Matt Redman: Relocating to the USA, recording a new album, writing with Beth

Wednesday 1st July 2009

Chris Mountford threw a batch of questions at praise and worship man MATT REDMAN

Matt Redman
Matt Redman

The news that one of Britain's most popular worship leaders and songwriters, Matt Redman, had relocated to the USA took many people by surprise. On the eve of Matt's appearance at Stoke-on-Trent's Adoration event, broadcaster Chris Mountford caught up with the busy songsmith and fired the songsmith a batch of questions.

Chris: You've moved, haven't you?

Matt: Yes, my wife Beth and all of our kids and myself have moved out to Atlanta and we're part of a church plant there. There are some guys who are planting a church together, Louie and Shelley Giglio. Louie has been been with Soul Survivor and different things in the UK - like the first Passion event there last June, at the Hammersmith Apollo. We've been working with Louie for nine or 10 years now and when we heard they were planting a church we felt we needed to go and be part of that. We'd been part of planting a church called The Point down in West Sussex a few years back and that's been wonderful in so many ways so it was really hard to leave. We've felt for a while that we'd be moving on again, to help plant something else, so when Louie told us about Passion City Church being planted in Atlanta we felt like we needed to go and be part of the team there. Chris Tomlin is part of it and some good friends, Nathan and Chris Nockels (Nathan has produced albums for Tim Hughes and myself and all the Passion albums). So it's a great team but it's a big challenge. There are five million people in Atlanta, there are a lot of great churches there already but we felt we wanted to get into the mix of what's happening there. It's been a massive change to be living in America. We're very English at heart. I still read The Times and watch as much BBC as I can. We're missing friends and we're missing so much about England. But we really felt that the verse 'Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you' was guiding us. We're trying to build the Kingdom and sometimes that means a big move. We're actually loving it. We have great friends there. The church is off to a wonderful start. You can check it out:

Chris: Tell me about the church launch.

Matt: We had an interesting start because Louie has been in that city for 10 years speaking a lot and running a weekly Bible study which had 3,000 people coming. So it's hard to start quietly in a corner. Even without us trying to it seems to have gathered a lot of interest and that's wonderful because we really want to impact the city and we're going to need to be a big church to do that. So we've started monthly meetings just to set down some markers, tell people who we want to be and what we're about. We had one on Sunday night and that was fantastic. Then in September we'll kind of get going a bit more publicly and consistently. Actually since last September there's been a small group of us meeting as a team to pray and worship and seek God together and get some vision. It's been Louie and Shelley and Chris, Nathan, Christy, Chris' band and myself and Beth and some of the Passion office's crew as well. So we're on the way. It's exciting.

Chris: We know about the Passion events and the amazing work they've done with students. But why the move to plant a church?

Matt: Well, I think Louie had it in his heart for a long time but it didn't feel like the right time and he was kind of doing things backwards. Usually you plant a church when you are 30 and maybe something grows out of that. He's kind of doing it the other way round: the movement's grown up and now he's turned 50 and it's time to plant a church. Usually people are talking about going global, we're talking about going local because it's already gone global, which is kind of funny. He got it on his heart to do it - he was born in Atlanta, grew up there, felt like that was the place. As soon as he started saying this is what I'm doing the team started gathering. A lot of us came from that movement from the last 10 years. Chris Tomlin is the worship leader there. We don't have a title yet but I guess he's the worship pastor and he said to Louie way back if you ever plant a church I'm in. So he was the first one to move over and then we came. It's been a crazy journey. Everyone is uprooting from all over the place. The great thing is we're really getting to build community. We've always been friends. I've toured with Louie and Chris, spent weeks with them on a tour bus. We know each other really well but there's something about living in each other's vicinity and seeing each other day in day out and building something together. It's a whole different thing. We're loving it. We try to keep strong links with the UK. Personally we miss a lot of things but Kingdom of God-wise it's amazing what's going on there. We've been back over twice already and we're coming for five weeks in the summer. That's the hard bit. We've got our Marks And Spencer's tea bags. . . It's been really cool. We've only been in our house nine months and we've had Martyn Smith come by, Peter Wilson from Hillsong London, Mike Pilavachi came down one day when he was in Nashville - drove down and said hi. We've been extremely blessed with friends and family coming over. It's been great."

Chris: It was obviously a massive step for your family.

Matt Redman: Relocating to the USA, recording a new album, writing with Beth

Matt: We've got four young kids now - we had a little boy born here in November. He's called Jackson. We own an American now - something we've always wanted to have. So we've got four kids and they are actually loving it. The church thing is exciting to them. But like I say, all the people we've had come to stay, Tim and Rachel Hughes came for four or five days and every month we've had some person they know really well from England so that's helped the transition massively.

Chris: It's intriguing that there's a number of worship leaders like Brenton Brown and Vicki Beeching who have moved from the UK to the US.

Matt: Yes, I know with Brenton, he has some health issues and it was definitely he needed to get to a different climate, him and his wife. From what I can recall that was definitely part of the thing. I'm not so sure with Vicky. For us, we'd had six months in America once before - a sabbatical and some recording combined into one and we felt like we'd probably never live here. But that's not really a smart way to be thinking is it with God? We didn't move here for music or for record company stuff or weather. We really did move here because of the Kingdom of God, wanting to build the church and be part of that. I don't even know how long we'll be here because we're wholeheartedly into this and we'll stay as long as we need to be here. But we've started to learn not to put timings on things. We were at Soul Survivor a while, then we were in Brighton at Newfrontiers and we planted a church with The Point in West Sussex, now we're here. That's not really my personality. I don't like changes that much. I'm kind of a homeboy. I don't even like travelling that much. It's funny. But it really feels like it's part of our DNA spiritually. I wouldn't be surprised if we plant something else in the future. I've no idea when, where or with whom, but definitely learned not to rule these things out.

Chris: I suppose, because of the fame of the Passion event, it wasn't hard for the new church to bring in a crowd.

Matt: In the UK when you plant a church part of the challenge is just gathering a crowd and gathering a team. That hasn't really been an issue here. We had 3,000 people show up the first week, but a lot of them are coming for the novelty and to check it out. Louie is very good at dispelling all of that and saying this is not an event, it's a church and everyone who comes here, you're going to be a contributor. Even after our meeting on Sunday night we had a "whoever is really full on up for this we'd love you to stay behind for a kind of informational meeting, give you a bit more of the plot of where we think we're going." So all that stuff's been great. I think there's a lot of people in Atlanta - forget even the unchurched and people who aren't Christians - I think there are a lot of people who would consider themselves followers of Christ who have lost connection to the local church. There seems to be tons of students just flowing around and perhaps they've not found anything to connect or perhaps they've not bothered or perhaps they've been hurt by the church. I don't know but I have a strong suspicion we're going to pick up a massive crowd from those kinds of people to begin with. Then again, I guess, we'll just have to see how we go because the challenge, like you say, is going to be discipleship and building community. And we have it - there are 30 of us meeting round our house every week, or every couple of weeks, for worship, prayer and all that and there's an amazing sense of community there and a real full-on sense of family and mission. The challenge is going to be what is happening in that little meeting in our house - to get that happening in that big setting. Another great thing is we have really great relationships with a lot of the other churches, because Louie has been here. [The pastor of] one of the biggest churches here, a guy called Andy Stanley, and Louie have been best friends since their youth group years and so they are kind of in partnership as well.

Chris: I understand you are working on a new album. Where are you in the recording process?

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