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Review: The Music Architect

Baker Academic, 2016. 288 pp.
Once more, the Rev. Dr. Constance M. Cherry has written an excellent, robust guide for worship leaders, this time providing the foundations for congregational song. The third installment in the celebrated Worship Architect series (other publications include The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services, 2010, and The Special Service Worship Architect: Blueprints for Weddings, Funerals, Baptisms, Holy Communion, and Other Occasions, 2013), The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song is an introduction to music in worship. Cherry stays away from the typical equivalence of music and worship and instead sees music as a vehicle for propelling corporate worship. To that end, Cherry writes this book with the intention of teaching worship leaders how to use music properly and in a way that is fitting to the service of worship.

A lifelong worship leader, pastor, and professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, Cherry draws on her experiences to create a biblical defense of music in worship. She argues that the Gospel Order (commonly referred to as the fourfold order) shapes a service to tell the story of God’s activity through time; thus, worship musicians are more than performers—they are pastors. Cherry then offers suggestions on how to order music to create logical flow, families of congregational song, creating a canon, and utilizing both longer and shorter song forms. The final section in this book is an assortment of suggestions on engaging and discipling worshippers through song.

What is perhaps most respectable in this book is Cherry’s sensitive approach to music in worship. Following the lead of Robert Webber, John Witvliet, and James K.A. Smith, Cherry does not desire to equate music with worship; nevertheless, she also sees its value and significance in Christian liturgy. Neither does Cherry fall prey to stylistic fads and the elevation of the contemporary worship leader. Her model of a “pastoral musician” is certainly divergent from the typical “superstar” worship leader that is prevalent in current church culture. This book is much different than other worship references, which might overwhelmingly discuss the minutia of leading teams, selecting keys, and designing presentation slides. While Cherry does address such issues, she does not see them as primary matters in worship. To Cherry, music should not be manipulated to create an emotional atmosphere; it must be used wisely, and this book explains how this can be achieved—despite musical preferences.

Overall, Cherry’s The Music Architect is a breath of fresh air for those seeking refuge from the host of books on managing worship bands. Cherry is incredibly practical and offers a host of resources and suggestions for those desiring to pursue a more meaningful use of music in worship. While this book might benefit from more scholarly insights, Cherry stands as a respectable authority in her field, and she skillfully integrates both academic theory and concrete application to defend her view of worship music. This book is highly recommended for pastors, worship leaders, musicians, and seminarians. It would serve as a useful reference for those involved in worship planning and leading, or for laity who desire to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of Christian worship.

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