James Ward's Reviews > Worship Together in Your Church as in Heaven

Worship Together in Your Church as in Heaven by Nikki Lerner
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it was amazing

As a lifelong worship leader, songwriter and music director in a cross-cultural church, I have gotten used to being a pioneer. Multi- and cross-cultural worship may be highly respected and trendy in magazines, but very few Christians of any ethnic persuasion want to do the heavy lifting.
Last year, Gerardo Marti, a sociologist from Davidson College, published a book with Oxford Press called Worship Across the Great Divide and I read it from cover to cover twice. I was unaccustomed to my field being treated as a viable research topic and I pored over his conclusions and experiences with recognition and sometimes tears.

However, Marti is not a musician, and Davis and Lerner are-- they are singers, players, and leaders of worship. Lerner is the active worship leader in a large multicultural church in Maryland, and Davis has visited every ethnic church in the greater Atlanta area. This book gets a lot of credit for being the first one I have read written by hard working colleagues, not professors.

The opening chapters were familiar. There are so many reasons for having worship together during the most segregated hour of the week. But in section II, the authors hit on an important point that we in multicultural worship easily overlook-- we are called to be worshiping communities, not just have worship experiences. I am guilty as charged, having pounded the floor from my piano for decades trying to get that effect, that feel, that sound. Thank God he uses us, even when we realize we are sometimes imposters. Relationship is as important as the formulae for diversity, and our music ministries are a start, but not the whole picture. Section II also addresses your own cultural inclinations and suggests finding a culture coach who will help you navigate the bridge building.

Chapter 11 should be required reading for all contemporary church musicians. Itunes, Youtube, and other sources tend to manipulate us into imitating studio recordings and it can destroy your confidence and your uniqueness. “The radio is racially segregated,” says Lerner, “and we could be following these patterns of segregation without even knowing it.” Mainstream doesn’t always work because multicultural ministry is not mainstream. Word.

In the fourth section the authors highlight the nuts and bolts of multicultural worship leading. They urge us to use what we do have, not bemoan what we don’t. They challenge us to turn obstacles to assets, which reminds me of all the efforts we have made to include Latinos in our worship. Our Spanish speaking numbers are small, but our congregation is singing and reading scripture in Spanish.

Don’t put this book down before you read Chapter 16, “Surviving the Hard Times.” Nikki Lerner says the hardest thing about multicultural worship is loneliness. But when we look down the row of singers and see folks we are nurturing and loving through our worship, we shed tears of rejoicing, just like the Psalmist says.

As a white Christian musician, I have been privileged to interact with so many people of color in worship, and sometimes experience the justice and mercy of a God who will call all nations to himself. Every worship leader cries on Sunday as God meets us in our fumbling efforts, but to cry with brothers and sisters across ethnic lines has a sweet spirit unparalleled by homogeneous fellowship. As the authors of this exceptional book say, “remember that you are not alone, that there are people all over the world who are pursuing the same vision.”
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July 7, 2015 – Shelved
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