Praise and worship songwriter Matt Redman talks Tearfund, the nature of worship and embarrassing waistcoats.
It seems that Tearfund supporters have a special place in their hearts for Matt Redman’s songs. Last year we asked supporters to write in with their favourite hymn or worship song. Two of the three most popular songs were Redman compositions (10,000 Reasons and Blessed be Your Name). Readers told moving stories of how his compositions had spoken to them at key moments in their lives.
It turns out that Matt has a soft spot for Tearfund (and our supporters) too. He has just finished a short tour, supported by us and Big Church Live (the same people who bring the annual Big Church Day Out festivals every summer).
He’s a busy guy, but I caught up with him backstage on the final night in Bath. We talked worship, justice and embarrassing waistcoats, while special guest Lucy Grimble belted out her set.
What’s your favourite song that you’ve written?
‘Can I have two? With 10,000 Reasons, there’s been a lot of momentum around that – a lot of stories have come back about it. But there’s a song I wrote a long time ago called The Father’s Song when my wife was pregnant with our first child Maisey – she’s 17 now. And it’s really about how God sings over us and how it initiates us singing over him.’
What would you say to the 15-year-old you?
‘I know what I’d say to the 19-year-old me: “Don’t wear that waistcoat on the album cover, because you’re going to regret that!” To the 15-year-old me, I’d say “just enjoy it!” I was so intent on having a good heart and the right motives that I wasn’t allowing myself to enjoy what he had given me to do. When God gives you something to do in life, quite often it’s going to be something you thrive on and enjoy doing.’
A lot of young Christians dream of leading worship. Does the world need more worship leaders?
‘I think journeying together through music as the people of God, is such an important part of how we respond to God. It’s there, right through the Bible; the Psalms are the hymnbook of Jesus. You get to the end of the Bible and they’re using music to worship God in heaven. Because of that, yes we need more worship leaders. But the important thing is to make sure that we’re more than just music leaders. The music is the easiest bit in some ways. Finding and leading songs that paint a big and accurate picture of who God is and line up with scripture; that’s the big challenge.’
How do these three words fit together: prayer, worship, action?
‘To me, prayer and worship belong together in so many ways. Then you have to complete the integrity of the things you’re saying and singing with your life. It’s an incomplete picture if you don’t add in action. Sometimes we think we get to know God through worship, or through leading worship, or through praying, which are all true, but the thing we underestimate is how well we get to know God through action. When you do something before God and with God, it’s one of the best ways of getting to know God.’
'What I love about Tearfund is this long legacy of working on God’s behalf, representing the heart of God.'Matt Redman
A related question: what does worship have to do with justice?
‘It seems to me that worship is about connecting with the heart of God and the heartbeat of God, so when you do that, you’re going to get his heart for the world too. You can’t say “I love God and I love connecting with God” and you don’t care about any of the things he cares about. So you could talk about the forgotten or the oppressed, the lonely or the refugee; when you start to connect with God, you start to learn that you care about those things too.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
‘I think the best piece of advice I was ever given was “Whatever you’re doing, do it 100 per cent.” So, if you’re songwriting, pour yourself into that moment. If you’re leading worship, pour yourself into that moment. If you’re with the kids in the back garden, pour yourself into that moment... maybe leave the phone inside! These days it’s easy to get distracted and not give anything or anyone your full attention.’
Your tour is being supported by Tearfund, what does Tearfund mean to you?
‘I’ve been aware of Tearfund for a long, long time and what I love is their longevity. Anyone can get into something for a short time. Sometimes these things fizzle out, and what I love about Tearfund is this long legacy of working on God’s behalf, representing the heart of God amongst the poor, the downtrodden and the forgotten. And that longevity counts for a lot.’