MATT O’NEIL
CO-PASTOR / CO-FOUNDER

RESIDENT CONVERSATIONALIST / RENOVATED DREAM REALIZER / SUSHI-PHOBE / BLEEDING WILDCAT BLUE KENTUCKIAN

WHAT DOES A CO-PASTOR DO AT WATERSHED?
I co-lead with my good friend, Scott Hofert, in multiple areas of Watershed. We shoulder together the joy, responsibility, and struggle of dreaming, planning, preparing and co-leading this community. As a co-pastor, I also co-submit to his leadership. Scott’s one of the most amazing leaders I’ve known and one of the great values of Co-Leading has been the benefit of following and submitting to his leadership.

I SHARE MY LIFE WITH:
My wife Donna and our three kids, Jyoti, Sullivan, and Mezgana who arrived to us via Ethiopia in September of 2010.

When I look at my family, I have to pinch myself to be reminded I'm not dreaming. Before meeting Donna, I always thought life partners like her would never be within my reach. It's a beautiful thing to underestimate the grace of God. Donna and I have traveled the globe together, chased one dream after another, soared to heights we never expected, and experienced failure and brokenness in ways that have challenged and deepened us as a couple. Over a decade later...it just keeps getting better. I never, in a million years, could have dreamed up the adventurous story of our family formation over the past 16 years.

BACKSTORY:
For the better part of the first 3 decades of my life, I lived within an hour of the town where I was born. In Williamstown, Kentucky, population 4,000, there were no stop lights and life moved at a snail’s pace. In 1984, I graduated from high school and, in 1989 I graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in Mathematics and Secondary Education. In 1996, I graduated from Georgetown College with a M.A in Education. I was set to pour my life and soul into teaching and coaching for the next 25 years. However, in a collision sixteen years ago between reality and Jesus, everything I ever thought was true and real about life, love, faith, and purpose was turned inside out. Nothing has been the same ever since.

In Christ, I've experienced the death of a dream that was never worth dreaming. I've been given the love of a lifetime with a woman I do not deserve. I've lived and experienced cultures and life abroad with people I never imagined I would meet. I've experienced family being formed in ways that break through traditional ideals. And now, here in Charlotte, as a Co-Pastor of Watershed, I feel as though I have to run in order to keep pace with a team and community of people who are chasing after the vision to see a church, a city, and a world fully alive in Jesus. I love this community and its people.

MORE PLEASE:
Kentucky Basketball and long-distance running (more specifically half-marathons) is somewhat of an addiction. I ran in high school but thought those days were over till my body started revolting against my obsession with basketball. I try to run 4 or 5 half marathons a year and about 18 to 20 miles a week. But I rarely miss watching a Kentucky basketball game.

NO, BUT THANKS:
Reality TV and Sushi

POINT OF ORIGIN:
Williamstown, Kentucky & Lexington, Kentucky.

HOW I COLLIDED WITH WATERSHED:
Scott Hofert (co-pastor) and I have been friends since 1996. We met while working on-staff together for World Help (a non-profit organization) and we experienced shared leadership in India at an orphanage in the late 90s. Scott and I started dreaming about Watershed in 2003 in the basement of his Michigan home.

MY FAVORITE FACET OF THE ‘SHED:
ORGANIC MAGNETISM: At Watershed, the reason a person finds traction in the spiritual life is invariably because of someone they’ve met. The relational force of this community is breath-taking. A lot of people come and experience Watershed during our Sunday Gatherings on the weekend for a lot of reasons. If they decide to stay, it’s always because they have felt authentically engaged, loved, and cared for by another person here.

CURRENT LIFE LEARNING:
I’m learning that leading with decisiveness and compassion is essential in every area of my life. Unfortunately, uncertainty and self absorption constantly cloud both.

MY FAVORITE READS:
The Divine Conspiracy - Dallas Willard
God Word in Human Words – Kenton L. Sparks
How NOT to speak of God - Peter Rollins
A New Kind of Christianity – Brian McLaren
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff - Chris Moore

IF I HAD MY iPHONE ON A DESERT ISLAND:
My current favorite app is FatBooth. My kids love it.

TRIVIALITIES:
I once was given a free pass to millionare's row for the Kentucky Derby where I rubbed elbows with the likes of Woody Harrelson, Jessica Lange, Ivana Trump, Dennis Hopper, Pete Rose, and Susan Lucci.

BET YOU’D NEVER GUESS THAT…
I once was once cast for the lead role in an episode of the 80's hit show, Rescue 911. I play a really great near-death, bleeding profusely paralyzed guy.  Apparently my "groaning" is Hollywood noteworthy!

PREFERRED GRUB
My mom's southern fried chicken, my daughter’s strawberry short cake, and popcorn.

BEVERAGE OF CHOICE
A great cup of coffee first thing in the morning or a really cold bottle of beer after a long run.

PLACES YOU’LL FIND ME IN THE QUEEN CITY:
Freedom Park (running or watching my kids play soccer.)
Maharani Indian Cuisine (fave restaurant and date night location with my daughter.)
Just about any coffee shop on the south side of Uptown.

I LOVE CHARLOTTE BECAUSE:
Charlotte is a mosaic of people from all parts of the world. I love being in the middle of it’s energy and diversity. It's the only city in which I've ever lived where being an outsider is normal. In many ways, I feel like the culture of compassion and mercy that exists at Watershed mirrors this same dynamic.

OTHER WAYS I SERVE IN OUR WATERSHED COMMUNITY:
I’m the Pastor that champions the micro-communities at Watershed called Blocs. I also co-lead a Bloc called Relationality on Tuesday evenings. It's a collection of 15 people in various seasons of life and stages of their spiritual journey connecting relationally and exploring questions that are worth asking in this lifetime. I’ve also been a tutor with the Watershed Catapult at Byers Elementary since 2009.

MY HEART BEATS FASTER WHEN:
I love it when I’m part of the process when someone experiences the awakening of the dead parts of the heart, mind, soul, and life in ways they never anticipated. I love the conversations, the musings, the push-backs, the laughter, the angst, the uncertainty, and the epiphanic moments. It's messy, mysterious, and alive, and watching people wake up to the Jesus that longs to stir them from their sleep is what ultimately causes my heart to beat hard and fast.

I ASPIRE TO:
I aspire to nothingness, to have the courage and humility to empty myself of all that I am. To become weak in such a way that the void of myself is filled with whatever God desires to put in its place. Ironically I also aspire to be filled. As I am filled with a new life in Jesus, I aspire to be the sort of human being, leader, husband, father, friend, risk-taker, dreamer, and lover of life and persons that God ideally longs for me to become.