Monday, April 15, 2013

Worship under the Word

I was once responsible for planning worship and preaching for one of my denomination's annual conferences. One of my goals, only imperfectly realized, was to demonstrate by example that good worship — worship focused on God rather than self — could take place in any of a variety of worship styles. That seems to be the thesis of Worship by the Book, edited by D.A. Carson, with chapters by Mark Ashton, R. Kent Hughes and Timothy Keller. In the Preface, Carson writes:
This is not a comprehensive theology of worship. Still less is it a sociological analysis of current trends or a minister's manual chock full of "how to" instructions. We have not attempted detailed historical analyses of our respective traditions, nor have we devoted much space to interaction with other discussions. Rather, after a preliminary chapter on the biblical theology of worship, the remaining three chapters move from theological reflection to practical implementation of patterns of corporate worship in the local churches we represent. Complete service outlines are included, for many ministers will find the arguments more helpful and fruitful if they are fleshed out in detailed outlines. ....
.... What unites us is our strong commitment to the ministry of the Word; our respect for historical rootedness; and our deep commitment, nevertheless, to contemporaneity and solid engagement with unconverted, unchurched people. We are as suspicious of mere traditionalism as we are of cutesy relevance. What we provide is the theological reasoning that shapes our judgments in matters of corporate worship, along with examples that have emerged from our ministries. In each case we have tried to interact with our respective traditions without being padlocked to them. ....
In addition to the chapters there are extensive appendices. This looks like something that would be useful to any pastor or worship leader interested in, as the title of chapter 1 puts it, "Worship Under the Word."