Conversation: Matthew Ward
During the heyday of the Jesus Movement, Annie Herring and her brother and sister, Matthew and Nellie Ward, formed The Second Chapter of Acts. The trioÕs ministry included 17 years of dynamic yet very personal concerts across the United States and overseas in the 1970s and Õ80s. Their best-selling albums became milestones for other Christian musicians to emulate.
Matthew continues his solo ministry and participates in a variety of media projects. While music remains a central force in his life, his identity as a husband, father and now grandfather are his priorities. He spoke recently with Associate Editor Scott Harrup.
tpe: Who makes up the Matthew Ward household today?
WARD: Deanne and I have three daughters. Our oldest, Megin, has married an Air Force pilot, and they just made us grandparents. TheyÕve named their son Elijah Matthew. I like his middle name a lot.
Morgan and Mattie are still at home. Their personalities are like night and day. Morgan is more of the social butterfly. Mattie is more into computers and MySpace and all that kind of stuff, which you have to watch out for as a parent. I finally got an account on there myself.
tpe: YouÕve been married 23 years. What is most meaningful about your marriage?
WARD: Beyond being in love, our relationship is a developing friendship. After 23 years we know about each otherÕs dirty laundry and where all the bones are buried. So some of the idealistic luster can wear off. But that friendship keeps growing. WeÕre partners, not just mates.
Marriage is hard work. You have to recognize your differences and address them. Deanne is a detail-oriented, get-it-on-the-calendar kind of person. IÕm more spontaneous. Sometimes we have to break out of our little ruts and shake things up a little.
tpe: What are some hurdles you have had to overcome?
WARD: It was hard for Deanne to connect with my family at first. That was kind of my fault, because I tended to keep the focus away from them. I wanted her to love me for me and not for who I was in some singing group.
Some of the ways I related to people were difficult. My parents died when I was young and I was raised by Annie and Buck. They were struggling to learn how to be parents, and I suffered the consequences of some of that. I was a son, brother and brother-in-law all at once.
IÕm the youngest of nine; DeanneÕs the oldest of two. So throw that together, and itÕs like oil and water. Those family dynamics probably took a decade for us to work out. But things are wonderful today.
IÕll tell you where we never had issues, and that was in raising our children. Deanne is an incredible parent, and weÕre seeing the fruit of that in our daughtersÕ lives.
tpe: You mentioned being raised by your sister and her husband during some of your most formative years. How did that influence you?
WARD: IÕve tried not to be too authoritarian. Buck was a Òbecause I said soÓ kind of parent. There was no pleading your case. DonÕt get me wrong; I made my share of mistakes as a kid in his home. But as a parent, IÕve tried to be more flexible. It takes balance.
There are times when your kids are about to do something that will really harm them, and you canÕt take time for an explanation. But I work hard to listen to my kids and give them solid answers when they need them.
IÕve also had to learn how to be assertive in the right way. At first, in marriage, I wouldnÕt deal with things. Having some relationship mentors over the years has helped enormously in how I relate to my family, how I relate to others in ministry and in business, and how I deal with confrontation as a follower of Christ. IÕve learned to ask, ÒWhat does Jesus have for me in this situation?Ó and pray about it before I go any further.
tpe: YouÕve recovered from cancer. Talk about going through that.
WARD: I remember sitting on pins and needles for 10 days waiting for the pathology results. I drove home from work, and Deanne came out to meet me. I could tell by her face the news wasnÕt good.
I went into a treatment program in Houston. ItÕs been about 11 years now that IÕve been cancer-free.
Some people react to cancer by trying to get all their ducks in a row and treat every moment as precious. My ducks were already in a row. I knew I was doing what God had called me to do.
IÕd watched my dad die of leukemia, and I had some preconceived notion of how I thought IÕd react. But it didnÕt play out that way. I was trying to reconcile my sense that God wanted to continue using me long-term and yet there was this chance I could die.
I came to the place where, like Job, I could say to God, ÒIÕm going to keep trusting You, even if You kill me.Ó I determined I would chase Him like a hunting dog. It didnÕt matter what happened. I wanted what God wanted for my life.
tpe: How does being a follower of Christ affect your family life?
WARD: Sin separates us from GodÕs presence. Jesus became the way for us to be reconciled to God. When it comes to marriage and parenting, I canÕt do it on my own. People who donÕt know Christ will say, ÒYou use Jesus as a crutch.Ó And I say, ÒAbsolutely, because IÕm a cripple.Ó
IÕve got an advocate with God, someone who cries out to Him on my behalf. Why wouldnÕt I want that as a father and as a husband? When questions of life come up, I donÕt have to stew in the midst of them. I can go to Christ and unload. I can learn from Him. I canÕt imagine living life without that, no matter what I was doing. Christ has to be at the center.
tpe: Your autobiography, My Second Chapter, was recently released by Waterbrook Press and chronicles GodÕs faithfulness in your life. How is your trust in Him continuing to be shaped?
WARD: ItÕs like the stone altars the Israelites would build to remember the things God had done for them and pass that on to their children. When I look back on things God has done in my life, I see them as those little piles of stones. It gives me faith to believe God will continue to be there for me in the future. IÕm not walking blind. IÕm going on a path shaped by divine history.
tpe: What are your dreams for your family?
WARD: First and foremost, I pray that if my daughters marry they will find the husbands God has for them. Men who will partner with them, believe in God with them, and face life in unity with them. MeginÕs husband loves the Lord and is absolutely goo-goo over her, so IÕm seeing that prayer begin to be answered.
tpe: Talk about your ministry today.
WARD: If you go to matthewward.com you can catch up on the day-to-day stuff and get more information about my book and music. IÕve been involved in a variety of projects — backup vocals for friends, voice-overs for Veggie Tales, stuff like that.
Deanne and I are excited about the pastors conferences where weÕve been ministering with David WilkersonÕs son, Gary. Gary and I have been friends for more than 20 years. We all just got back from Helsinki where something like 7,000 pastors from across Europe came together for renewal.
IÕve got a Christmas album coming out. I worked on it early this year, and Buck told me itÕs probably his favorite Christmas album of all time. That meant a lot to me.
E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.