Christianity Today's Book of the Year Award of Merit
What happens when a diverse church glorifies the global God?
We live in a time of unprecedented intercultural exchange, where our communities welcome people from around the world. Music and media from every culture are easily accessible, and our worship is infused with a rich variety of musical and liturgical influences. But leading worship in multicultural contexts can be a crosscultural experience for everybody. How do we help our congregations navigate the journey?
Innovative worship leader Sandra Maria Van Opstal is known for crafting worship that embodies the global, multiethnic body of Christ. Likening diverse worship to a sumptuous banquet, she shows how worship leaders can set the table and welcome worshipers from every tribe and tongue. Van Opstal provides biblical foundations for multiethnic worship, with practical tools and resources for planning services that reflect God's invitation for all peoples to praise him.
When multiethnic worship is done well, the church models reconciliation and prophetic justice, heralding God's good news for the world. Enter into the praise of our king, and let the nations rejoice!
"We have lost the language of love in our worship—love for God and love for our neighbor. This is a book for those who want to recover these loves by practicing reconciliation in worship. The Next Worship shows us how to love God and love our neighbor practically in worship, specifically by sharing leadership and guiding others in change. Through her personal relationships and experience in community Sandra teaches us to create spaces of hospitality, solidarity and mutuality through worship. I highly recommend this book, having experienced Sandra's leadership and knowing the wealth she has crossing cultures domestically and globally."
"All Christians are on a journey toward God's multicultural kingdom. We live in a remarkable time of opportunity for growth in understanding and shared practices across cultures. Drawing on years of creative leadership in a variety of contexts, Sandra Van Opstal offers us testimonies, tools and insights to inform the next steps in our own journeys of growth and sanctification. May God use this book to break down barriers and strengthen intercultural bonds of many worshiping communities!"
"The Next Worship argues persuasively that achieving unity in worship requires taking diversity seriously. At once prophetic and pastoral, the book presents a set of principles for navigating the complexities of race, ethnicity and culture within congregational worship. Van Opstal calls worship leaders to be anthropologists as well as theologians: self-aware students of culture who engage in critical reflection about their contexts, who take responsibility for interpreting their actions and who summon the courage and humility to truly collaborate. Van Opstal's writing models her leadership strategy—accounts from her own experience through the years are enriched by perspectives from a number of key leaders and scholars. Though its account is ultimately hopeful, the book does not downplay the difficulties inherent in building worshiping congregations across lines of cultural difference. Rather, it shows that coming together across these differences will frequently lead to tension, discomfort and sometimes pain. A commitment to working together through these issues is key to developing the kinds of relationships that characterize the coming kingdom. The Next Worship makes a compelling argument that building worshipping communities across lines of division cannot be a niche interest. Rather, engaging diverse perspectives and learning to share authority must become priorities for all Christ-followers interested in the continued life and health of the church."
"What Sandra Van Opstal does so importantly here is to help make the arc of this worship transformation clear and practicable. Out of her life experience and rich ministry background, Sandra does for us here what she has done over the years for many of those she has led as worship teams and as worshipers. This book is a vital gift for a changing church that needs to reflect the God of all the nations."
"One of most significant challenges for the next era of evangelicalism is developing unity in the worship life of a multicultural Christian community. Sandra Van Opstal recognizes that multicultural worship is a long journey with many bumps along the way—there are no simple and easy answers. In The Next Worship, Sandra puts forth key principles and helpful models that should inspire us to pursue this noble goal. This book may well become the essential text that helps multiethnic churches turn the corner in their worship life."
"The Next Worship is an important book for our increasingly diverse church. Writing as a practitioner and theologian, Sandra Van Opstal employs the extended metaphor of the table to describe the rich fellowship of diverse worship. Drawing on deep biblical study and years of personal experience, Van Opstal moves us to stand with our diverse congregations in postures of hospitality ('we welcome you'), solidarity ('we stand with you') and mutuality ('we need you'). Not at all naïve, this book acknowledges the tensions and challenges of diverse worship as well as its opportunities. Van Opstal skillfully guides us through processes of change, the necessity of shared leadership and the challenges and joys of training other leaders for this task. This is a needed book, not only by worship leaders but also by pastors, elders and every Christian who longs to enter into and to rehearse the ultimate diverse worship of the new heavens and the new earth."
"If we worship leaders are taking our pastoral roles seriously, one of our jobs is to prepare our churches for heaven's worship where all nations are gathered. This book inspires, encourages and teaches how to do just that!"
"For those of us who are committed to the work of Christian community development in vulnerable neighborhoods, being rooted in a faith community with an expression of worship that is rooted in our struggle for justice and reconciliation is essential. Sandra's new book, The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, provides a much-needed resource for leaders who are committed to crafting worship experiences rooted in diversity."
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lamented that one of the most segregated hours is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, when the church gathers for worship. Sandra Van Opstal offers a fresh vision where the church reflects the diversity of God's kingdom rather than conforming to the patterns of segregation. The Next Worship reminds us that unity is not about uniformity, but about harmonizing rather than homogenizing. Van Opstal reminds us that what may be just as important as how we worship is who we worship with. This is a beautiful book."
"While acknowledging that inclusive worship will look different in each congregational context, The Next Worship shows how we can move toward gathered worship that 'points to the future celebration of God's people from every tribe, tongue, people and language.' Besides being full of stories acknowledging the challenges of multiethnic worship, this immensely practical volume also provides hope and how-to advice for preparing (sometimes reluctant) congregations to worship in ways that connect them with the global church in their community and abroad. In a refreshingly broad approach, Sandra Van Opstal goes beyond discussions of music styles to explore what multiethnic worship might look like in Scripture reading, prayers, other arts, the Lord's Supper, the teaching of the Word and more. Furthermore, her own rich experience in mentoring worship leaders has given her keen insight regarding collaborative service planning and the development of diverse worship leadership. The summaries of key concepts at the end of each chapter along with probing questions for reflection and discussion make this a vital resource for pastors, worship leaders, worship planning committees and training programs."
"For many years, Sandra Van Opstal has been leading diverse people to do more than sing of love and justice (Psalm 101:1). She has led them to walk, work and worship God together as one beyond the distinctions of this world that so often and otherwise divide. In The Next Worship, Sandra provides competent insight and practical advice for ministry leaders seeking to present a more credible witness of God's love for all people in an increasingly diverse and cynical society."
"Because we live in an increasingly diverse, mixed and multicultural reality, The Next Worship is a must-read resource for pastors and worship leaders. Navigating the profound complexities of cultural identity within the life of the church, Sandra Van Opstal equips and compels us toward becoming a more competent, generous and self-aware leader."
"I love this book! The Next Worship is theologically and biblically sound, socially and culturally relevant, and extremely current and practical. The truth and experiential wisdom shared by Sandra Van Opstal has the potential to spark a movement that creates inclusive communities of trust where people from every walk of life are welcomed to the table of God. If you have been looking for a way to infuse new life into your faith community, look no further. You must read this book!"
"One of the most compelling things in life is to see someone who lives into the specific gifting God has placed in them for the building of the kingdom. What is so beautiful and compelling is the passion, depth and experience Sandra pours out in this book. This book—rooted in the biblical-theological understanding of servanthood—is vital to facilitating worship in any context. Regardless of where you are on the journey, this book will encourage, challenge and convict you to model the kingdom in the way Christ models it for us! A must-read for anyone in leadership, regardless of vocation."
"Often people look for a template for success, but when it comes to multicultural worship, there is no defined template. But we can learn from the efforts of others and apply what we've learned in our own ministry. Sandra Van Opstal takes us on a journey through different multicultural worship experiences and helps us learn valuable lessons from them. While there is no one right model, there are principles that we can glean from these distinctive experiences. Van Opstal's work beautifully builds on my early observations about the power of multicultural worship to bring together the diverse people of God."
"For those of us who believe that the culmination of all things involves 'every tribe, tongue and nation' worshiping Jesus in unity, we need to figure out today how to worship across the vast diversity of the church, with a particular attentiveness to those voices on the margins. With rich biblical reflection and vivid examples from decades of experience at the intersection of racial reconciliation and worship, my friend Sandra Van Opstal has written a definitive resource for the church today."
"Can we, victims and perpetrators of worship wars, imagine what a 'heaven-on-earth' worship experience might look like? Weaving theological, intercultural and practical insights, The Next Worship presents readers with needed wisdom, enabling us to see the challenges we face as well as the faithful steps we must take. This is a valuable resource for anyone who is engaged in the ministry of worship, indeed the ministry of the gospel, in today's divided, multicultural world."
"The Next Worship not only crosses boundaries but redefines them. Sandra Van Opstal invites readers to join in a journey of hospitality around the table—Jesus' table. She so beautifully puts the analogy of diverse worship alongside our calling to be both a host and a guest at the table where everyone is welcome and can play a role. The invitation is to learn and draw from one another, experiencing the culinary delights we may not otherwise partake in. Sandra's examples show a richness and necessity of crosscultural community, understanding and participation. This book addresses our spiritual mandate for inclusion and also provides very practical tools, stories and examples from which the reader is able to gain incredible insight, avoid common crosscultural pitfalls, and acquire an increased sensitivity and awareness. I recommend this book not only to anyone seeking to understand and develop multiethnic worship communities, but also to anyone seeking to understand God's heart for diversity and how to engage our neighbors more meaningfully."
"The Next Worship is an indispensable guide for leaders who want to thoughtfully engage their communities in the worship giftings of many communities. This book is insightful, practical, immensely helpful and profound! Van Opstal blends an academic understanding of peoples and cultures with a pastor's heart and a practitioner's no-nonsense advice. Many claim to value multiethnic worship, but few have journeyed so deeply and so broadly—Van Opstal is one of those few."
"In worship we stand at the intersection of heaven and earth. The banquet of heaven is brought to the people of earth, and the groans of creation are brought to the throne of heaven. This worship isn't first of all something we do. It's something in which we participate, for all worship is vicarious as we participate by the Spirit in the Son's intercession and worship as high priest. Therefore, far less important than the appeal of particular styles of worship is the privilege of our participation in this ongoing triune worship. But we need to be prepared for this: it doesn't come naturally. We tend to be captivated by our own voice, and yet worship in heaven joyfully incorporates the rich voices of people from all cultures and nations. Sandra offers us a field guide to prepare us now for the wondrous diversity of heaven's worship. Ultimately, the only relevant worship and the only relevant church in our world is ethnically diverse. The Next Worship helps guide us on the way."
"In a time of great ethnic diversity—but also division—this book is sorely needed. Van Opstal provides a practical theology and missional framework for why we must rethink the corporate experience of worship. Her vision goes beyond building a diverse worship team or singing songs in an unfamiliar language. I pray every pastor and worship leader will read this book."
"Few books have I picked up and read from cover to cover in one sitting. The Next Worship qualifies as one of them. Sandra Maria Van Opstal, a pastor at the Grace and Peace Community in Chicago, Illinois, masterfully addresses throughout this book her questions at the close of her introduction, 'How do we lead worship in communities that are growing increasingly diverse? How do I get my congregation onboard with multiethnic worship? Is it even necessary?' . . . Van Opstal's book makes a valuable contribution and should reside in the library of every pastor and worship leader, and it should serve as a reference work for those who instruct worship and liturgy courses."
"Van Opstal has the larger picture in view, which is that everything we do as church serves God’s reign of justice and peace. 'Hospitality to and solidarity with people on the margins, and mutuality and connection with the global church are not means to an end but part of the kingdom work of God's people' (p. 111). This book will help all who read it to participate more fully in that kingdom work."