Chris Yaw Interviews Matthew Smith: Recovering Denominational Roots Grows This Church

Taken with permission from


How does a church of 19 (mostly grandparents) get to nearly 150 in just a few years? Intentional Christian practice found at the heart of the Methodist tradition.

Matt Smith, co-founder of The Table at Central United Methodist Church says the growing congregation, that already has one 'plant' at a local coffee house, is all about helping people make sense of what God's doing in their lives.

In this interview, this prayerful pastor shares how God has worked to revitalize a community that was set to close its doors.


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Matthew Smith found the answer to building a new church, in some very old traditions. Here are my notes from the interview.

An Amazing Blend

While the Central Methodist congregation dwindled to just a handful, Matt's growing group around 'the table' (a hip metaphor for Wesleyan spiritual practices) was growing. Could the two merge? Yep, call it retraditioning at its best.

Burned and Bored

That's the demographic for Matt's church: those people who have an interest in a community centered around God, but are not nourished by traditions like their parents (or grandparents) may have been.

Spiritual Practices

A majority of attenders are involved in small groups based on the traditional Methodist 'class meeting' - which Matthew calls a table meeting. Participants answer: How is it with your soul? How have you done good? How have you done harm? What spiritual disciplines are getting you closer to God?

About Matthew Smith

Matt Smith is co-pastor of The Table at Central United Methodist Church in Sacramento, California.  Matt was ordained as an Elder in The United Methodist Church in 2011.  He was the first recipient of the Robert McAfee Brown Scholarship at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  He was awarded a Traveling Fellowship by the faculty of Union upon completing his MDiv in 2004. He is 1999 graduate of Drake University.

Central United Methodist Church began in 1850 as just the fourth church to form in Sacramento. The historic congregation had declined and was on the brink of closure in 2009 when a few young families began to imagine how God might be calling them to be church differently.  The Table at Central UMC was born as a few folks returned to the roots of their Wesleyan tradition by gathering in small groups, called Kitchen Tables, to watch over one another in love.  The Kitchen Tables provided a framework for people who'd been burned and bored by church to begin growing once more in faith.    The Table began worshipping at Central UMC in October of 2010.  Worship has grown to average over 130, with over half of the people gathering in weekly Kitchen Tables as well.  The Table began partnering in December with a local coffee house called Old Soul to offer Sunday evening gatherings, which combine the historical structure of Wesleyan class meetings with jazz.

Books Matthew Recommends

A Blueprint for Discipleship: Wesley's General Rules as a Guide for Christian Living

On the Mystery: Discerning Divinity in Process

Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz