Congregational worship continues to be an interesting subject in the western church. Just when many churches have begun to use more modern worship songs and choruses, a new wave has emerged, longing for the richness of the ancient Christian traditions. A worship leader must be able to balance the many musical tastes and desires represented in the worship service and manage to help people make a worshipful connection to God. Barry Liesch’s book, The New Worship: Straight Talk on Music and the Church is an excellent resource for today’s worship leader and pastor.
Liesch begins the book with a short historical comparison of today’s culture to that of the church’s history. Over time, he argues, culture and worship interact and effect the church as worship begins to fit and reflect the culture it comes from. He then gives very helpful and descriptive treatments to the major schools of design in congregational worship services. One of the most beneficial things is the way that Liesch points out both positives and negatives to the different styles available without showing any bias. Bravely, Liesch takes on the issues of performance in today’s church worship and shows how excellence can be beneficial for worship without becoming focused on the person or band who is leading. The book finishes with some helpful guidance for worship leaders about working with senior pastors and with volunteer musicians.
There are two applications from the book which relate to my role in ministry right away. I spent a lot of ink underlining and understanding the models of designing services. Since this is the biggest weekly event in most churches, church leaders need to be able to use music to maximize the impact of connection with God for people. The service design section really had great information that I will apply to services I am leading. There is also a section for senior pastors who are working with or hiring worship pastors. Worship pastors are usually wired differently than senior pastors and if that is not understood then expectation will not be met. That was a great chapter for me, though I am not a senior pastor, because I already work with worship leaders in different areas I lead.
Overall, this is a really great book that helped me understand theologies and philosophies of worship. It is clearly written without being overly simple and gives a lot of useful information.