Matthew Ward and Oden Fong Revitalize Yesterday’s Music and Today’s Faith

Matthew Ward and Oden Fong (Credit: Oden Fong and Jerry Wilson)

The faithful filled every available seat at the spacious Calvary Chapel Mission Viejo (California) sanctuary on Saturday, July 29th, to see two men whose names are written in the Book of Life and inscribed into Christian rock’s history book. Matthew Ward, best known as one of the three siblings who together made The 2nd Chapter of Acts not only a deeply loved band among Jesus Movement believers but also respected in knowledgeable secular music circles, performed along with Oden Fong, member of seminal Christian rockers Mustard Seed Faith before moving into solo work and his pastoral calling.


Fong started the evening with a regrettably brief four-song set. Gently accompanied by a trio of musicians, he reached deep into his catalog, beginning with the never-released “Then the Rain Came Down” before a powerful rendition of “Ready to Fly” from his 1979 album “Come For the Children.”



Fong next played “Rich Man, Poor Man” from his 1986 and most recent album “Invisible Man.” He finished with an unrecorded song titled “I Need You More.”

Mathew Ward then took the stage. Backed by an occasionally ragged but mostly spot-on band, Ward mainly worked through the quieter moments from his 1990s string of solo albums. A highlight was his beautiful rendition of Keith Green’s “Summer Snow” from his first solo album, “Toward Eternity.”



The second half of Ward’s set featured, as he humorously remarked between numbers, “another song written by my sister.” Ward’s sister Annie Herring was The 2nd Chapter of Acts’ creative force, and her songwriting skill ran the gamut from gentle ballads such as “Mansion Builder” to driving rockers like “Hey Whatcha Say,” each of which received rousing performances.




Ward concluded his set with a hymn, preceded by The 2nd Chapter of Acts’ best-known and loved song.



The audience was enthusiastic throughout, in tune with the music and Ward’s gentle ministering between songs. Near the concert’s end, he spoke about how so many believers in the age group (55+) that compromised most all in attendance suffer from diminishing faith, mental pressures such as depression, or both. He urged everyone to take these things to the Lord, a message reinforced by the concert promoter and event host Ron Strand, who, after Ward’s set, spoke to those who may have attended the concert due to musical nostalgia but whose faith had grown indifferent, urging them to renew their connection to the living God.


There was indeed an element of nostalgia woven throughout the evening. Neither artist was promoting new product. As noted earlier, Fong has made an album since 1986, and aside from a 2006 Christmas album, Ward hasn’t released anything since 2000.

This was not an event for contemporary trendsetters or social media influencers. What it did have was the same spirit that decades earlier brought the audience to a different Calvary Chapel, namely the one in Santa Ana, pastored by the late Chuck Smith (Smith was recently portrayed by Kelsey Grammar in the movie “Jesus Revolution”) where during the 1970s and into the 1980s a concert was held every Saturday night featuring artists from the Maranatha family based at the church, Fong among them, and national artists such as The 2nd Chapter of Acts.

Yes, it’s been forty-nine years since The 2nd Chapter of Acts’ seminal debut album “With Footnotes” was released, and fifty years since Mustard Seed Faith recorded “Happy in Jesus” for the “Maranatha 3” compilation. The hair is now thin and gray; the steps are slow and measured. Yet there remains a vibrant river of faith flowing through the faithful, a sense of while remembering how good the music was and is, knowing that faith itself is not an exercise in fruitless, embittering nostalgia but instead an embrace of today and the promise of an eternal tomorrow.

It is the seeming irony of how, while we live in a world desecrated and devastated by adults stubbornly refusing to abandon childhood fantasies, our calling is to come to Christ like children. There is no conflict. God is our Father, and regardless of how many decades we have spent or have left to spend on this dusty orb, we are always His children. Yes, children growing in wisdom and behaving like adults, for maturity and responsibility are the commands to which all believers strive to adhere.


Yet we are still children in that just as children seek to continually learn and experience one thing more while still unconsciously retaining youth’s innocent exuberance, we aim to grow daily in knowledge and the pursuit of becoming more like the Ultimate Man, Christ Jesus.


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