Matt Maher Interview

Unity Comes Through Dialog Through Relationships

Matt Maher - April 2005
Matt Maher - April 2005. Kim Jones, Copyright 2005

Matt Maher is a contemporary worship leader in the Catholic faith. Since most people outside of the Catholic faith find “contemporary worship” and “Catholic” to be two things they would never associate as going together, I asked Matt to describe himself and what he does for me. Here is what he had to say …

“I’m a worship leader out of Mesa Arizona. Primarily, I work full time at a church. I’ve done some touring and traveling over the years, but I work 20 hours a week as a worship leader and 20 hours a week as a young adult minister. I lead a college Bible study. It’s a Catholic Church, which kind of surprises a lot of people.

"The joy that I really feel, as part of my ministry, is that I’ve been kind of going out more and traveling and working with different people breaking down those stereotypes because people have a lot of Catholic stereotypes. I’m just letting them know that there is a generation, now rising, of Catholics who recognize the gift of Salvation that’s been given to them and that see the need for a daily relationship with Jesus and pursue it. And pursue Him actively in His Word, and also pursue it in the Sacrament.

"Primarily, I think the way that God has been using me to reach out to people is through worship. I think there’s kind of a format that’s developed. I lead worship every week. I do a mass every Sunday night at 6 PM at my church, Saint Tims, and on Tuesday nights we do a thing called XLT.

"Basically what it is a gathering of high school and college students. It’s consistent with about 40 minutes of worship, 20 to 25 minutes of teaching and about 25 to 30 minutes of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It’s been really powerful to see that happen and to see these different elements kind of from post-modern culture and Christianity, not clashing, but colliding with something as ancient and ritualistic as the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. 

"And it’s been phenomenal to see the fruit come from that. I just got off the phone this morning and found out that I was asked this fall to Atlanta to the NCYC, which is the National Catholic Youth Conference. It’s the largest single Catholic youth conference in the world, or maybe it’s just North America. I mean, there’s World Youth Day, but a straight-up conference for high school students, I think this is the largest one in the world.

"We’re going to do an XLT worship night in an auditorium that seats 15000 people. It will be sometime in November or December. So I’m already excited. I’ve done a lot of work throughout the country with a ministry called Life Teen, which is a parish-based youth ministry program that’s designed to help provide and develop resources for youth ministers to reach their teens and lead them to Christ.

"I’ve mostly just done music with them. I’ve also worked with the Franciscan University of Steubenville at the summer youth conferences. I’ve led worship at a couple of those. So that’s kind of what I do. It’s kind of a big myriad or a smattering of things.

"What I’ve realized too is that the harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few. The reality is that because of the denominational barriers that exist, there are so few laborers in the Catholic Church. You know, I think it’s a move that God is doing. It’s not about me, it’s about unity and not just playing at unity by basically saying, “Well, we’ll let Catholics come here and hang out with us.”

"There’s a guy that I’ve been developing a friendship with whose name is J.D. Walt. He’s the Dean of Chapel at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky. He’s just a phenomenal preacher, a great man, a great husband and loving father. He and I have just been dialoguing and he said something really profound. He said that unity comes through dialog through relationships. I was like that is really true."​

"For me, growing up, I always had a cross section of friends from different ethnic or religious backgrounds. So the thing I’ve witnessed is that there has been a lot of misrepresentation out there. A lot of people have been poorly educated about Catholicism. They’re just taking what their pastor said when they were 10 or 11 or a teenager in high school and they give a quick track on 10 things to refute your Catholic students. I was never taught that, through all of my Christian upbringing.

"There’s this whole buzz-talk now about the “emerging church”. What is that look like? A friend of mine asked me that once and I said, “Well, it starts with candles and creative music!” (laughs) No, seriously, I’m only 30, so what do I know, but I think it starts with solid community, regardless of the denomination, and depth of teaching. It’s about re-presenting, which I think Catholics need to do a better job of, dogmas or doctrines, not as these set rules or laws, but as deeper expressions of God’s love, for God and God’s love for humankind.

"Not so much as alternate ways to God like a 12-step program. It’s not about that. It’s interesting that people could look at creation and see how God used that to worship Him, and yet look at a 14-year-old girl who said “yes” and could have gotten killed for being pregnant outside of marriage 2000 years ago, and not honor her. So I think it’s trying to find new ways to dialog with other Christians to re-present these ancient ideas that I see people stumble on or find out on their own.

"We have a history or a fascination with the ancient church and I think it’s our job as Catholics to … not to protect it … but for us to know about it and be in dialog with it. I always say that I feel like we’re like the spoiled, adopted kids of God. We have all of these toys and we don’t even know it.”