A Review of
It was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God
Ned Bustard ed.
Reviewed by Erin M. Stephens
If the Church is the Body of Christ, then music is its heartbeat. Music reverberates in the spirit, draws individuals together into community, and guides them in the common desire to exalt their Savior. Through music, Christians experience an inexplicable link to their Creator. Though mysterious, this interaction is a central facet of Christianity that intimately informs your relationship with God. Each follower of Christ, regardless of personal musical ability, should cultivate a God-centered understanding of music. For such an endeavor, It was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard is an ideal resource. In its engaging pages, thirty devout music-professionals offer their unique perspectives on music-making. Its content is accessible, its contributors authoritative, and its captivating insights universally applicable, making this book a necessary pleasure for worship leader and worshiper alike.
It Was Good is comprised of thirty essays exploring the outlooks of thirty seasoned music professionals on a Christian appreciation of music and music-making. This is a distinctly advantageous format as it allows you to view the subject from an astounding array of angles. With each consecutive essay you discover a separate set of opinions and anecdotes told with a fresh tone. What’s more, if you do not care for the topic of an essay, simply skip a couple pages to delve into different subject matter. This presentation style ensures that you will be constantly engaged by new material.
When considering how the book’s content is organized and developed, you can think of flipping through an encyclopedia of music and using a magnifying glass to examine certain paragraphs. But set aside any fear of wading through a quagmire of musical jargon: the book rarely strays into terminology unfamiliar to a non-musician and then only briefly (148, 183). Rather, the wide array of topics, from song-writing (105) and facing fame on the world stage (313) to raising musical children (67) and meaningfully participating in worship (159), are conveyed in a highly relatable manner.
Because the editor and the thirty contributors are not only seasoned professionals but devout Christians as well, every paragraph of It was Good is grounded in both musical excellence and sincere faith in Biblical truth. Editor Ned Bustard, having previously edited a widely successful collection of essays on making God-centered art, brings to the work a passion for informing Christians’ creativity (3). In the book’s forward, Bustard asserts that music-making is indispensable for the Christian because “[w]e were made to sing to the glory of God… [It] makes us more of who we are. It is the difference between merely existing in black and white and taking in all of life in full Technicolor” (9). This view of music pervades It was Good though the authors speak from vastly different life and faith journeys.
Each essay is informed by the author’s unique experiences. One author, Drew Holcomb, relates his adventures as a Christian traveling and performing with secular artists (305). Another, Bethany Brooks, a stay-at-home mom who has also had the opportunity to write and record, describes the challenge of balancing her responsibilities as a parent with her work as a musician (33). Often, an author will share a very personal trial in order to illustrate God’s goodness, grace, or faithfulness. Diana Bauer tells how God used music to sustain her as she watched her mother succumb to a long illness and as she said her final, tearful goodbye (173). The editor and authors’ strongly Biblical outlook on music and life effectively seasons the entire book with a flavor of authentic faith.
While It was Good does include practical advice specifically for the music-maker, the essays combine understanding of modern-day challenges and potent theological insights to form subject matter that is applicable to any modern-day Christian. For instance, Brian Moss’s essay “Silence” comments on the rushed society in which westerners are submerged. He speaks of the human need for silence and rest and of the Biblical assertion that rest is good. He then goes on to draw the connection between silence and music: “[w]ithout silence there can be no music” (13). He makes the point that creativity and good music can only come from and be appreciated in the context of silence (11). Anyone can gain encouragement from this discussion. The book’s exploration of such subjects as the appropriateness of delight in earthly beauty (33) and how to identify spiritual truth in contemporary praise music (281) invites you to involve yourself in some of the highly controversial topics of today’s Christian circles. Because they deal with struggles and questions that are familiar to every Christian, the majority of the essays will benefit both the worship leader and the worshiper greatly.
It was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God is an incredible coming-together of thirty vastly different music professionals. The author’s unique life experience and walk with the Savior inform each essay. But, combined, these thirty perspectives offer incredible insight into a topic that is imperative for all Christians to consider: the interaction between the music-maker and God. As a member of the Body of Christ, you have a role in making music, whether you are His hands playing an instrument on stage or His voice singing in the congregation. If you listen closely, you will hear in this book a counterpoint of ideas and a harmony of personal testimonies pertaining to that role. It is a song of desire to share God-centered creativity’s power. It was Good is a symphony of exaltation to the Giver of music Himself.