Worship Like Jesus: A Guide for Every Follower | Constance M. Cherry

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Cherry, Constance M. Worship Like Jesus: A Guide for Every Follower. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2019. 129 pp. $17.99.

Attempting to navigate the endless array of available books on worship can be overwhelming, especially to new believers. Discovering authors and publications that adhere to sound biblical principles and doctrine can be challenging even for the well-read theologian or theology student. Worship Like Jesus: A Guide for Every Follower is a book that fulfills both of these issues. Its author, Constance M. Cherry, has a DMin from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a professor of worship at Indiana Wesleyan University. Writer of The Worship Architect and The Music Architect, Cherry provides a “worship discipleship” guide for believers with the intention of instigating an internal transformation so they are more discerning and involved in worship, moving them from observer to participant. Cherry discusses the challenges of modern worship, asking the reader to question how Jesus would worship today, and how a deeper understanding of initiated worship by God can be gained by using Jesus Christ as a model, examining his approach and participation in worship (xi).

Cherry lays out this title in a clear and succinct fashion, maintaining a similar structure throughout all eight chapters. She poses a key question at the beginning, a chapter topic description and explanation, followed by a key question and deliberation of how Jesus practiced these elements, and then closes with a reflection section, an action, and a prayer. These elements all serve to keep a solid cohesion throughout the book, and the lesson style format ensures that the reader feels a sense of disciple growth and development through each section. Cherry explains that worship is “the heartbeat of the relationship between God and believer,” that it is a “highly transforming event,” and that “all Christian disciples are formed in worship by worship” (xi, 8).

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Following the worship wars, numerous changes occurred in worship practices with modern cultural trends being adapted by many churches. Cherry poses the question, who or what are we imitating when we adapt our practices of worship (9)? Cherry approaches her entire book from the perspective of “How would Jesus worship?,” using him as the model for worship as he plays the significant roles of receiver, mediater, and leader of Christian worship (43). She states that modern worshipers need to focus on what Jesus would do within these worship changes, and how would he approach and participate in worship. Cherry describes the current modus operandi of worship, focusing on how the definition of God has become blurred, with worshipers often choosing either polytheistic, narcissistic, relativistic, or ambiguous worship to fulfill their needs (28, 29). Through Scriptural use she expounds on the discussion between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, clarifying that Jesus “worshipped God and God alone,” evident by his prayer life and his speaking the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9 (33). Cherry continues by then addressing the age-old debate of Jesus’s incarnation, the nature of his humanity and deity, stating that he was both of the Triune God and of humanity, and that simultaneously, “both dimensions are portrayed at once” (43).

With strong liturgical practices being neglected in many churches, through these lessons of discipleship, Cherry encourages the reader to follow a liturgical year or “kingdom calendar,” which will “allow us to reorient our lives” and “worship with the whole story of God over time” (65). She discusses gifts of worship that God has given mankind, highlighting the necessities and benefits of corporate worship for believers and how “communal worship takes corporate worship to a deeper level” (89, 112). Through Cherry’s repeated use of excerpts and examples from Scripture, she constantly brings the reader’s focus back to God’s laws and mandates, ensuring that there is no confusion about the elements of worship, which is vital for new believers to understand due to the constant change found in today’s churches.

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One of the most important points highlighted by Cherry is the value that Jesus places on “authentic relationships and authentic worship.” She elaborates by saying that it is incumbent upon believers to repair broken relationships with each other through forgiveness before coming before the Lord for worship, because “pure relationships are valued for pure worship” (112). When all believers are fully engaged corporately with each other through pure relationships, they “encourage each other to love God more deeply, serve God more devotedly, and care for each other more sincerely” (114). This is the very reason for worship, to serve God wholeheartedly as a church body.

Worship Like Jesus is an excellent resource for examining the elements of worship, transforming the reader’s understanding and approach as to why, how, and who they worship. Cherry provides scriptural evidence to substantiate each element she discusses, focusing the reader on Christ and the central figure of worship, God. She reminds the reader that God is “a wholly relational being” and that worship between Him and the worshiper is “dialogical” in truth and in spirit (72, 73). This “revelation and response” dialogue is the bedrock of worship, upon which Cherry provides excellent guidance throughout for the discipleship of believers, all the while referring them to a comparison between their worship practices and how Jesus would worship (75). In theory, Cherry provides a scriptural compass that serves not only to educate new believers, but also to re-orientate and remind all Christians that the fundamentals of worship remain the same, regardless of what manmade changes occur.

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This book would greatly assist pastors, worship leaders, and those connected to ministry work to facilitate change within their congregations. It is a helpful and transformative guide, especially to new believers, and is written with church groups in mind. In the words of the author, Worship Like Jesus is “well suited for use by small groups, Sunday school classes, Bible study groups . . . in short, wherever two or three are gathered” (xii). It would make a welcome and educational addition to every church and ministry bookshelf, serving to educate, disciple, and simply remind believers of the nature of worship.

 

Liz Nolan

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