For Matt Redman, worship is about much more than simply writing or singing a song to God. It’s as much about breathing as it is about chords and lyrics. “As we know, worship is about the whole of life,” he shared. “I’m trying to ‘worship God in the details’ (and) making a conscious effort to point to Him and honor Him in some of the smallest details of everyday life. In fact, taking it a step further, I have a challenge for all those reading this who are up for honoring God in the craziest details of life. When you go into the public restrooms, wipe the toilet seat clean, even though it wasn’t you that made the mess. I dare you. It’s a great thing to do because you’ll have served someone, and greater still because only you and God will ever know that you did it. Personally, I think that’s cool, and it’s got to make God smile.”
Making God smile and taking worship beyond the walls of the church, has been one of the main themes in Redman’s life. “A little more seriously,” he said, “another side to this whole thing is worship and justice. For example, what’s the good in me getting up to lead worship at church, wearing a pair of sneakers that I know for a fact were manufactured through the exploitation of workers on a completely unfair wage somewhere in world? Again, we don’t want to get too legalistic, but the point is when we know for sure that a certain company is operating unjustly, we need to think twice about whether we support that company by buying their goods. I have some non-Christian neighbors that put me to shame in this whole area. Whether it’s caring for the environment through re-cycling, or boycotting various companies for ethical reasons, they’re really living it. How much more as someone wanting to honor God in all the details of life, should I be thinking about and doing these things?”
Since he was 15 years old, Redman has been responding to a call on his life to worship God in extraordinary ways. Early on, he started leading worship for his youth group in England and that ended up becoming an international ministry. “My youth leader at the time, Mike Pilavachi, asked me if I’d lead a few songs of worship. I don’t think he realized quite how bad I was,” explained Redman, “but that’s how I got started.” Redman and Pilavachi soon found themselves starting a youth camp that inspired a movement now known as Soul Survivor. “(It’s about) thousands of young people living all out for God, and in the process positively affecting the culture they live in,” said Redman. “In England, there are headlines every other day about how the Church is dying and will soon be dead. That’s why I love Soul Survivor. It shows signs of a vibrant, passionate Church.”
Redman, along with fellow Soul Survivor worship leader Tim Hughes, will soon be taking part in an unprecedented venture into the culture as Soul Survivor hosts something called ‘Soul In The City’. For ten days in August, approximately 15,000 young people will hit the streets of London and demonstrate the compassion of Christ to people who would normally never hear, or perhaps even listen to, the Gospel. “It feels like a really holistic expression of worship,” said Redman. “Yes, these young people will head into London singing their songs, but they’ll complete the integrity of their sung worship by ministering to the poor, reaching out to the broken, and being good news wherever they tread. That is a beautiful thing.”
More recently, Redman has also become actively involved with Louie Giglio’s “Passion” ministry to college students. Many in the States know Redman from his involvement with these Passion Conferences. ” I love how authentic ‘Passion’ is,” he said. “There’s a real lack of hype, and they’ve managed to keep free of the personality culture which invades so much of today’s society, even in the church. The ‘One Day’ gatherings have been very particularly powerful. No one got their names on the posters, and no one took a bow. They were faceless gatherings where every person had simply come to seek the face of God,” shared Redman. “There’s a greater expectancy, because no one’s waiting for their favorite worship leader to take the stage. Everyone single soul is just waiting to meet with God.”
It’s this sense of invisibility that Redman seems to crave in the act of leading worship on stage. In spite of the ‘star-quality’ that most attach to Christian artists, Redman longs to draw people to Jesus and then quietly fade into the background. “Sometimes when you get tens of thousands of people gathered together there can be a real tendency for hype to creep in. But at those ‘One Day’ gatherings, even in the most heightened celebration times, there was a real feeling of depth running underneath. In fact, every Passion event I’ve been to has had a real depth to it,” said Redman.
As Redman seeks to become a better worship leader, he pours himself into the pursuit of being a better worshipper. When he sits down to write a new song, Redman finds inspiration in Scripture. “When it comes to writing worship songs, you have to see something fresh before you can sing something new. Every song has to have a seed, a little explosive heart moment, which becomes the idea for a song. For me, most often these days that seed is a verse or two of scripture. So many of my songs have started off like that,” he explained.
As modern worship has slowly evolved into an industry, Redman has sometimes found it difficult to keep his focus on the right things. “It’s so important that we allow the Spirit of God and the Scriptures to continually remind us and educate as to what true worship is all about,” he warned. “Every time I write a song, or record an album, I need to continually check my heart’s motives. For example, writing worship songs used to be my ‘hobby’ and now I earn a living from it. So that makes for some pretty severe heart-checking.”
Speaking of this, Redman has been in the studio recently recording his new album, Facedown and the process has been a difficult one. “I love the idea of recording,” he said, “but actually the practicalities involved work-wise always seem like a bit of a sacrifice. Not just for me, but for my amazing and persevering wife Beth, my kids Maisey and Noah. When it comes to recording an album, they pay twice the price and have half the fun. So, if I’m being honest, making an album can be a pretty costly thing to do sometimes.”
Other than the time away from family involved in recording this new CD, Redman also faces other challenges. “Sometimes it can be hard to re-create in a studio the dynamic that occurs when we’re gathered together as the worshipping church.” To counteract this superficiality, Redman made the decision to record his new set songs completely live. “And I’m so delighted that we did,” said Redman. “We had around 350 songwriters packed into a room at Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta for a songwriting gathering run by Sixstep Records and Heartofworship.com (Redman’s website). All day long we studied songwriting, with the help of Charlie Hall, Chris Tomlin and others, and then each night I led worship and Louie Giglio spoke, and we recorded these times for the album,” he pointed out. The entire “FACEDOWN” album was actually recorded over a period of three separate evenings of worship. “On one night in particular,” related Redman, “There was an amazingly strong sense of the glory of God. That’s really what we were trying to communicate on this record. That ‘something’ happens when the church encounters God in worship, (it) doesn’t happen anywhere else on the face of the earth.”
Redman’s decision to call both his new album, and his new book release Facedown was inspired after a study of the scriptural posture of worship. “It struck me recently how much worship found in scripture is ‘Facedown’ and (this) is the ultimate physical posture to express reverence to God,” he said. “The point being that when we really face up to the glory of God, we find ourselves facedown in worship and submission.
“Worship is all-consuming, because God is all-deserving. So, we live our lives eager to breathe every breath, think every thought, and do every deed for the glory of God. Worship music is only one tiny piece of the pie, but it’s a really important piece. Singing is a sign of spiritual life, it’s a mark of healthy souls whose hearts are overflowing because they’ve seen the beauty of God.”