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Matt Redman: Living Out a 'Heart of Worship'

By Laura J. Bagby Producer I chatted with the British-born worship leader who is best known for songs "Blessed be Your Name," "The Heart of Worship," "Better is One Day," and "Once Again." When I sat down with Matt, he had just completed his book called Facedown. This August, Matt is slated to release another book on the topic of worship called Blessed be Your Name: Worshipping God on the Road Marked with Suffering (Regal Books).

LAURA J. BAGBY: Describe the connection between worship and revelation. What do you mean by that?

MATT REDMAN: Every authentic response in worship comes from revelation. Something happens on the inside and we express something on the outside. You don’t find any outside-in worship. That’s not how it works. It is always inside out. Jesus said, ‘Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks’. When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit illuminates Jesus, shows you that He is Lord, shows that He is Savior, convict s you of that in your heart. You see something. Then you commit your life to God. Conversion is a worshipful act. And then from that moment on, everything you see of God, everything that is revealed to you, everything you find in His Word, everything you realize when you gather with the believers, every time you take a walk under a night sky and gaze up at the stars above is revelation. It’s like fuel for the fire of worship. Sometimes I find if my prayer life is not good, it is because I have not been fueling the fire. It is so important to fuel the fire.

LAURA: In a lot of contemporary worship services, worship is singing good songs, but the heart isn’t there. If worship is inside out, why are we doing it from the outside in?

MATT: Sometimes it is so easy for songs to become old hat or we are just going through the motions. To be honest, I think that is something we need to watch out for. My pastor once did a really interesting thing where he actually said, ‘We just need to strip everything away to check where our hearts are in worship.’ He felt like we were going through emotions a little bit. So he took away the instruments. We didn’t have a sound system for a while. His point was that when you come through the door of a church, what you bring is your offering to God. We have already consumed so much. We’ve, in a sense, been absolutely flooded with the revelations of His grace and glory and His hand on our lives, and now it is time to be producers of worship -- not consumers -- but producers. Out of that whole time, I actually wrote a little song called ‘The Heart of Worship.’ It really described what happened:

When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come.
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless Your heart.
I will bring You more than a song. I am coming back to the heart of worship.

LAURA: Do you feel like you have come back to the ‘heart of worship’ since you wrote that song?

MATT: You have got to keep coming back. That’s the thing I find. It’s so important that we keep saying it’s all about Jesus. When we see the heights of who God is, everything in us wants to get as low as we can in response. He must increase; we must decrease. So often in our worship and in the church, we shrink God down. We make Him like He is one of us. You even hear songs that sound like they could be a normal love song or pop song. I know what people are trying to do. They are trying to be culturally relevant. But there is a bigger value in worship than cultural relevance – it’s the glory of God. Let’s write songs that paint a big picture of God. Let’s have worship services that immerse us in God’s splendor. Let’s not shrink God down. We are the ones who are going to do the shrinking.

LAURA: When you write songs, where do you get your personal revelations from?

MATT: Obviously, Scripture is the biggest place, but more often than not, hymnbooks as well. I love delving through some of the old hymns. I have been collecting hymnals from lots of different streams and ages of the church. I find them so illuminating, because so often, they are helping you get a fresh, new angle on an age-old theme. More often than not, though, a song for me comes from one line from the Bible. You will be reading Scripture, and you have probably seen that line loads of times before, and then it just jumps out at you. ‘Better is One Day’ is from Psalm 84. A song we do called ‘Let My Words be Few’ is from Ecclesiastes 5. We do a song called ‘Undignified.’ It is a celebration song. It comes from when King David said, ‘I will celebrate before the Lord and I will become even more undignified than this.’ We do a song called ‘What I Have Vowed,’ which is from Jonah when he says, ‘What I have vowed I will make good.’ And this ‘Facedown’ song, the word facedown is all over Scripture. My favorite verse, which sort of led to the song, is Leviticus 9:24. The people of God met with God. The fire of God fell. And then it says, ‘They shouted for joy and they fell facedown.’ I see something like that, and I think, There is a song in there. There is a Bible study in every song. Then you start reading through Scripture trying to find more about the theme. Before long, if something is really in your heart, then you pour it out.

LAURA: As a worship leader, people know you. It’s easy to go by what you know and do really good instrumentation. But it sounds like integrity in worship is what you are really after. How do you do that? Is it harder now that you are better known?

MATT: In one way, not really. I love to try to get into the flow of what God’s doing in a worship meeting. The times I love most feel like a dynamic, open-ended conversation, almost like a virtuous cycle in that God has revealed Himself to us and we are singing about the truth of this revelation, so we are responding to Him in worship. But as we do that, so often He inhabits our praise. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us. Before you know it, you are really sensing a strong sense of God. Also I love it when things don’t always originate from up front. I love it when someone speaks something out or prays something and they are leading you. That’s my favorite thing, actually. I can’t imagine in the early church that everything went through one person. It doesn’t feel right somehow. It doesn’t speak of family; it doesn’t speak of the people of God; it doesn’t speak of the Body. Obviously, it is good to have someone up front so that you can somehow all travel together, but the best worship leaders lead strongly enough so that people actually follow and travel together, but not so strongly that they themselves become the focus.

LAURA: There are a lot of different aspects of worship that you go into in your book Facedown. Could you talk about those beyond just singing?

MATT: There is a chapter called Worship with a Price. It just talks about trying to live out worship. The thing about songs is that they don’t often cost much to sing. Actually, there has to come a time when we worship with a price, when we put into action that living sacrifice. Obviously, one of the best examples of that is evangelism and mission. In the book of Heather Mercer [Prisoners of Hope], who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan, just someone like that who while she was in captivity was singing out worship, I love that. I just think, That’s it! Yeah! That’s a costly song. There is just that element of trust in the sovereignty of God, of trust in the father heart of God. Trust is a wonderful expression of worship.

LAURA: How do we see God as awesome when we have grown up in churches where we have seen Him as a friend?

MATT: I think the key is the Bible. That is what has made me want to paint a bigger picture of God, realizing that, wait, these songs that I am writing don’t quite match up to this great big God that I am finding in the Bible. In Psalm 66 it says, ‘Sing the glory of His name. Make His praise glorious.’ That’s what I want to do through songs.

LAURA: Do you have a theme of what you think God is calling you to?

MATT: Reverence, wonder, and mystery. It’s painting a bigger picture of God. It’s facedown worship. Look at the lives of so many of the disciples, those early apostles. So many died horrendous deaths, but they endured to the end because they had seen the big picture. They had lived alive in the power of the resurrection, they lived beneath the shadow of the cross, they lived in the power of the Holy Spirit that came at Pentecost, and they lived with a big view of God. In fact, it says that in Acts. It says that all the people were in awe of God. That has got to be a key. That is where I am going right now, trying to make His praise glorious, trying somehow visually, musically, lyrically to make people realize and recognize the otherness of God.

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