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Book Review: Make Love, Make War: NOW is the Time to Worship by Brian Doerksen

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Churches have been singing Brian Doerksen’s worship music for several decades now. In his book Make Love, Make War: NOW is the Time to Worship, released in 2009, Doerksen explains his philosophy of worship, tells the stories behind some of his songs, shares his passion for worship, and gives songwriters artistic encouragement and technical tips.

Doerksen is no stranger to the Christian evangelical worship scene. Since he published his first song in 1989 (he tells that story in Chapter Three) songs have continued to flow from his heart, to his guitar, to his pen. His choruses, contemporary worship songs and laments have been sung in church services, home groups, gatherings, rallies and conferences around the world. He has been part of dozens of recording projects and he continues to write music with his web site sizzling with offerings of new CDs and DVDs.

Make Love, Make War consists of twelve chapters in which he tells the story of twelve songs. Each chapter begins with the song lyrics. Within the chapter he weaves together how the song came to be written with what was happening in his life at the time (including family, church, personal, and spiritual life). He devotes large parts of many of the chapters to the theology that grounds the song, quoting lots of scripture.

The chapters end with a section called “Songwriting Tips” where he offers suggestions to songwriters on a variety of topics, like where to find ideas, ways to make the songs musically interesting and integrated with the lyrics, and how to write effective, memorable lyrics. (I was struck by how similar his description of writing song lyrics is to my experience of writing poetry.)

His writing style is warm, conversational, and often casual – the smooth prose you’d expect, with here and there a phrase, sentence or paragraph that gives the reader a sense of his personality. Here, for example, is his little tangent on the expression “rose-colored glasses”:

“It seems to me like someone slipped us some rose-colored glasses so that we don’t see things as they truly are. Let me say something about that expression. I wonder if the first person who used the phrase “rose colored glasses” ever came anywhere near actually growing roses. If you grow roses, as I do, you know this is not an easy task — it’s a battle. Roses are full of thorns, and so the beautiful blooms and fragrance from a rose come at a great price – often the blood and sweat of the gardener! and what color do you see when you look through those glasses? I am guessing they are inferring a pale shade of red…but roses come in every color (except black!)” p. 113.

He explains the scriptural basis of his songs using strong, customary Christian words, not with the studied avoidance of “christianese” seen so often these days.

What sticks with me most about this book is the heart of the man – a heart that is consistent with the kind of person who would write the songs he has written. He is a man who studies, knows and loves his Bible, his family, his church and, most of all, his God. His family situation as the parent of two special needs children has, it seems to me, kept him grounded and in turn contributed to the spiritual depth, honesty, and relatability of his lyrics.

His book is full of good advice, not only for songwriters, but for Christians in general. My favorite quote from the book is a songwriting tip from Chapter Three:

“Let God bring you forward – don’t promote yourself and your own songs. This is a really challenging area. You could move through seasons when it is time to be bold and share what God has given you. But don’t start there. Start in a place of hiddenness and service. God knows what you have written, and He is fully able to call it forward at the right time and in the right place” p. 83.

If anything this book has made me appreciate the songs on the many Doerksen albums we own, more than ever. Make Love, Make War would be a great gift for song writers, worship leaders, and indeed be any that know, sing, and love Doerksen’s songs – and that’s a lot of people these days!

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About Violet Nesdoly