About This Blog

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"The Music Architect" (Constance M. Cherry)

TITLE: The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song
AUTHOR: Constance M. Cherry
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, (288 pages).

In churches around the world, music and song are common ways in which we honour God in worship and praise. Many people serve in this ministry but not many are trained. Musicians come with deep talents but the understanding of worship may not be as deep. This is where this book comes in. The dual objectives are to:

  1. Learn about thoughtful and holistic worship
  2. Disciple worshipers in song.
This book is Volume 3 of the "The Worship Architect" series of book designed to help churches and worship leaders plan their worship flow and program. The first volume is about planning. The second volume looks at principles of preparing specific worship segments and special events. This volume covers more specifically the area of music. In all of the three books, the aim is to maintain a consistent philosophy of worship; to unite worship and practice; and to provide a resource that is helpful across denominations. On top of these, there is a pastoral element infused into the teaching. The key thesis is "who we are" is a greater impact than "what we do." This is why the author starts with defining the meaning of a "Pastoral Musician" who is essentially one who embraces the Christian faith, growing in spiritual maturity, using one's spiritual gifts, participating in community, and accountable to God and others. Worship must be relevant to God while connecting to people. There is a biblical element that guides the understanding of worship. The historical perspective is not static but dynamic, which means we ought to let worship practices throughout all generations be rendered in a manner that is meaningful. In terms of spirituality, worship forms worshipers. Thus, the title of "pastoral musician" simply tells us that worship involves lots of music but is much than music. 

We learn about worship as admiration of God. It tells the story of God according to the Bible. It is centered on Christ and also Trinitarian. It needs to be God-focused. Liturgy enables us to avoid being distracted by feelings. Music is a powerful tool for worship. It facilitates the proclamation and celebration of God's story. It helps us to worship as a community. It creates opportunities for dialogue with participants responding to the proclamation of the Word of God. Songs can also be categorized as proclamation, praise, prayer, and exhortation. At the same time, there are warnings on how music can become idolatry and how we can unwittingly allow secular music to infiltrate the holy worship of God. 

There are tips on how to select songs according to the movements of worship. The "Isaiah 6 model" helps us move from God's glory to man's awareness; human unworthiness to God's forgiveness; God speaking and humans responding. The "Tabernacle model" is based on the three sections: Outer Court; Inner Court; Holy of Holies. The "Gospel model" or the four-fold order of worship moves along the narrative of Gathering; Word; Table/Response; and Sending. Other ways to choose songs include the considerations of purpose, function, direction, flow, and narrative. Indeed, I am blown away by the intentionality of each movement. This calls for lots of planning and deliberation by the worship leader and for adequate communication to the rest of the worship team. Cherry gives us several ways to evaluate the choice of songs. Theological integrity means the song needs to be consistent with theological truths. Lyrical integrity means the words need to maintain coherence of thought and literary beauty.  Musical integrity means the melodies also tell a story. Liturgical integrity points to moving God's people along in the overall worship service. Pastoral integrity speaks in a way that encourage worshipers. What is helpful is the reminder to keep a canon of songs for use. Over time, this will prove very constructive for the worship teams present and future. 

The author encourages us to sing a wide repertoire of songs throughout the ages. Use songs freely that relate to both the Old and the New Testaments. Choose both short and long forms as long as they express the theological thrust intended. Choose songs that build up community. Shorter songs involve call and response formats or cyclical songs. Longer songs include classic hymns and gospel songs. I love chapter 8 which is about discovering the congregation's worship voice because it is a call to discover our own identity. It is a way to make worship with God up close and personal. There is a chapter specifically for song leading and musical introductions. We are urged to find out more about the background of each story so as to bring in the contexts for understanding and appreciation. 

There are so many things I like about this book that I am often lost on where to start. This is certainly one of the best books about designing music and songs for the worship service. There is a chapter for nearly every category, for the musician, the pastor, the band, the worship leader, the planner, and so on. There is an important chapter about worship as spiritual formation which really connects music with inner devotion. With clear frameworks and explanations, Constance Cherry has given the Church at large a really great resource about something churches throughout the world do every week. I will rank this book at the top of the list of worship leaders training resource. Toward the end of the book, there is a section about leadership which is crucial. Sometimes, when we think about worship leading and worship leader, we unwittingly place too much attention on worship and the music but forget about the worshiper and the leader. Cherry gives several pointers about spiritual formation plus arenas of excellence for spiritual leadership. We lead from who we are and not from what we do.

Finally, if there is one thing I would like to say to Cherry, I would say: "One more book please."

Constance Cherry is Professor of Christian Worship and Pastoral Ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University. She teaches regularly at The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. She has previously written "The Worship Architect" (Baker, 2010) and  "Selecting Worship Songs" (Triangle, 2011).

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

No comments:

Post a Comment