be competing in a crowded faith marketplace. In a recent study, Pine Bluff was listed the 16th most heavily-churched city in America, boasting between 300 and 400 houses of worship, many of them well-entrenched for generations within the city’s predominantly Black population.
In many minds, that made for a recipe for disaster; to Mosler, it was an incubator of grace.
“I think God wants His city back,” Mosler said. “There is a lot of power that is derived from keeping people in need. This community has been exploited for a long time, and it’s led to the malaise that’s here. These are people who God created with a purpose and a plan in mind, and it’s being warped. It’s being twisted, and they’re being robbed of the life that God created them to live.”
What started with 50 congregants each Sunday grew tenfold until COVID, from which it’s slowly building back. Mosler also launched an outreach ministry, Home Again, which purchases and renovates dilapidated residential properties. The homes are rented to qualifying families below market rate, with the opportunity to purchase the house at a discount in as little as three years.
“The two biggest problems in Pine Bluff right now are the dissolution of the family and the lack of hope,” Mosler said. “As somebody who’s got the spirit of God living in me, I want to go help them. If I truly believe what I believe, then it’s my job as a follower of Jesus Christ to fight for those who can’t fight, to free the oppressed.”
These days, Mosler feels the breeze under his feet, lifting his spirit and carrying him forward. Bit by bit, family by family, he’s seeing faith made manifest in the community, in the pew and in himself.
“When Jesus was starting his ministry back in the Gospels, the challenge was simple: Help the homeless, clothe the naked, feed the hungry,” he said. “That’s our job, to bring freedom to those who are in bondage. That’s why we’re here.”