As the semester draws to a close, we reflect on the ways that God has worked in the past few months—trusting that He has accomplished great things in the hearts of the students as they have devoted themselves to the study of His Word. We have seen lives changed and strongholds broken as our students have drawn closer to the Lord. During this Christmas season, we would like to encourage you to reflect on the greatest gift ever given: the gift of salvation! From our CCBC family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas!
Featured Worship Leader/Songwriter: Matt Redman
Matt Redman, a worship leader from the UK, is well known for writing many of the worship songs that are sung in churches all around the world today, including: Heart of Worship, Blessed Be Your Name, and 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord). This past month, he was the keynote speaker at the Calvary Chapel Worship Leaders Conference, which was hosted on our campus. Our students attended the conference and were encouraged and inspired by the stories behind Matt’s music. In this month’s edition of CCBC Connect, we included some of his testimony and the stories behind his songs that have been encouraging us to draw closer to the Lord for years. The following is a transcript of his interview with Scott Cunningham, the worship pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and Director of the School of Worship:
“How did you develop a heart for songwriting?”
“When I was seven years old, my dad died and it was a real sudden thing. It was interesting because a month after he died, this worship team came from America to our church in England and I saw this expression of worship music that I had never seen before. There was something so inviting about it and appealing to me. I already loved worship music at that age, and I guess now, I would know that what I was seeing was dynamic for people drawing near to God through music, but it was like the most relevant music I’ve ever heard in the church before and I found it so fascinating! From that moment on, I was hooked with worship music and I started listening to a lot of it. When I was ten years old, I heard Luis Palau speak at a big soccer stadium in England and I gave my life to Christ that night. I heard about the Gospel in a very clear way. He spoke a lot about the Father heart of God and it all made sense for me.”
“Worship music and that salvation moment were very well timed for me because when I was in my teenage years, my mom had remarried and her new husband had abused me. It was a crazy, turbulent time for me and I didn’t know where to turn or what to do about it and all I could really do was pray. I found myself using the Psalms a lot, like Psalm 121: ‘I lift my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth’. I also found myself immersed in worship music, which was so helpful to me. It was like a healing balm. It was a stabilizing thing. It was a place I could go to when everything else was so painful and confusing. It was a place I could go to and things just made sense a bit more, and I felt held, and I felt known, and I felt like I don’t understand everything right now, but I do believe in God and I do believe He’s got me. The worship music was just like a lifeline for me, honestly, and that’s why I started writing songs—not because I wanted to bring them to a church service, but because I needed to write songs. I needed to do what the psalmist did and just pour my heart out and tell God how I felt and just draw near to Him. So, that’s really how songwriting started for me, just out of desperation, saying, ‘God, I need to talk to You.’ I had no inclination or ambition or anything to be a worship leader. In fact, the last thing I wanted to do was get up in front of people! However, I love songwriting, because when it goes right, it’s such a beautiful thing. You can literally see someone who is struggling with depression gain a whole new perspective and sense of hope. You can see someone getting a bigger view of God. But, as well as loving the result of what can happen, I kind of love the process, too. I love getting in a room with people and trying to find a fresh way to sing to God, whether it be musically or lyrically.”
“I remember the first time I ever heard Heart of Worship. I remember hearing that and my heart being really moved. There was something so simple, and honest, and right, and true about it. What is the story behind that song?”
“We had planted a church called Soul Survivor; Mike Pilavachi was the pastor and I was the worship leader. After a little while, he felt like we had gone off track a bit when it came to our worship music. He was like, ‘We’ve just become consumerists about this! There’s something not quite right. There’s something that used to be happening that isn’t happening now’. So, he took a really bold step, and instead of trying to speak into that gently, he said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to take the sound system down, we’re going to have no instruments, and we’re going to show up for a while with our voices, our Bibles, and our hearts, and gently, we can still worship God like that.’ So, I was like, ‘Am I fired?’ I kind of joked about it, but in a way, there was a painful side to it, like what is my place in all this? Is it sort of my fault that we’ve gone off track?”
“Pastor Mike said, ‘When you come through the door of the church building on a Sunday morning, be consciously thinking, what am I bringing as my offering today? You are going to get a lot out of this, but don’t come as a consumer. Come with an attitude of gratefulness and enter His courts with thanksgiving!’ So, we did exactly that. It was weird and a bit awkward to begin with, but not for long. Soon, it became just a beautiful time of worship. So, I wrote Heart of Worship and it’s just a literal description of what happened during that time.”
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’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart
I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus
“When I wrote that, I didn’t think it was a church song. I just thought it was my own personal reflection; I wasn’t ever going to lead that song, honestly. Then, Pastor Mike said, ‘Man, you should lead it once. It would be nice now, at the moment.’ Then, people really responded to it, so we did it again! And the crazy thing to me, was then this song started flying around the place—nothing to do with the song, but just because that’s the message that the Holy Spirit was speaking to so much of the church: let’s remember who this is about and what this is about, and let’s get back to the heart of worship; let’s get back to making this all about Jesus.”
“Do you have any encouragement for the everyday, average, in-the-trenches worship leader?”
“There’s a guy named Francois Fenelon; he was a few hundred years ago, a spiritual advisor to a King Louis of France. He had this great quote: ‘Make yourself little in the depths of your heart.’ I love that idea. That’s a great motto for a worship leader, because when you walk on a stage or you’re up front, it’s all the more important that you stay humble, that you realize who you are and who you’re not, that you realize who He is, and that what you’re called to is an entrustment that you’re carrying for Him; it’s not something that you own, it’s part of your identity.”
“There’s an important hymn; it’s just one verse long. Charles Wesley, on his deathbed at age 81, said this: ‘In age and feebleness extreme, who shall a helpless worm redeem? Jesus, my only hope Thou art, the strength of my failing flesh and heart: O could I catch one smile from Thee, and drop into eternity!’ Can you hear his unshakeable hope in those lyrics? There he is on his deathbed… He’s written thousands of songs and he just can’t stop singing; he can’t stop writing these songs of worship! Do you have unshakeable hope in Jesus? Do you want to write songs that speak of hope, that speak of a passion for Christ, and that speak the truth of Christ to a broken world?”
“God’s song always has to be glorious! It says in Psalm 66:2, ‘Make His praise glorious.’ That sense of glory and awe and wonder; that has to be in the mix. God is not like us; He’s completely off the charts and beyond our comprehension! That makes grace all the more amazing, doesn’t it? How can it be that someone so high and holy as Him wants anything to do with us, and draws near to us, and paid a great price to bring us home to Himself? There’s a quote by a couple of guys named Olson and Grenz that says, ‘God is immanent within the human experience as the transcendent mystery that cannot be comprehended in spite of its absolute nearness.’ What they’re saying is this: if you draw near to God, but as you draw near, He gets smaller and tamer… you’re not as close to God as you think you are, because when you draw near to God, your sense of His holiness should increase; your sense of His grandeur should increase! You should realize even more how high and holy and majestic He is! If you say that you draw near to God and He becomes this tame, ordinary, domesticated God, you’re nowhere near Him! So, I think that when you bring the two together, it’s a beautiful thing. It says in Leviticus 9:24, ‘They shouted for joy and fell facedown’ . . . and that’s it! In Psalm 95:1, it says, ‘Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD’ and then it says in Psalm 95:6, ‘Come, let us bow down and worship.’ You have to have both in the mix; you have to have rejoicing and reverence. When you draw near to God, you should be crying, ‘Holy, holy, holy!’”
We are thankful for all God has done through Matt thus far, and we are excited to watch that work continue. Please join us in praying for Matt, his wife, and their five kids, as they are living in California on a sabbatical, that they would be refreshed. Pray that the Lord would continue to inspire Matt and give him songs of praise and that the future of his ministry would be blessed.
In this month’s Featured Student interview, student Edwin Lundh shares his personal testimony, including how he heard about CCBC all the way from Sweden! Watch this short video to learn how God is using CCBC to guide him to his next step.
We are thankful to the Lord for all that He has done in our students this semester. Looking at what is ahead, we rest in the truth that He will be faithful to finish what He has begun in each individual. With that in mind, please be praying for our graduates as they are considering what comes next after their time at CCBC. Many of them will be going into ministry, some will go into the secular workplace, and others will go on to further their educations. Our prayer is that they would continue to pursue the Lord’s heart for them as they seek to know His will for their lives.
Thank you for partnering with us in prayer! May you be blessed this Christmas season.