Spend any time talking with minister/artist Matt Papa, and one thing becomes immediately apparent: He's clearly a man on a mission.
Eschewing the typical small talk that usually happens before a conversation really gets started, Papa wastes no time digging into the heart of the matter. As an artist who isn't interested in simply making music for music's sake, Papa writes songs that center around God's word and doesn't consider his job done until the lyrics have taken permanent residence in a listener's gray matter.
"If you can write a song that's full of God's word, and that song gets in someone's head, that's a powerful thing," Papa says. "I often don't remember a sermon I heard yesterday, let along a year ago. But with songs, there's a hook, and people remember it. So that's why I want to write about Scripture. I don't want to waste time."
Staying right on point, the call to live intentionally is a theme that resonates deeply through the songs of Papa's new Centricity Music release, Your Kingdom Come.
"The main thing that's been on my heart is missions and how I can inspire students to be the hands and feet of Christ and go to the places where people haven't even heard the name of Jesus," Papa shares. "I heard someone say once that it's easy to lift your hands before God in worship, but if you aren't reaching those hands out to the world, those hands lifted to God are worthless. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not against lifting our hands in worship. But we also must love this world with those same hands."
That idea of being flexible and available to do whatever God calls us to do-even if it's (gasp!) inconvenient-is what inspired the album's central thesis and first single, "Open Hands" that Papa co-wrote with fellow independent singer/songwriter James Tealy.
"You have to live before God with open hands. We may have our plans and ideas, but at any moment, Christians, unlike the world, have to be ready to drop anything and totally do something else if God is calling us to," Papa says. "It's a very strange life, yet it's exactly how Jesus wants our hands to be-open and available. We need to embrace the idea of anything He wants to change, anything He wants to take, it's Yours now."
In addition to issuing a challenge for himself and fellow Christians to continually leave a lasting impression of God's goodness and faithfulness wherever we are, Your Kingdom Come is also filled with several buoyant, unabashed declarations of praise on "Hallelujah, Our God Reigns," "Trinity" and "Here Am I, Send Me."
"With 'Here Am I, Send Me,' it was Isaiah who uttered those famous words after seeing The Lord, high and exalted," Papa says. "The Church has forgotten to pray those words for too long. It is wonderful and necessary to demonstrate acts of kindness, service and love, but those by themselves aren't enough. The world must hear the Gospel. They must hear the name of Jesus. And we, the Church, must surrender all we have and go tell them!"
But Papa's message isn't the only thing that's bold about his work. Like his previous albums, Papa continues to draw from a progressive palette of musical genres. Incorporating classical timbres, earthy Middle Eastern textures and moments that are straight up rock 'n' roll in the vein of Foo Fighters and Delirious, the tracks are rich, complex and beautifully showcase Papa's diversity as a musician, worship leader, singer and composer.
When asked who his biggest influence was making Your Kingdom Come, however, Papa doesn't namedrop a bunch of his favorite bands. Instead, he credits his bride, Lauren.
"My recent marriage was a huge part of this album," Papa shares. "My wife has always had a big heart for missions, and for me, this album has reflected my personal journey of surrender. It's not about me traveling around, going from place to place and making a name for myself. I want God to use me for His kingdom, not me using God for my kingdom."
As Papa looks to his future in ministry, he acknowledges that his focus has shifted. In addition to playing his music, he's also starting seminary in the fall.
"I'm going to be taking it slow, but I'm so excited because it's something I've always wanted to do," Papa shares. "We [my wife and I] want to challenge and inspire students and be sending people to the nations. And whether it's through what I'm learning in class or through these new songs, we want to fuel The Great Commission."