As we come to the close of the year, I asked prolific songwriter and worship leader Matt Redman about the current state of modern worship around the globe. Where are we at as a worship culture, what encouraging trends is he seeing, what concerns him, and what advice does he have for worship leaders as we steward our calling well? This episode is less of a training and more of an encouragement and exhortation from a wiser, older brother. Be encouraged and challenged!
We need to focus more on our character than our craft. – Tweet That!
The stage and the spotlight is a very disorienting place to be. – Tweet That!
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Unknown Speaker 00:11 Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the worship ministry training podcast. My name is Alex Enfiedjian, your host. This is a monthly podcast for worship leaders and worship team members. And we release one episode per month and try as much as we’re able to keep those topics to very practical, tangible things that you can take and implement immediately into your worship ministry to improve it. But this month, I had the opportunity to talk with Matt Redman. And instead of taking kind of like a nitty gritty, tangible, hands on worship leading topic with him, I thought it would be a better use of our time to get his overarching perspective on the global state of worship around the world. You know, Matt has been involved in kind of the global worship community for over two decades. So I asked Matt to share kind of his big picture view of where we’re at as a worship culture globally, some encouraging transgressing some concerns that he has, and just some pastoral, big brotherly advice to us local church worship leaders. So today’s episode is a little bit less tactical, and a little bit more of a big picture overview of where we’re at, and an encouragement to focus on the areas that he believes we need to focus on in order to steward this thing called corporate worship well into the future. And I’m looking forward to sharing those thoughts with you. But first, I want to tell you about our recommended product of the month it is Planning Center, one of our favorite products, Planning Center is the most robust, easy to use, highly effective tool that you could ever imagine, for planning and managing your worship services, your teams, your songs, and all of that. So it does so many things. So well, for such a cheap price. I just can’t recommend it enough. I use it every single day. It starts at $14 a month, and you can try it for free for 30 days. But if you don’t have something that you’re using to manage your services and your teams and your songs, you have to check out Planning Center, you can check it out at planning dot Center planning dot center. All right, well, that’s the recommended product of the month. Let’s get into my interview with Matt Redman.
Unknown Speaker 02:23 Hey, everybody, I am here with the one and only Matt redmon. Matt, thank you so much for being on the podcast. It is a pleasure. Awesome, Matt, God has really allowed you to be one of the pioneers of the modern worship movement. And because of the influential position that he’s given you, you’re able to travel all over this little world of ours leading worship in various contexts, teaching at worship conferences, writing with influential worship songwriting circles. And because I think because you’ve been steeped in this worship culture for two decades now, at a global level, I think you have some really unique big picture perspective on the current state of worship culture. So I would just love it if you could speak to us and all of the worship leaders listening today as sort of the older wiser brother, about what you see as the current state of worship across the globe, things like where we’re currently at, what are some of the positive trends you’re seeing? What are some worrisome things that you see? And where you’d like to see us moving in the future? Does that all sound good to you? That’s great. Thank you. Awesome. Cool. So let’s start here. Matt, what would your assessment be of where the church is at today in terms of worship, and worship culture, on a national level, or maybe even a global level? And how are things changing from maybe even the last 10 years ago?
Unknown Speaker 03:36 That’s a great question. And a big question. I mean, one of the things that springs to mind, is, if I look back over the last 20 years, I’ve seen so much musical development, like production, values and excellence, and people trying out different things in terms of progressive creativity and all that kind of thing. But I don’t know how much we’ve moved on in terms of the lyrics side of things. It feels like a lot of the gains we’ve made in terms of being culturally relevant with music in terms of bringing our best in that area. Look at the lyrics I think, I don’t think we’ve moved on much in that area. And actually, the tide of culture is moving every day towards irreverence rather than reverence. So it’s almost like to go work harder. You know, every time I speak to a pastor or teacher and ask them about this, some of them aggrieved. Some of them are just feeling a little bit disappointed, all different levels. But what they’re all saying is, we’ve got to do better with the lyrics, we’ve got to paint a bigger picture of God, we’ve got to get to grips with lots of the elements of his nature and character. It can’t just be songs about the cross, which is awesome. You have to have the cross in the center as it goes. But sometimes you look through a record or you look at a service and it’s basically songs about the cross and songs about how God’s close to you in hard times. And you know, mean Yeah, Sometimes that’s pretty much always on the table, and I’m pointing the finger at myself as much as anyone else. I just know we can do better in this area
Unknown Speaker 05:07 totally. So like a lack of lyrical depth maybe would be an assessment of the musical side of things. And I’m just curious to like, what would you say like, you know, you’re you’re all over the world at these worship events, like, what would you say the spiritual side of things are looking like? What’s your assessment of that? Is it? Are we deep? Are we hungry? Are we kind of complacent? Or has it become all about the show? Are people just hungry for the production? What? What’s your assessment of kind of the worship atmosphere or the worship culture right now,
Unknown Speaker 05:36 in mass to too hard to do a sweeping statement? One thing I love has come through the last decade and more is this worship and justice pursuit, which so much of the church now is reaching out to the community or reaching into areas of injustice, or helping the downtrodden or the broken or the forgotten, and they’re linking it with worship, nursing as worship, and I love that it’s almost like we’re singing, and then completing the territory of that. Singing. So I love all that stuff. Um, you know, I think one of the things just to always think about is this whole thing of, when you have a stage and you elevate people, and you’ve got big production happening, you’ve got, I still run everything through the lens of the kingdom of God. And it’s not good to over elevate people. It’s not good to paint a picture of people where people only see them doing what them do what they do best, another weak point. So it’s important if you’re on a stage, you remember, this is an old picture. And it’s important that if you’re off the stage, looking at people on stage, it’s the same thing. I think it’s one of the biggest things, especially in these days, all these massive big social media followings and accounts can be so easy just to show people your highlights reel. And that’s not going to help anyone and it’s not real, it’s not true. You know, Jesus was perfect, but the disciples weren’t, and no one has been sense. You know, and we’re all trying to live holy lives. But it’s really important. You know, the older I get, the more I realize, some of the areas are still need to grow in so much as a father as a husband, as a friend, you know, and ultimately, he is a worshiper. And I think that’s just one of the biggest things to me is no point getting good at production and, and doing all this stuff. And I’ve always bright shining lights, and also music, if we’re not working well in it. And I think it’s so important for the current leaders, and it’s so important for young people coming through to keep that whole pursuit of character, as the biggest goal, you know, one of the biggest goals in the mix, and it’s interesting, you can even walk through, I don’t know, sometimes it seemed much kindness in the mix. Let’s see a lot of productivity, you know, and people getting a lot done. And sometimes I think I’d rather get a little bit less done and have more kindness in the mix. So some of these things that we have to watch out for, in today’s world. You know, it’s really important that we run everything through the lens of being a Christian and through the lens of the gospel, there’s a great thing in Hebrews chapter 12, verse two, the message Version says it like this don’t become so well adjusted to your culture, that you fit into it without even thinking. You know, a stage is a very common thing and culture and elevating people and celebrating celebrity or giving people a high status is a very common thing and culture. But when it comes to church, we’ve got to make sure that we don’t become so well adjusted to how everyone else thinks that in the church, we do it that way without even thinking.
Unknown Speaker 08:33 Yeah, I love that. Because what you’re really saying, Man is that the external is such a huge focus, but you’re saying you need to focus on the internal the the inner life, the being a great husband green, being a great father or wife or whatever. And really like having that heart of worship, you know, pardon the pun, but really like, that’s truly worship is obedience, right? worship is honoring absolute. So I love that. I love you calling us back to that. So besides maybe some of the musical progress we’ve made, what are some other encouraging trends you’re seeing in the worship space as of today?
Unknown Speaker 09:07 That’s a really great question. Um, it’s a bit cheeky. But on my new record, it’s a bit cheeky to mention that probably, but, you know, I’ve really had a heart to reach out for some different streams, and particularly some of the kind of gospel music stream more African American kind of dominant stream, I’ve been around some leaders, and musicians and writers from that area and think, man, we don’t work or worship much together, but we should do because we’re better together. Hmm. You know, and there’s not a lot of ambiguity between some of these streams, but there’s not a lot of effort sometimes either as well. So there’s made a real concerted effort on this new glory song record, to lean into that a bit and right from the, from the songwriting through to the playing and the singing, and the whole thing, you know, but no gospel choir and the whole thing at the end as well just just thinking like, we’re better together. You know. And has been a really important thing. And my point of why I’m saying that is I think we’ve got a long way to go still. But when we get that right in the church is a beautiful thing. And I see, more and more some of the streams of the church are wouldn’t usually add a whole lot to do with each other. You know, it could be a real kind of high Anglican thing with a more Pentecostal stream, or whatever it is, when we start getting together for worship and permission. I think God’s smile is all over it, I think it’d be such a powerful thing. And I’m encouraged to see more and more of that happening.
Unknown Speaker 10:31 Let’s get some more you’re seeing more collaboration and less division. And even I have a feeling, you know, because I see, you know, your songwriting credits with some other spheres of people that maybe theologically aren’t in like the same as you, but you guys put those differences aside, and you’re like, you know, what, like, we are on the same team. And this is about worshiping Jesus. So you’re seeing more elevation? Right?
Unknown Speaker 10:54 Yeah, I absolutely love that. And I think, you know, I get the privilege of getting in so many different streams at the church. You know, I mean, I can be something one day, which is all fast and free and flowing and loud. And the next day, you know, it’s kind of bells and smells and you know, rakata high church thing. And I’m comfortable in both, but I recognize both are part of the body of Christ. And I’m pretty sure Christ sees it that way, too. Yeah. And so we have to celebrate that. And rather than just focus on areas we don’t agree on, why don’t we try and find some common ground and create some beautiful music for God. And, you know, I’ve been to a lot of streams where I don’t subscribe to everything they believe. But I cease, you know, some of the core things we’ve got in common. And actually, I’ve got a lot to learn, you know, that that’s where you learn when you’re around people are different from you. I mean, putting that in a songwriting context, some of them less exciting and less fruitful songwriting terms of how to when I’m in a room with someone who’s exactly like me, they grew up in the same space, I did learn to think the same way I did approach, songwriting the same way I do. Sometimes the very best things are when you’re with someone is very different to you, different approach, and grew up in a different environment, learn to think differently about the creative process. So again, back to this record, Tasha Cobbs, Leonard, we had a couple of days together songwriting with a couple other folk and I don’t know, it felt like God was smiling on that time for sure. But I just loved it, she was coming at things were very different way when that I wouldn’t see things differently. And I felt like I was learning so much, and we were sharpening each other.
Unknown Speaker 12:36 I love that collaboration. And it’s cool and encouraging to hear that you see churches and streams of people collaborating that haven’t normally but like you said, we still have room to grow in it, but at least it’s it’s starting to happen. Now, on the other end of the spectrum, are there any broad strokes, things that concern you about where we’re at, as a worship culture.
Unknown Speaker 12:58 I mean, I’ve probably mentioned a couple of them already. You know, one of the things is just making sure the fruits of the Spirit is in the mix. You know, it’s no point, doing great stuff, and being efficient and all this great thing, if you’re not being peaceful and patient, gentle, and kind, you know, loving, and joyful. And again, I point the finger at myself, you know, when I get into making a record, or when I get to leading worship with some big event can get a little stressful, you got to be efficient, the stuff that has to be done, but I want to be joyful in that moment. I want to be enjoying serving God, and worshiping and I want to be peace loving, you know, and want to be gentle and kind and, and being patient. And it’s so easy, isn’t it to get a little by some of these other things. Again, like the call to be a worship leader is a call to serve and not to be served. The problem is that in the world, if you get up on a stage, actually, you’re going to be served, you know. And there’s a fundamental difference because everything looks the same. I strap a guitar on just like that guy, did I plug into a sound system? like that guy? Did I get up on a stage like that guy did, but he might be doing it for himself. And he might be hoping people are gonna serve him but I’m doing it to serve. And I think it’s important like I said a stage or the spotlight can be such a disorientating place. And it’s really important that we be ruthless with our hearts. And just making sure we bring in the values of the kingdom into everything we do.
Unknown Speaker 14:36 Yeah, yeah. We don’t want to be screaming at our wife or screaming at someone backstage and then, okay, now I can get out and lead worship. That’s such a hypocrisy, right? She said,
Unknown Speaker 14:45 Donna, you know to live everything you sing. But so important, isn’t it to keep it on that? Yeah. So good. Thank
Unknown Speaker 14:53 you. This is like already super, super helpful. Where do you see that we’re headed next year. Do you kind of Have a guess? what’s around the corner for us as as a worship, global worship community? Like, where are we headed? I know, that’s a very abstract question. But do you have any idea? See,
Unknown Speaker 15:12 I mean, I don’t have a ton of ideas, but I know we’ve got to get more truth into the songs. You know, something doesn’t have to be complicated to be have a lot of content, you can have songs, which is simple, but not shallow. I love how great is I got that would be prime example. It’s nothing complicated about that song. But it’s got some lovely resonating truths in the verses that you get to respond to in the chorus. And why I think we’re probably going to head into that area, because I’ll just hear so many pastors who are highlighting that so come on, bit more depth here, please. You know, so it’s got to happen. And, you know, it’s not an easy thing to do. But sometimes, I reckon if we worked as hard on the lyrics as we do on the music and the sounds, we’d probably be a bit further on. Yeah, I reckon is heading in that direction?
Unknown Speaker 16:02 Yeah. And speaking about the sounds, you know, like, I’m curious, you know, you’ve led all over the world, do you feel like the American Western form of worship music is being exported, and adopted by other cultures and countries because of like, things like tracks and stems instead of those places kind of embracing their own indigenous sound? Or do you feel like churches are doing a good job of really producing a natural sound that comes out of and resonates out of the body? Well, I
Unknown Speaker 16:29 think, you know, the world has changed, and culture spreads so quickly, these days in youth culture, you can show up in a back street in Mumbai, India, or a township in South Africa, or United Arab Emirates. And you’ll see American culture is shaping so much, you know, it’s shaping fashion is shaping music. So it’s not going to be any different with worship music, you know, I, I definitely get the point of not inflicting as style on indigenous cultures, and then come up with their own expression. But actually, the other reality is, that’s just not how the world works these days. But we’ve got to celebrate that as well, because it’s America’s the biggest missionary sending nation. America is a nation which resources so much of the church around the world who couldn’t afford to resource themselves. And I love that, you know, I kind of celebrate that. And I love these days with through YouTube, or social media or other forms of the worldwide web, whatever you want to call it these days, songs and content can travel so quickly, around the globe. It’s amazing. I love that. Yeah, we have to celebrate that and use that. Yeah, totally. We don’t want to all be one the same. I know he’s saying you don’t want everything to be big. Vanilla, everything sounds the same everywhere you go. Definitely not. I’m definitely not advocating that. I’m just saying, either. There is a part of it, where Western culture does seem to set the tempo for so many cultures when it comes to fashion. And music.
Unknown Speaker 17:59 Yeah, and I do love that your new album does bring sort of a fresh sound to kind of the I don’t want to call it generic or vanilla. But you know, this modern worship sound has a certain style and sound but I love that your newest album glory song is really pushing that in a new direction and and infusing some like gospel Afro American roots to it. It’s really, really cool. And I’m excited to talk about that. Well, thanks. So So one, one huge question for you. What would you say the church needs most right now from worship leaders?
Unknown Speaker 18:32 Oh, man. Like, I mean, again, I think some of these questions they’re so hard to answer. There’s so many things you could say, yeah, I’ll do big, sweeping statements. I’m sorry. No, no, no, it’s not I’ll just say, you know, the main and plain stuff, you know, they need humility from us. They need us to care about people more than we care about music. They needed to be passed as the shepherds. You know, it’s this. I think it’s a good question. I wasn’t destiny a question. I’m just saying, I’m not qualified to answer it. But I feel like it’s really just always keeping the main and playing things inside. serving people. Being shepherds being pastors. Looking now on that current duration, making sure you love them, making sure you’re not just thinking about if your song went well, but you’re thinking about that person did that week. Well, you know,
Unknown Speaker 19:21 yeah, not so good. Cool. Well, let’s talk a little bit about your new album glory song. So what excites you about this album, Matt?
Unknown Speaker 19:28 I love that I got to work with an amazing team. I mean, people sometimes don’t see all the people behind the scenes on these things. If you include the big group vocals, there’s nearly 200 people on this record. But even without them, there’s a good 6070 people involved probably about 14 songwriters ton of musicians as singers and engineers, couple of producers Jeremy Griffis and Jeremy Edwardson are both amazing people. So many people, but I think the thing I love more than anything else About record, which I touched on earlier, was just some of the freshness that comes through some of the new relationships and the opening of the record as gospel choir. Bringing this awesome sound and the guests on that first track is Kara she yard is just an amazing, amazing vocalist with a great big heart for God. You get a gospel song, which is next with my friend governor be on it, rapping on it. And then pretty soon after that, you’ve got Tasha Cobbs, Leonard shown up. And I just love this this flow, and it’s got this gospel tone to it. We’re still very much me. And I hope these songs are going to help people see God and sing to God, how are they going to be helpful for leading worship?
Unknown Speaker 20:42 What are two or three of the songs that you think worship leaders will really find congregationally friendly that they should be thinking about adding to their setlist?
Unknown Speaker 20:51 I definitely can’t answer that question. All glory the album starts with the aim of that was to be like a call to worship might be good service opener, but only you can tell me that. I really like gospel broke. Okay, cool. Yeah, I like the happiness of that. Yeah, you know, it’s kinda nice to have some joy in the mix, right? The gospel song gracefully broken. We’ve been leading a lot and seeing people respond to you one day when we will get to heaven, really landed powerfully in some moments, singing about all the hope that’s on the horizon. And seeing Jesus face to face one day, no more tears, no more troubles. No more temptation, no more depression, no more cancer, none of those things which plague us in this day and age, you know, one day all that’s going to fade away and it’s going to be far outweighed by the glory, it’s going to be revealed. So I’ve loved seeing that over people.
Unknown Speaker 21:41 Cool. Anything else? You want to add about glory song? I don’t? I don’t think so. Okay, cool. We’ll put the links in the show notes. People can definitely go get it. Right now. It’s out. So, man, Matt, thank you so much for your time. Do you have any final encouragement for our worship leaders listening around the globe?
Unknown Speaker 21:58 Yeah, I think I would say just, God loves team. So easy in life to just think I’ll do all my own. I’ll be a lone ranger. I don’t think creativity usually thrives on that. And also the kingdom of God isn’t really designed to work like that. So try and build songwriting, partnerships, build amazing teams, least little environments where you can sharpen each other and your gifting and your calling and your skills and your gifts. And make sure you reach out. Some people aren’t exactly like you. Sometimes when you get a room with everyone the same, that can can hinder the ongoing creativity. Maybe go across the street to another church, you never been in or go and hunt down some stream with a church you’ve never been anywhere near and you know, they’re solid, and maybe build some bridges and some relationship and see what comes out creatively.
Unknown Speaker 22:48 Amen. That’s awesome. Thank you, Matt. I’m gonna put all the links in the show notes for your website, Matt Raven, calm and your social media stuff and people. Thanks, man. Yeah. And we’ll obviously link all your albums, but especially the new album glory songs. Oh, man, thank you for your time today. And God bless you as you can do, man, you made it easy. Thanks. Awesome.
Unknown Speaker 23:12 Well, I hope you were encouraged and challenged by some of the things that Matt said in this month’s episode. I know I was, let’s be sure as worship leaders to keep the heart pure, and to keep the heart of worship at the center of what we do, amen. Be sure to check out Matt’s new album glory song, you can find the links in the show notes. Also check out our sponsor for this episode Planning Center at planning dot center. Again, plans are just 14 bucks a month, but you can try it for free for 30 days. Also, if you don’t mind writing us a review on iTunes. It helps us so much. Keeping this podcast in front of other people searching for worship related podcasts. So just go to worship ministry training, comm slash review and it’ll show you how to leave us a review or if you think you can figure it out on your own. Dig into the iTunes podcast app and leave us a five star review. We would love that. So thank you guys for doing that for us. God bless you guys and I will see you in a month with another helpful episode on January 1 2018.