Matt Boswell has a Southern Baptist pedigree. He is the grandson of Southern Baptist missionaries and the son of a Southern Baptist pastor. It only makes sense, then, that he started leading worship in a Southern Baptist church when he was a teenager.
Growing up in the family he did, Boswell was always around the church, and he grew to love it. He picked up a guitar in high school, and before long, was combining his love for the church and music by leading the church in song. It was then that his knack for hymn writing started to develop, too.
His heart for ministry was broader than church music, though.
Starting when he was 17, Boswell said he “felt a burden for both church planting and church music.”
“So, for the last 25 years of my life, I’ve been reconciling those two loves,” he said. That reconciliation has led to Boswell being involved in multiple church plants, always in the role of worship leader.
Eventually, Boswell identified a deficiency in his early ministry: “In my early 20s, I realized I was doing something that I didn’t have a biblical or theological foundation for. If I was going to lead God’s people in his praise, I wanted to know him rightly.”
So he started his own theological education, reading books like Knowing God by J.I. Packer, Desiring God by John Piper, and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. He began studying at a Bible college online before transferring to Boyce College. Later, he got his master’s from Southern, and is currently finishing his Ph.D. in Christian worship and biblical spirituality.
“The reason I wanted to go to Southern was because of the professors that I wanted to learn from,” Boswell said. “And the reason I chose to go to Southern again was because of the professors I wanted to learn from.”
Boswell has been doing more than completing his doctorate recently. He is 14 months into his role as the senior pastor of The Trails Church in Prosper, Texas, north of Dallas. The Trails is a church plant out of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. Boswell had spent the previous seven years serving as the worship pastor there before going out with 63 others to plant The Trails.
The transition from leading the music each week to preaching has been something Boswell says he could not have done “had I not gone through my education at Southern Seminary.”
“If I was going to lead God’s people in his praise, I wanted to know him rightly.”
Even as Boswell adjusts to writing weekly sermons, he hasn’t stopped writing hymns. Boswell — who has written and co-written many modern hymns, including “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” and “His Mercy Is More” — writes regularly with friend Matt Papa. They recently released an album together.
His two loves for pastoral ministry and church music continue to drive his ministry. Boswell finds one source of inspiration for this pastor-hymn-writer model in Isaac Watts. “Watts created a category for this — someone who could be committed to pastoring a local church and writing hymns that the church could sing.”
The two tasks actually work together, according to Boswell. He calls hymn writing “an ongoing homiletical device. You’re setting your sermon to a song so that people can carry it with them.”
Needless to say, the theological lack that Boswell sensed in his early ministry has been sufficiently addressed. Now, as a new member of the Southern Seminary faculty, he is devoted to helping future music ministers and worship pastors avoid the same deficiency.
“I want to convince music ministers and pastors of the need to go to the Word to build our worship practices,” Boswell said. “If not, we’re just swayed by every wind, jumping from one thing to another. The focus of the Word of God in worship is a distinctive that I hope we never get over at Southern, that we would go to the Bible as our final word in all matters of faith and life and practice, including the practice of corporate worship.”
It seems right that Boswell, whose lineage gave him so rich a treasure, would devote the coming years to “passing on the same truths that were handed to me.”