The New Worship

Title: The New Worship: Straight Talk on Music and the Church

Author: Barry Liesch

Publisher: Baker Books, 2007

For a book which promises "straight talk on music and the Church", Barry Liesch still leaves us with a few questions. In Chapter 10 (p.199) he says:

"... most of us (even musicians) do not have the expertise to talk about music style precisely. We are better equipped to talk about the words."

This kind of honest assessment makes Liesch (for all of our theological differences) hard to dislike as an author. If only he did not contradict his own logic:

"we should begin with the thought that no melody, scale, chord, rhythm, instrument, or timbre should be theoretically off-limits to the Christian composer." (Chapter 12, p.182)

It may be that Liesch is thinking, in this regard, of the section of the Church who fears certain rhythms as too sensual and certain instruments as demonic. But we don't need to sell the whole shop for their sakes. If we are as incapable of discussing musical style as he states, how can we begin on the basis that everything is acceptable?

More doubts linger. In Chapter 16, Liesch admits:

"Only time will tell if the enlarged role accorded worship leaders will ultimately benefit the church."

This is where Mr Liesch and I must part because it is alien to the Calvinistic view of worship that anything is admissible in the public worship of God as long as it benefits the Church. Who is to say which "benefit" applies? Surely the object of worship is the glory of God, not the benefit of the Church?

If the Church is breaking the regulative principle just in case it works, and using any kinds of music on the groundless assumption that they are ok, in an atmosphere which says that we can't really talk about music anyway, this "new worship" - for all its good intentions - is not worth buying.