Monday, August 30, 2010

QUICK REVIEW: The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services

I've been teaching a Theology and Worship course for four years now and have struggled to find the right readings because, as Paul Westermeyer and Charlotte Kroeker both agree, the study of Church music is vastly interdisciplinary. While I delight in the theoretical questions that surround the church and its musical culture, when we get down to the rubber hitting the road applications like the order of service, song selection, and congregational participation, The Worship Architect serves us well.

Honestly, I typically have an 'allergic reaction' to prescriptive ministry texts. While the book is filled with lists and lists of practical questions and ideas, it avoids being pedantically heavy handed. Cherry's intent is to direct our attention to the important issues that must be addressed in order to plan our services well and she does this efficiently. The exhaustive content may be dizzying for my students but it is a valuable reference to have on hand for leaders. The book is worth its price if only for the concise list of questions for evaluating a worship song. I had groups of my student leaders use this in a training retreat last week and there was much fruit from their discussions and discernment.

The theological content in the first half of the text (Cherry's "four load bearing walls") may be relatively cursory, it serves as a good primer for opening the discussion of liturgical theology for novices--for the college student.

This will be an important book for training worship leaders from both traditional and contemporary churches but especially the contemporary. With the boom of contemporary worship in the last 20-30 years we need to expect more from our contemporary leaders than to be talented, winsome and spirit-filled. Many of the books with this kind of liturgical content are written in a tone and vocabulary that will only preach to their respective choirs. But Cherry's approach is accessible and ecumenical and will help contemporary leaders conceive a substantial approach to worship planning, a weighty respect for each part of a service and an appropriate discernment essential to leading well.

[p.s. thanks to Matt Westerholm for catching my typo. It is just as loving to tell someone when they have a booger,  food in their teeth, a button undone or a fly unzipped.]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review of For the Beauty of the Church

The good folks at Transpositions have had the mind to review For the Beauty of the Church chapter by chapter. My chapter was reviewed, incidentally, on my birthday. They brought up a good concern about what I'm suggesting. I copied my response below. There is good discourse on each chapter in the respective comment sections.
I don't know if anything could be more exciting than this! Thanks to you guys for taking such care with this book. Your collective thoughtfulness will make us better pastors and leaders in the future.

For the record, I'm aware of the 'cute' factor of my three P's. I had come up with that language back in '98 when I wrote out the initial mission statement for the arts ministry. The P's were a coincidence then. That same language has served me thus far, so I kept it the unintentional alliteration.

Regarding the factory concern: yes, a very good concern. Another reviewer elsewhere suggested that what I'm suggesting is tantamount to turning pastors into "talent scouts." Well, yes indeed. I do believe that pastors are talent scouts but not just of artistic gifts but of all gifts. Those of us who have the privilege/burden of being paid in ministry--I believe--are paid primarily to identify and release the many gifts within our congregations, preaching, teaching, worship leading, outreach, service, intercession as well as painting, poetry, composition etc.... We are called to "equip the saints for the work of ministry." Much of what I do as a campus minister can be called vocational counseling. I help students identify, trust and test their passions. I would LOVE churches to be better equipped to maybe not become 'gift' or 'talent' "factories" but perhaps conservatories, gardens, flourishing farms.

Peace of Christ to you. Thanks again.