Book Review: My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story by Matthew Ward

This is a review of My Second Chapter, the autobiographical book by Matthew Ward. The Matthew Ward story, My Second Chapter, was published by The Crown Publishing Group and WaterBrook Press in 2006 and is available on Kindle and Paperback. For many Matthew Ward will be known for his work as a singer, songwriter, and producer. Most notably, Matthew Ward and his sisters performed in the early Christian and ministry music group, 2nd Chapter of Acts, which Matthew reflects extensively on throughout this autobiographical narrative of his life.

By 1970, the large nine-member Ward family experienced a traumatic upheaval as both of their parents died within two years of each other from incurable diseases. Nelly and Matthew, still in school, moved to Los Angeles to live with their older sister Annie, and her husband, a musical promoter and producer named Buck Herring. Annie and Buck Herring had only been married for about two years when they had suddenly become caretakers and parents for Matthew and Annie. Buck and Annie had also become followers of Jesus, as many were at the height of the Jesus Revolution, and were involved in a Spirit-filled church that would eventually help to lead Matthew and Nelly to Jesus as well.

Mathew and Nelly also began to write and sing with Annie, their sister, and Buck knew there was something special about their harmonies and ability. They would eventually form a group that would become known as 2nd Chapter of Acts. It was not very long, until 2nd Chapter of Acts rose to notoriety throughout the 1970s, at the height of the formation of the Jesus People and Jesus Revolution Movement, while Matthew and Nelly were still in school. These three siblings frontline their group, which through the influence and friendship of Pat Boone and Barry McGuire, would become recognized at a large scale for their tight and intricate harmonies. In My Second Chapter, Matthew Ward shares stories of his upbringing, coming to faith, and the early days that led to the formation of their musician group.

They are often listed as a forerunner of Contemporary Christian Music, which at the time of the Jesus Revolution was often referred to just as Jesus Music. Soon after becoming recognized at a large scale, 2nd Chapter of Acts began to extensively tour throughout the United States, and eventually the world. Until they disbanded in the late 1980s, they would consistently tour except for two sabbatical years. Their first three albums were released by Myrrh Records, and their scene and God’s leading allowed 2nd Chapter of Acts to create a tight friendship with early Jesus Music pioneers such as Billy Ray Hearn, Phil Keaggy, Keith Green, the Resurrection Band, and many others. In My Second Chapter, Ward unpacks his friendship with Phil, Keith, and others in a transparent but compassionate view through his experiences. As a fan of this early Jesus Music, these stories were worth the read alone. One of my favorite stories involved a Christmas Tree, while Matthew Ward was living with Keith and Melody Green at Last Days Ministries.

I feel that it is important to share that My Second Chapter could have used significant influence, editing, and direction from a more professional editor and publishing company. There were times in this My Second Chapter by Mathew Ward, that it seemed scattered, and the narrative of Ward’s story jumped around a bit. At other moments, there was some verbiage that felt confusing to the congruence of the story, and even distracted from it. Without knowing for sure, I would assume that most of the approach to the writing and publishing of this book was self-edited and published. Despite the low-budget publishing, I believe any reader should be able to push past these inconsistencies and discover a beautiful read that conveys countless stories, truths, and unforgettable moments of Ward’s life, musical career, and faith journey.

In their early writing sessions, Matthew Ward shared that this is when he first began to understand the presence of God's Spirit.[1] Though they were new followers of Jesus, with little understanding of all they were experiencing, he shared at times that while they were singing "tears would stream down" his face, at other times he says, "I saw visions when we sang that way together.”[2] At other moments in those days, Matthew Ward points out that "The Spirit of the Lord would fall so heavily some days that we would stop and take stock of what the Lord was revealing.”[3] These sessions, moments of mere worship rather than just music creation, Ward says, "became wonderfully powerful to me because, for the first time, I saw the Lord as a living God who showed up as my heart was poured out before Him.”[4] Matthew Ward shares that in these pioneering days of the Jesus People movement, they "saw the faces of people who had been delivered from demonic oppression, people who had been healed from one kind of illness or another, many who had called upon the name of the Lord for freedom in different areas of life.”[5] He knew that God was doing something in that moment that Ward and his family, and their friends, could not fully understand.

The book begins with an introduction from Worship Musician Darlene Zschech. This introduction is followed by a short preface from Matthew Ward. In the preface, Ward shares that the stories that he shares are "meant to expose God...[who] hardly ever does a thing the way I think He will, and His ways are rarely my ways.'[6] In the first three chapters, Ward unpacks his earliest memories and stories of his upbringing. From Chapters 4 to 8, we begin to see the early days of the circumstances God used to call Matthew Ward to Jesus and Jesus' Church, but also to a new identity and sense of calling for ministry. From Chapters 8 to 12, we follow the band on the road, in the studio, and see glimpses of God at work in, with, and through the scene of early Jesus Music pioneers. Chapter 13, to the end (Chapter 18), follows Matthew Ward's life after 2nd Chapter of Acts, including his cancer journey and solo career. After 2nd Chapter of Acts, Matthew Ward became most known for his songs of worship and his collaboration with others. Additionally, in these last chapters, we get some important reflections and commentary on Matthew Ward as he looks back on his life and what he has learned as a Jesus follower.

Throughout the book, Matthew Ward shares transparently and vulnerably about his own story, but also his thoughts on what it means to be a follower of Jesus and a musician who is serious about following Jesus for ministry reasons. For some, these prophetic challenges might be alarming in his thoughts of what has become of worship and Jesus Music. I resonated with many and enjoyed hearing the way he has seen contrasts between now and the Jesus People Movement. In reference to being labeled a forefather of Contemporary Christian Music, Ward remarks in his days, "the term Jesus music was the accepted idiom....it wasn't until the Christian music industry started watering down the gospel to the point that many times it was impossible to tell Christian from secular music that a new descriptive term was needed (Contemporary Christian Music).”[7]

In his reflections throughout My Second Chapter, Matthew Ward shares that he believes that "music has the ability to do what no other form of art can do - grab people by the soul and shake them up.”[8] For this reason, those serious about being ministers of music should realize the call on their life and the sense of calling they must carry. Straightforwardly he shares that "if all you want to do is entertain, then the weight of responsibility is greatly reduced," but if you want to be part of something greater, if you want to see "God fall upon an audience," then that "requires a lot more form the individual takes the platform."[9] To musicians and the scene today, Ward proposes the question "Where's our heart?”[10]

Matthew Ward also laments in My Second Chapter, that "in the last ten years, the business of worship music has become such a huge money maker.”[11] He shares that he has found that though he likes a lot about modern music, the "songs that touch me the deepest, whether they are old hymns or new songs" are songs that have been forged through pain, spiritual search, and authenticity.[12] He has come to believe that in many modern worship songs that we are singing in the church today "there's something missing in them."[13] That thing that is missing is not a style, but a posture of worship, to which I would concur with Matthew Ward's reflections and prophetic challenge. He shares how the early Jesus movement years were songs written not only from pain, search, and authenticity but also for and from a sense of a collective family and community. These early songs were not individualistic like worship songs today.[14] They were about God’s honor, not our sense of blessing. During his time at a worship event in Europe, he began to realize that Western Evangelicism had developed an individualistic self-focus in our worship. Evangelicalism’s personalization of faith and relationship with Jesus in our churches led to a church, faith, and worship movement that was more after a personal Jesus who was interested mostly in our own fulfillment. As a result of our individualistic approach, Ward comments that "we gather on Sunday morning and find ourselves caught up in a slick, professional kind of experience" based on our wants and needs, fulfillment, and expectations.[15] In Europe, there were still more "we and us" in their songs and this reminded him of the approach of early worship, the sense of community and spiritual pilgrimage, and the sense of God-honoring worship.[16] Ward calls for us to discover deeper worship again, not songs of individualistic need for contentment and fulfillment.

I recommend My Second Chapter, the autobiographical book by Matthew Ward because it offers a captivating look into his life as a singer, songwriter, and producer. For many, they will particularly enjoy his experiences with the influential Christian music group, 2nd Chapter of Acts. For me, as someone who was a generation behind, but went on a similar spiritual sojourn and involvement through music as the Jesus People did, I appreciated Ward’s stories of his upbringing, his journey to faith, the formation of the group, and his interaction with other Jesus Music ministers and pioneers. Despite the need for better editing, the book conveys countless stories, truths, and unforgettable moments. Ward's reflections unpack a deep sense of calling and the need to prioritize a posture of worship over individual fulfillment. Overall, My Second Chapter by Matthew Ward serves as an enlightening and thought-provoking read for fans of early Jesus Music and anyone interested in the intersection of music and faith.

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Matthew Ward's Website

[1] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 950.

[2] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 950.

[3] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 950.

[4] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 950.

[5] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 1807.

[6] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 101.

[7] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 192.

[8] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 2615.

[9] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 2635-2636).

[10] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 2676.

[11] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 2712.

[12] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 2721.

[13] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 2724.

[14] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 2721-2748

[15] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 2765.

[16] Matthew Ward, My Second Chapter: The Matthew Ward Story (New York, NY: The Crown Publishing Group, 2006), Kindle, Location 2754.

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