Improbable Friendships with Matt Russell, Locke Innovative Leader Award Winner


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Co-hosts Lisa Greenwood and Casper ter Kuile talk with Dr. Matt Russell, 2021 Locke Innovative Leader Award Winner, about what he calls the “improbable friendships'' that have enriched his life and influenced the direction of his ministry. From these improbable friendships emerged projectCURATE, a non-profit educational and social enterprise incubator that seeks to build bridges across cultural, economic, religious, and racial divides, and Iconoclast Artists, a creative writing and arts program that gives young creative minds a chance to speak through written, visual, and performance art. The two organizations are making a big difference in the city of Houston and beyond.

Matt serves as Executive Pastor at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. He shares how innovation is not a formula to replicate but a faithful response to relationships based in trust and mutuality where the Spirit can work. “How can I be faithful to this moment?” is a question he asks often. Hearing Matt describe his answers to that question throughout his ministry journey is inspiring and may well lead you to discern your next faithful step or the next improbable friendship you are being invited to cultivate.


  • “I think faith early on has always been a verb for me.” -Matt Russell [06:40]
  • “All improbable friendships move at the pace of guidance. It’s not an agenda. It’s a guidance of relationship that are moving together.” -Matt Russell [21:27]


  • [00:00] Intro
  • [00:52] Meet Matt Russell
  • [03:26] Significant encounters that have shaped Matt
  • [07:01] How Project Curate came to be
  • [15:06] Improbable friendships & what draws him to those relationships
  • [20:17] How he navigates resistance
  • [23:34] How he knows what’s working
  • [30:30] Working with the pressure of the institution of the church
  • [34:54] Three rapid fire questions
  • [39:36] A blessing
  • [40:46] Outro


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For information about our co-host Casper ter Kuile, visit his website: and check out the work of Sacred Design Lab at

For information about Project Curate, visit their website: or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter: @projectcurate

For more information about Iconoclast Artists, visit their website: or follow them on Instagram or Facebook @iconoclastartists

Find and follow Matt Russell on Facebook @matthew.russell.1048, Instagram @mhrussell1, and Twitter @Dudeabides67

This season features Wesleyan Investive’s 2021 Tom Locke Innovative Award winners. The award honors spiritual entrepreneurs who have envisioned a broader mission field and have taken risks to make their God-sized dreams a reality. For more information about the award and the recipients, visit

“God Has Work for Us To Do” music and lyrics by Mark Miller. Visit Mark’s website at or find him on YouTube at

This podcast is brought to you by the Leadership Ministry team at TMF and Wesleyan Investive. Leadership Ministry connects diverse, high capacity leaders in conversations and environments that create a network of courage, learning, and innovation in order to help the church lean into its God-appointed mission. For more information and to support Leadership Ministry, visit

39 episodes