Matt Redman: how it all began - PART 2

Posted by Matt Redman / Craig Borlase on 10 June 2014

“There’s nothing unique about getting in a room and singing some songs - it happens all over the place every day, inside and out of church. But it’s the living, breathing, open-ended song that’s our USP. The people of God in the presence of God pouring out the praises of God: there’s nothing like it on the face of the earth.”

Points like this in the conversation are clear reminders of just how much Matt has invested of himself in worship. It was just the same back then, with Matt throwing himself into worship with typical rigour and integrity:

“I was 15 or 16 and I’d keep notes of what happened when I’d led worship: where we had been, how many people had been there, what happened. When the numbers started getting higher and higher and I started to be pleased to see them go up, I stopped it out of fear of getting prideful. But it shows that I was reflecting, learning from it.”

In his book ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that most experts in their fields - from athletes to artists - will have spent a considerable portion of their youth practising their craft. He puts the figure at around 10,000 hours: a little under three hours each day for a whole decade. It’s not to suggest that anyone who happens to notch up the time is guaranteed success or skill, but Gladwell’s point is that time there are no real substitutes for experience.

“I don’t think I’m an expert, but there’s something in the time thing that counts. In a more typical church you might get on the rota once a month, but at St Andrew’s we had multiple services, church plants and extra meetings. I’d lead on Sunday mornings and some evenings, then there would be mid-week meetings and Friday nights - so even from a young age I’d be leading four times a week. Then when I was 19 and employed by the church I could be leading up to 15 times each week. Now it would kill me and drive me nuts, but back then it was an amazing learning curve.”

Whether intended or not, Matt’s learning curve was set at just the right angle: not too steep to overwhelm or burn him out, but with enough challenge and opportunity to stretch and develop his unique talent and fill him - as well as many others - with a sense of purpose. What happened inside St Andrew’s was always supposed to make a difference outside of the church as well.

“It was such a 'sending' church - whether that was church planting, or international mission or whatever. That impacted me deeply. I loved the mix of local and global we saw every week. Here we were, in this little English village, and yet somehow were not only affecting the local community but reaching out around the globe as a family too.

But is there baggage from this part of his past that he has had to undo?

Yes. “For a long time I equated spontaneous with more spiritual. I thought that the quicker something landed on you the better it was.”

I consider suggesting that this might explain why Matt, on buying his first flat, only ever managed to master the use of one kitchen appliance: the instant popcorn machine. But Matt’s on a roll:

“It’s funny though, because ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ took months. It started fast but sounded too jovial. Then it became quiet and intimate but it had no guts. Then it ended up mid-paced and I learnt a lesson that having to fight for something doesn’t mean that it’s less spiritual.”

“For some there was a belief back then that you could plan a sermon on a napkin in the hours before a preach. But I’m glad to have learnt how to lead in that environment. After all, it’s harder to learn how to add in the spontaneous when you’ve grown up with structure.”

The fact that there is such little baggage left over from these early years speaks of the quality of community in which Matt grew. People were encouraging, supportive, willing to take risks together and hungry for more of God at every turn.

“If you stepped out you’d get feedback and it would be positive, even from people way older who probably didn’t like the style at all. They would encourage you to keep going, to keep doing the song, to keep writing. It’s amazing to be in that kind of environment, so great for growth.”

Such attitudes surely come from a place of real security, where instead of being threatened by the youth, older members are willing to hand over responsibility and power to those far younger, and less wise, than themselves.

“I often think about the leaders and their faithfulness and integrity. They never gave me cause to get disillusioned. They had experienced crazy, exciting stuff, travelled the world, but they remain faithful, normal, lovely people.”

With a background like that, perhaps it is clear why Matt’s story about Wimber and the CD wasn’t such a door-handle comment after all. Wimber may have been a guru to Matt, but St Andrew’s was family:

“I have a really strong sense of having been inputted into in as I grew up leading worship. There's the local people like Mike Pilavachi, Bishop David Pytches and Barry Kissell who were hugely influential. And then the music guys like Noel Richards, Graham Kendrick, Bryn Haworth who were also hugely generous with their time and wisdom. There are others I can mention too, but my point is that I always look back so gladly and gratefully on having had such brilliant men to look up to and learn from, and I'd love if in some small way I could be that for others. One of the things that fires me up is when I meet young musicians who are shaping culture with their gifts, working outside the walls of the church, and yet carry a huge heart also for the worshipping, singing church and have never lost connection to that. I get to do life with a few young guys like that, and I love seeing that dynamic in action.” 

For Matt, that collision between work 'outside the walls of the church' and the sung worship that goes on within our buildings found its voice in 27 Million - the single released with LZ7 in 2012 to raise funds and awareness for the fight against sex trafficking.

“Worshipping Jesus opens up your heart - and not only does it mean an increased zeal for the name and fame of God, it means you care more about His world too. A true worshipper cannot 'sleep on the job' or blissfully ignore the injustices and brokenness found around them. 

“The key is always using whatever is in your hands - to serve Christ and His purposes in this world.”

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