Worship Leader/Executive Pastor
Married to Kristi
Matt Lundgren made his first public appearance playing clarinet in a school band in the third grade. Growing up in New England, his parents taught him the importance of living as a Christ follower…and a Red Sox fan.
Q. When did you know you wanted to be a worship leader?
A. I didn’t want to be a Christian song leader, but a pastor who used music as a tool to help people.
Q. Did you always want to be a musician/worship leader?
A. I was into sports as a kid, but always had an inclination toward music. It wasn’t until I arrived at North Park University that I met the contemporary side of worship. I didn’t know what a worship leader was. I was a guy with a scientific mind and I chose to major in pre-med, but that didn’t last long. When I play, I don’t see notes; I see numbers, so for me, music is a creative expression of math.
Q. What instruments to you play?
A. Flute, piano, clarinet, saxophone, and guitar. Paul Johnson, Willow’s Video Program Director, taught me to play guitar when I was at North Park.
Q. How long have you been at Willow?
A. For 12 years total. I spent the last three years in charge of music and worship and more recently as Executive Producer which encompasses the rest of the arts as they pertain to weekend and midweek services.
Q. You not only play music, you write it as well. What is that process like for you?
A. I don’t write music until I feel God has given me something to say. As a visual thinker, I do most of my writing at the piano. I can see the music when I look at the keys, and that’s when I take out pen and paper. I love the process of writing music, and for me, the music and lyrics come together.
Q. What fuels you about your job?
A. There is so much potential for what people can do if they’re aligned with where God is moving. I see that in the weekend experience, and I love helping people align with the movement of the Spirit. It’s a humbling and exciting task.
Q. We know you love jazz. If you could play along with anyone (living or dead) who would it be?
A. John Coltrane—he was just that good. Or Lenny Kravitz because he has the perfect mix of blues and rock and roll.
Married to Nathan
Becky Johnson Ykema has been at Willow since December, 2008 as a worship leader/vocalist. With three CDs to her name, she has a strong background in music, and rightly so; she grew up in a house full of musicians and started singing at the age of four.
Q. Where did you get your musical training?
A. I went to North Park University and got a degree in Biblical and Theological studies and music.
Q. Who taught you to play guitar?
I taught myself when I was 15 years old, by picking up Jewel’s first album, downloading chord charts, and learning by ear. I recently started taking lessons from a real guitarist!
Q. What kind of inspiration do you need to write music?
A. When I write, I use either a piano or guitar. Different songs come out depending on the instrument. For instance, I write more ballads when I’m using the piano and more rock/pop songs on the guitar.
Q. As a songwriter, which comes first: music or lyrics?
A. Sometimes a chord progression inspires a certain theme, so in that case the music comes first. At other times I start with a poem and put it to music. I’m really a closet poet and sometimes songs start there.
Q. What is your favorite kind of music?
A. Music that touches my heart the most is often raw and unplugged with gutsy lyrics. An artist I appreciate is Patty Griffin. I love the authentic emotion in her songs.
Q. You tried out for American Idol. What did Simon Cowell have to say?
A. I only made it to the third round and people who audition don’t sing in front of Simon until Round Five.
Q. What is one thing you want to bring to people at Willow as they worship?
A. I want to create space for them to worship the inexplicable mysterious nature of God. I want people to let go of any hindrance that stifles worship, let go and give Him everything.
Married to Shauna and father of Henry
Aaron Niequist was the worship leader at Student Impact for five years (1998-2003), then spent six years leading worship at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids. Now he’s a worship leader at weekend services in the Main Auditorium. (He’s also Shauna’s husband and Henry’s father.)
Q. Musically speaking, who inspires you?
A. My favorite band of all time is the Beatles. I have been influenced by Keith Green and these days, the band that most inspires me is an Icelandic band called Sigur Ros.
Q. Do you have any favorite authors?
A. My favorite author is Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who runs the Center of Contemplation and Action in New Mexico. Catholic writers move me deeply because Catholic mysticism seems to be a great balance to the pragmatic Christian evangelicalism I grew up with.
Q. Why is that?
A. I don’t believe that any of us have the whole corner on the truth. Our corner of the evangelical white suburban church has a cool perspective, but also has some blind spots. Catholic mysticism does something that opens my heart.
Q. When did you first know God had gifted you with a passion and talent for music?
A. At Judson College (now Judson University). I grew up in a musical family, but in college I recognized that when I led worship, people followed and I thought it was something I should pay attention to.
Q. When it comes to worship, what vision do you have for Willow Creek?
A. My concern is that church services can be too inward. As an introvert, I already spend time reflecting inwardly (journaling, etc.). Worship is not just about me and God. I’m interested seeing worship expand at Willow. Awhile ago, we talked about becoming a “singing” church and I think that’s the first five percent of worship. But serving, listening, praying, sacrificing—it’s all part of worship.