Rhythms of Grace – A Review

My dad suggested that I read a new book by Mike Cosper titled ‘Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel.’ My basic summary of it is that I loved it! The book starts off with a theology of music throughout the Bible. Mike starts off by saying, “The story of worship (like the story of the gospel) is all about God.” Mike traces worship from creation in the garden of Eden through Israel in the wilderness to Jesus.

Mike then goes on to explain the premise of his book, something he calls “Worship One, Two Three” That is: “one object and author, two contexts, and three audiences.” Obviously, the one object is God, the two contexts are scattered and gathered. “Worship scattered is the Spirit-filled life of the Christian in the world, and worship gathered is the meeting of God’s people to remember, encourage and bless each other. And finally, there are three audiences: God, the church and the world.

One of my favorite chapters was chapter 6, ‘Worship as Spiritual Formation.’ I have tried to emphasize this through my ministry, all worship, even singing, is spiritual formation. In this chapter Mike writes “Whoever dubbed the debate over musical style a “worship war” failed to realize that worship is always a war. The declaration that there is one God, that his name is Jesus, and that he has died, has risen and will come again is an all-out assault on the saviors extended at every level of culture around us.” We are always at war with our flesh as we attempt to submit ourselves to the will of God in our lives. This even ties in to music as we won’t always sing songs that every person in the congregation enjoys, but the two main points of our Sunday morning singing are to encourage one another and to give praise to the only God who is worthy of that praise. Mike goes on in chapter 9 titled, “Sing, Sing Sing,” to talk about some of the issues that we deal with in music. He says a couple things that get to the very heart of the matter. “We love what we love, and we think everyone who disagrees with us is ignorant.” This is so true, and something I feel when driving every day. If someone drives faster than me I assume they’re a maniac, and if they drive slower than me I assume they’re a grandpa. But then he goes on to say, “Today, when many worship services are reduced to preaching and music, it becomes very easy to equate music with worship-and that’s a dangerous slope to park your car on. If music is worship, then when you mess with someone’s musical preferences, you threaten their acces to God. No wonder the debates become so heated.” Finally, Mike says, “Worship is a broader thing than music, and music’s purpose in the church is bigger than my personal experience. It’s not merely my song, but our song. We sing together, uniting our voices and our words.” Amen!

I really appreciate Mike’s approach throughout the book as he continually brings the reader back to Scripture and to the history of the church. So often people live with, as C.S. Lewis called it, “chronological snobbery” where we think we know better than any other generation before us. It’s helpful to have a historical perspective in our theology in regard to our whole worship service. And his use of Scripture clearly permeates his whole being as everything comes back to the Word. I would encourage anyone in the church, both pastors and lay people who want to know how they can better use music in their church and worship of God.

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