Hallels.com – Collective Worship Interview!

Matt Adler, a singer/songwriter, worship leader, and record producer in San Antonio, TX, has just released an album called ‘Collective Worship‘. 57 people from across the country participated, helping write and perform these songs. Brian Scoggin and Chris Huffman from Casting Crowns, Stu G from Delirious, and several other artists all joined together to create the project.

Matt has released multiple albums as a solo artist over the last decade. His 2020 release, ‘Collective Worship’, is a corporate, vertical worship album for the church. This album is a collection of polished studio songs and authentic, raw, live recordings of worshipers from across the region. His songs range from adoration to lament, joy to desperation, faithfulness to faithlessness, all within the context of both original music and reimaginings of old hymns.

Q: Thanks Matt for doing this interview with us.  Let’s start with yourself: tell us a little about yourself and your ministry.

Absolutely! My name is Matt Adler, I’m a singer/songwriter, worship leader, and producer from San Antonio, TX. I’ve been leading worship for 20 years now. That’s what happens – if you’re a kid a church that sorta plays guitar, they make you lead worship! I was discipled well when I became a staff worship leader at a church plant some years later and the Lord has consistently equipped me as a worship pastor. It’s been such a cool progression, to see God orchestrate life so I would gain experience in something – only to have the next step in my path use and build upon it.

I’ve been a singer/songwriter for years. But a few years back, God made it clear that I was supposed to lay down my singer-songwriter hat in favor of corporate worship music for the church. I didn’t know what it looked like at the time, but I was – and am – convicted that my call in this season is to write worship music for the collective. For worshipers across ages, races, genders, backgrounds, and denominations.

Q:  You have just released your new worship album, which involves 57 people helping out.  Who are some of these artists who were involved in the project?

I am absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer number of people that were willing to lend their time and talents to this project. Friends and worshipers from across the country assembled to lift high the name of Jesus. Brian Scoggin and Chris Huffman from Casting Crowns played on the record. Stu Garrard from Delirious, Rebekah Bichsel from Brad + Rebekah, Ben Vela from Abandon… gosh, I am humbled just thinking about it. Worship leaders from across TX also gathered at a really cool cabin-in-the-woods recording studio in the suburbs of San Antonio to record and film 4 live songs for the project. It was one of the most special and memorable experiences of my life!

Q:  In what capacities did these artists and worship leaders help out on the album?  Did all of you congregate together in one location or was the album recorded in many locations?  

The “collective” aspect of this project applied to all facets honestly – musicians, songwriters, singers, graphic designers, mastering engineers;  some parts were recorded at my studio in San Antonio, some were recorded remotely. Some of the graphics and lyric videos for the project were done remotely. The album was mastered in Tennessee. And as I mentioned earlier, the 4 live songs on the album were filmed and recorded at Stone Creek Sound in Helotes, TX with worshipers from across the state. I am a member of a worship leader roundtable that gathers across TX, and we assembled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to co-write one of the songs on this record with Jennie Lee Riddle. The logistics behind the project were definitely a little daunting, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way! The album sounds so very different – and definitely for the better – by having so many different voices contribute!

Q:  In your blog, you mentioned that there were many “thin spaces” between heaven and earth while this album was recorded.  What do you mean by that?

“Thin spaces” are those places where you feel the presence of God in a supernatural way. Perhaps in out in nature or in an old cathedral where countless worship songs have been sung, prayers have been prayed, and encounters with God have occurred. The Bible tells us that where two or more are gathered in His name, He is in their midst. When people gather collectively, bringing all manner of circumstances to the table and still choosing to praise Jesus together – to me, that feels like the closest to God we can get here on earth.

Q: On the record, you have included both hymns and original worship songs.  Why are hymns important for you?

I feel like it’s all part of the “collective” idea. There are songs that are just anointed, regardless of time or style. Regardless of generation or personal preference. My hope and prayer is that all people, from across generations, will sing songs to God together and encounter Him in a very real way.

Q:  When you were writing the original songs, what or who inspires you to create these songs of worship?

There is certainly a lot to unpack here! I had gone through a very dark, dry, desert season leading up to the writing and recording of Collective Worship. I had known for years that the next project was to be a corporate worship album for the church. But I didn’t know what it looked like, I didn’t have the songs. Within a week of moving back to my hometown of San Antonio, God woke me up in the middle of the night and gave me all the details – the album name, songs, the list of people who I was to reach out to to participate, the idea for the live event where we would film and record four songs…

Some of the songs on the album were written simply to minister to the heart of God and to declare truths. The first track, “Released”, is about freedom in Christ. That we do not have to be defined by who we once were, our anxieties, shame, and addictions, but that we are a new creation. “Holy Spirit of God” is a simple recognition of the beauty of being able to come freely before the throne of Grace and commune with God. It is a prayer for revival to stir in our own hearts, in the church, and in our communities. “What Love Did” is a modern worship song about Communion – our remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection as we take the Lord’s Supper.

Others were a little more emotionally based, and came out of the desert season I was coming out of. “Pray” is an acknowledgement of the truth that even in the midst of the valley, I can trust in God’s faithfulness and provision. I can expect the Spirit to cry out on my behalf in times where my words fail me. “You Are” is the last track on the record and pulls from Job and Lamentations. The verses declare truths – of God’s goodness and new mercies, and His ability to move unopposed. I mean…He’s God! My help comes from Him! Of course, right? But the pre-chorus and chorus are basically desperate pleas to the Spirit to convict me of those truths. To remind me in seasons of doubt where God’s voice feels far away. The bridge is just a corporate declaration that God is our refuge.

Q:  How do you wish these songs would impact the lives of your listeners?

My hope and prayer is that God would use these songs for His glory, to tell His story, and to bless people. I hope people sing these songs together, collectively, and have very real encounters with the Spirit. Whether one person, ten people, a hundred, or a thousand end up listening – I just hope God uses this project for His purposes, whatever they might be.
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