Matthew Ward: 2nd Chapter Of Acts and Pioneering CCM

Thursday 8th February 2007

Jesus music pioneer MATTHEW WARD speaks to Mike Rimmer.

Continued from page 1

Looking at how the industry is in the 21st century, how does it compare to when they were pioneering in the early '70s? "Well, people call us pioneers," he comments, "but I don't think you can know you're a pioneer at the time. I mean, you only look back and go, well yeah I guess we were. That's kind of how it was in a sense. We had no real preconceived idea of what we wanted to go out and do. We knew that the Lord had given us these songs and we just wanted to communicate them with people. We didn't know how to present them very well. We didn't know what we were doing. We just went out and did it. We didn't have a marketing team and we didn't have a management team. There was no Christian radio then so it was very much doing it because you wanted to do it, not because you could even really make a living at it. I think that was the heart of many of the bands in the early '70s. It was not necessarily to make a name for themselves but to go out and do what they felt God called them to do. I think that has shifted. There's been a paradigm in Christian music. Especially this new trend in worship music the last 10 years or so. It has become very popular. It's a big money-maker. I've seen some bands come on the scene that really have no business being out there, you know?"

He continues, "At one point in my autobiography I talk about music. It's called Musing On Music. I write about how just because somebody can do a thing doesn't necessarily mean they should. It's one thing to be an entertainer, it's another thing to be a minister. I think if you're going to go out and do music and try to minister to people, to me it's much more of a significant weight. I think there's an anointing that needs to come with that. If you're going to tickle people's ears that's one thing, but if you're going to try and minister God's truth in someone's life I think it takes a bit more sobriety."

In many ways I agree with Ward. Over the years that I have been travelling to America to interview bands, it seems that every year there are debut artists recording albums but with no clear spiritual direction. In depth questioning doesn't seem to reveal any deep motivation other than the desire to be in a band. I could name names where the latest preacher's kid is launching a band but modesty and the threat of legal action prevents me from doing so.

Ward agrees, "I think that's kind of what I'm getting at. I think a lot of times if you have the look and you have the sound that's all it takes, and it really doesn't matter where they're at spiritually or how deeply based they are spiritually. I've seen several groups that hit the road based on their ability to generate sales and income for a company. Not for any other reason really. And because of that they would crash and burn. They would get out there and start doing stuff and not realise they had an enemy that was trying to undo them. So they'd fall by the wayside. Pretty sad deal."

2nd Chapter Of Acts
2nd Chapter Of Acts

2nd Chapter Of Acts always had a reputation for ministry and their success spawned plenty of other vocal groups wanting to occupy the same musical territory. I talked to First Call who'd built a large following with their unique brand of pop harmonies and I suggested to them that if they put together a tour with 2nd Chapter Of Acts, it would be hugely popular. "Yeah it would be a lot of fun," agrees Ward "I just think that we're at such different places in our lives I just don't see that happening. I mean, I toyed with the idea last year actually. I was actually going to have my daughter Megin, she's 21 now, she was going to take Nellie's place and be the alto. She did great. I had her rehearse some tunes and stuff. She's actually really, really good. But, you know what? I decided that.I had to be the bad guy in the deal and say, 'We had a very clear word from the Lord to stop.' The Lord wasn't saying, 'Don't do it.' But I needed to hear the Lord say, 'Do it.' So in other words the absence of a 'No' wasn't good enough. I needed the presence of a 'Yes.' And I didn't have that. And so I said, 'Fine, I'm not doing it.'"

Ward's solo career has been interesting. In many ways the 2nd Chapter Of Acts period overshadows it and although he has made some good solo albums he has always been more popular when singing with his sisters. Does he feel that too? "Oh yeah," he assents. "I never thought that it would be anything but that. The first two or three solo albums I did when I was still travelling with my family. It wasn't like I started doing solo records because 2nd Chapter ended. I was doing it in the context of the group, which worked out great for me because I didn't have to hire another band and lights. I'd come out and I had an opening 15- or 20-minute set of my new stuff in the second half of the concert. So it exposed people [to me as a soloist]."

He continues, "It was so funny, people would come to the concerts going, 'Oh, 2nd Chapter Of Acts and Matthew Ward.' They had no idea. 'Who's this Matthew Ward guy?' I get that even to this day. People that know me for me never heard of the group!" He laughs. "That's happening now because I've been doing it for so long solo."

Ward's debut album should have been released when he was 18 years old in the mid-'70s but there was a delay. Even now talking about it, you can sense some of Ward's frustrations. "There were some issues. Actually in the beginning Michael Omartian was producing it. We had done a couple of tracks in the studio and he came to Buck and I and said, 'I just don't think Matt's ready to do a record.' I'm like, 'Okaaaay.' So I thought, fine, I'll wait. And I waited a couple of years. 'How about now?' Anyway he got busy doing Jermaine Jackson or whatever. I'm not going to say anything negative here. I could.but I'm not gonna! That is from my view. My view could be totally wrong. But I just decided, I've waited long enough and I said, 'Buck, let's do this. Let's finish this thing.' So he produced it and we just went in and did it. I'm glad we did it. It was a lot of fun."

Today, 'Towards Eternity' has stood the test of time and across the last 20 years Ward has delivered a number of solo albums. Matthew is blessed with what can only be described as a signature voice, instantly recognisable in any context. With such a voice, it would have been easy for him to take his talents into the mainstream. He admits, "Through the years I had several offers. To do everything from film to act in a movie. Maybe my view has been too narrow or something but for a lot of years I just really felt, and I still do feel this way, that God's gifted me with something. I don't have that many years on this planet and I just really want to invest what he's given me back into people. And I think the best, most valid, the weightiest way to use it is to proclaim who God is to people who may or may not believe in him. People who are disillusioned maybe in their faith. To try and speak into their lives and show them that there's a faithful God out there."

Matthew values the eternal value of his art but he's sung on three number one secular hit singles. He sang background vocals on Donna Summer's "She Works Hard For The Money", "Ironically produced by Michael Omartian," he observes. "I actually did a duet with her on that album too but it didn't get any radio play. They shot it down because they found out I was white. Even though I didn't sound white. Anyway," he sighs. "The other one was LeAnn Rimes on a song called 'Blue'. I sang backgrounds on that and on a tune with Steve Holy the country artist. He had a number one song a couple for years ago. 'Good Morning Beautiful'. I sang backgrounds on that."

In My Second Chapter, the singer describes the way in which 2nd Chapter Of Acts split up. Was he sad when they decided to stop working together? "Yeah it was difficult." He explains, "We would normally come together every year and pray about the next year coming up to see if we were supposed to still go on and do it or whatever. Then in '87 when we prayed about '88 we felt like that should be our last year. There were a lot of different factors involved in that. But I think to a fault we didn't tell anyone that was our last year. We didn't want it to look like a farewell tour. Come on, let's sell a lot of records! So we didn't publicise it at all. The last concert we did was in 1988 in the Houston Arena in Houston, Texas. We told them it was our last concert. A lot of people were upset with us for some time because we didn't tell them that it was our last year and they told us they would have come along. So looking back I think we should have handled it a little bit differently than we did."

As well as doing pop material with a strong Christian message, Matthew has also recorded material that stretches into the worship arena, most notably 1994's 'My Redeemer'. He says, "I never did one of the records to be a 'worship record' because if you listen to them, they're songs. They're not choruses. They're not congregational songs. But some of them have gotten some notoriety in that genre."

He elaborates, "When it comes to 'My Redeemer' I tell this story about one of my best friends. I played it for him when it was done. I'd just finished. We got it mixed and whatever. He listened to it and he goes, 'Man that's the best worship album that I've ever heard!' And it kind of offended me because that was becoming a real popular thing right at that time. I didn't want to be thought of as a guy who jumped ship because I was doing rock ballads and a lot more rock/edgy stuff and then this album is ike a complete departure. I didn't want people thinking that I just jumped ship to do that but it was something that God was really doing in my heart. I mean, I had a fight over my record label about doing this record to the point where I had to leave them because they wouldn't support it. They wouldn't do it. So my wife and I sold the house, that's how strong I felt about it. We paid for it ourselves. It was a totally independent record. We hired a radio tracker. We did it all. It did incredibly well. We had a couple of number ones off that CD."

Matthew continues, "But it offended me when he said, 'That's the best worship album I've ever heard!' I'm like, 'I was not trying to do a worship album.' And he goes, 'Well let me rephrase that. This CD allows me to worship God more than any other CD I've listened to.' And I said, 'Oh, so it's like a facilitator?' And he said, 'Yeah.' Because in my mind there weren't any worship songs on it, you know? I don't know, it was just a little burn in my saddle; personal issues back then. But that's one of my favourite records I've ever done. And the one after it called 'Even Now'. I really love that one too. It's awesome."

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Reader Comments

Posted by Richard Alan Edwards in Dahlonega, GA @ 22:58 on Apr 9 2017

Dear Christian friends, I want to just say Amen to all of your comments about 2nd Chapter of Acts. Their songs had an immense impact on me as well. Thanks to the Lord for his ministry through them. I am 63 and still listen to their music. However, I would love it if they could re-unite one more time in several locations across the country to minister to us again. Thank you.

Posted by Michael Burke in Bradenton, FL @ 15:06 on Aug 25 2013

Hey Mike,
Thanks for this wonderful interview with Matthew Ward. I gave my life to Jesus in the early 70's and I am so thankful to God for immersing me in the awesome music and revival that rushed through America during that time. God called me to music ministry during that time and we formed a CCM band "Living Free" who toured and recorded original Christian music throughout the 70's later to become "Image". In the 80's everyone went their separate ways to get "serious" about their careers. Disillusioned, disappointed and divorced I found myself on a very dark path all the while holding my two sons, Matthew and Daniel close to me. I knew God had called me to music ministry and I look back at all those years and how He was always there and never let me down. God is faithful!! Five years ago I rededicated my Life to Jesus and it is amazing what He has done. We released a new record "Winds of Time" in 2012 with some of the original members of the band and my sons played on some of the tracks. My wife and I are so excited about what God is going to do in the near future. 2nd Chapter of Acts and Matthew Ward were a huge part of the foundation God started in my life and I agree with Matthew that something big is on the horizon.

Posted by Rev. Tonny Marshall in Sacramento, California @ 03:23 on Sep 27 2011

My comment is to my brother Matthew Ward:

I was born again on July 11 1979, In NTC/RTC Naval Recruiting, San Diego California, and shortly afterwards, was exposed to your music, and that Anointed voice you have. Being a vocalist myself, I was just taken with how God used your voice, and amazing enough, he began to use my voice as well, as I dedicated my life to him, he used me to sing at the chapel on base, upon request by my pastor, and while serving on ships in the Navy. I was moved to tears when I first heard what the spirit did with Psalms 61 when you were with your sisters in concert Live. You sat down to the Piano and what I heard from that point on, was just amazing to me.
I wanted to share with you how your words touched my spirit in those days and Gods hand in your lyrics guided me through life and death conditions while serving my country.
You need to know that I praise God for you, and all that you were obedient to in the Service to our Lord, and I want to have the chance to write to you, and to one day meet you before God Calls either one of us home. I want nothing other than to meet my brother in the Lord to communicate with him and share with him my testimony. In the name of our Lord Jesus.
May God continue to bless you in your ministry.

Posted by Pat Winfield in Louisville KY @ 20:33 on Aug 26 2009

Listening to 1997 "My Redeemer" today.
2nd Chapter & your music played a big part in my Christian growth. I worked at a few of the concerts as a volunteer years ago.
Today just wanted to thank you for the 'gift' you have shared with us through the years. It is still blessing me today and lifting my spirit and worship. The value of music is sorely underestimated by many.
Thanks again to you and your family.

Posted by Jenny Wells in Eugene, OR @ 04:20 on Dec 7 2008

I learned of the 2nd chapter of Acts when I was about 13. I am 44 now. My best friend and I sang "Prince song" at school chapel - we were attending a private church school. Over the years my two sisters and I had a very similiar experience, only we were singing all of Annie Herring's music around the piano while I was playing! A lot of church members at the time did not appreciate the "tone" of the music, but looking back I see the songs as being right on target, in line with God's word. From Keith Green to Matthew Ward to Pam Mark Hall - I loved them all and so much of how I have grown as a Christian I can point to their teaching in their music. Larry Norman also. I am so glad God blessed us with Matthew, Annie and Nellie.

Posted by Jessy in So. Cal. @ 04:44 on Jul 19 2008

Matthew Ward is one of two of my favorite True Christian Artist. His voice is terrific! He stand so far above the numerous groups he was mentioning in "company collection" of "money makers" that are out there selling albums instead of truly trying to reach souls and Proclaim the Word of God. Thank you Mr. Ward for beign such a blessing to me and my life Sir. I look forward to more of your music!! Thank You Jesus for blessing your people with such a tremendous singer.

Posted by Angelina in OCALA, FL @ 03:38 on Feb 25 2008

I really was blessed by your interview with Matthew Ward. The LORD has led me recently back to my roots in Christian music in the past few years in the past few months has led me to brother Matt. Truly his words are so true for I am feeling so much of what he shared, about what has happened in the ministry of music... Matthew and his sisters truly were Worshippers of God.
Thank you for this interview.

Posted by Panayioti Gianaros in New York City @ 05:30 on Jul 29 2007

I grew up listening to Love Song, Phil Keaggy, and of course 2nd Chapter. It was amazing if someone told me when I was a teenager that one day I would go to the same church that Matthew Ward was attending. Well I just visited in 2001 and he gave his concert of a new album at that time. He gave all of us a free CD actually. And what impressed me is this man's meekness, gentleness, and attitude of worship of Jesus.

That was a highlight of my time in Colorado actually, even though I also attended an RC Sproul conference there.

When will any members of the 2nd Chapter of Acts come to present a program for us Christian culture starved New Yorkers??

Posted by Keith Mohr in Franklin, TN @ 06:41 on Feb 17 2007

Wonderful interview Mike. I met Matthew one time.. when I was in the group Harvest. I was in a recording studio in Lindale, TX.. Matthew was producing the Harvest record called "Mighty River." I walked into the control room and Matthew had his feet up on the recording console. He asked me who I was, and I told him I was working with Harvest.. He passed some wind and said.,. "I'll give you a year and you'll be gone".. and wouldnt you know it.. he was right. I called Matthew the "gassy prophet," because he called that one! Its good to hear he is doing well.

And yes.. I agree.. the Lord is calling His minstrels.. those who are commited to the call and dedicated to service. The age of christian idols is almost over. There is a new wind blowing.. Its called INTERDEPENDENCE.. This is where artists who are not signed to a record contract come together to serve one another and help one another in their music missions.

The work I am doing with is a part of this new movement. And it all started when I was in Lindale, TX back in 1991. God is moving! The industry as we know it is crumbling. The old stadium is being torn down and a new game is being played.

Watch the coming changes.. labels as we know them will not be the same in the next few years..

Reply by Patricia Wilson in Newberry, S.C. @ 03:48 on Jan 27 2009

Hey Keith,
Remember me, from the Harvest concerts and stuff? I just wanted to say hi and tell Cheryl hi for me too. Would love to hear from you.
patricia Wilson

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Posted by Verne Bullock in Brighton, Colorado @ 14:27 on Feb 11 2007

I became a christian thru the ministry of The Salt Company, in LA, in 1970. I met Annie, Buck, Nellie and Matthew one morning when a girl I had met at Hollywood Pres, invited me to go meet some friends of hers "waiting on God to do a music thing with them." Our drive into the Hollywood Hills ended at Annie and Buck Herrings home, where sitting around in their kitchen, we got to know each other a little...

What Matthew says is so right on...and I can't wait to see him again. I heard he lives in Colorado Springs, CO now, and we have a mutual acquaintence, It won't be long, and we will be face to face again...

The Lord is up to something, just like Matthew said. Two weeks ago, I attended the 70th birthday party for Don Williams, the pastor under whose ministry, The Salt Company began in Los Angeles. All of my friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, who came to know Jesus then, were together again, in the same building, and it was more than just a birthday party, I think and hope it was the birth of the next movement...finishing the work that was started in the 70's revival, calling the elect together again, and anointing us for service, on the streets, in the Starbucks coffee shops of the world, surrendering ourselves to Christ, letting Him do His work.

For by Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, to Him be Glory forever...

Thanks for the article....come to Colorado and let me give you some more information Mike...I'd love to talk to you...Verne

Reply by Angelina in OCALA, FL @ 04:06 on Feb 25 2008

Brother Verne,
Amen to your comment and brother Matts word that the Lord is doing something in his people.I to was Saved in the 70s have been experiencing the same draw back to my first love. And that God will finish what he started in the 70s. Like Matt said in the streets through His church.

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Reply by Traci in Brighton @ 19:19 on Mar 1 2007

I enjoyed reading your story. Wondering if you might be able to direct me in some way. My daughter (6 years old) is definately a child of God. She would like to become an active part of Christian Music and I am just not sure where to go with this. I told her I'd check on the intranet today ~ and that's when your story showed up.

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