Not every worship leader is built to be a voracious reader, however it’s still important for worship leaders to be worship readers, in some form or fashion. In this post, I want to highlight some of the books that have inspired, aided, and encouraged my ministry of worship pastoring in 2013. Then I want to talk about books I hope to read and books I have my eye on.
GREAT READS FROM 2013
Robbie Castleman, Story-Shaped Worship
A deep, sweeping explanation of how the whole scriptural story (not just the typical go-to “worship” parts) informs a theology of worship. I’ve posted on it several times.
Gracefully distilled in a way I could never do, Cosper tackles a biblical theology of worship in the first half and very applicable principles, grounded in the gospel, in the second. Check out my more thorough review here.
Matt Boswell, et al., Doxology & Theology
There’s certainly a bias here (because I contributed a chapter on the Trinity and the Worship Leader), but I still think it’s a unique book because of its authors and its aim. It’s a book by worship leaders for worship leaders about some of the most important aspects of worship leading. Here’s a little more about the book.
Stephen Miller, Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars
For modern-day worship leaders wanting to read their first book about worship…this is it. Well-written, funny, accessible, brief. Yet it hits all the major points of a Worship 101. It’s what I would want to say to a young worship leader just starting out. Here are more of my thoughts.
Paul Zahl, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life
This is not a worship book, but I mention it because, especially in the first 100 pages, it reoriented and sharpened my theology when it comes to justification, sanctification, and how people change and grow. For the careful, thoughtful worship leader, one can read between the lines to see how a law-gospel-oriented framework impacts how one plans and leads worship services.
BOOKS I PLAN ON READING IN 2014
James K. A. Smith, Imagining the Kingdom
Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom was such a game-changer for so many worship leaders I know (including myself). I’ve posted on it a BUNCH. I’m a year behind with this book (it was released last year this time), but I know it’s a must-read. It’s installment two of a trilogy.
Lester Ruth, Longing For Jesus: Worship at a Black Holiness Church in Mississippi
I’ve tried to emphasize just how important and original the scholar Lester Ruth is to conversations about worship in the modern era. He is carving a vein of scholarship out of a petrified no-man’s-land, and we will look back on his work and influence on young scholars in 50 years, thanking God for his labors. This book is in a series of vignettes of worship in various contexts and time periods, and I think it’s important that we pay attention to what he’s doing.
Ashley Null, Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance
This year, I plan on a deep study of Thomas Cranmer (the mastermind behind the Book of Common Prayer) in conjunction with my doctorate at Knox Seminary. I was surprised to discover just how much a “contextual thinker” Cranmer was. The Book of Common Prayer was, at least in part, his attempt to flesh out his theology of worship in a particular time and place. I want to learn from his contextualization so that I can apply it to my job at Coral Ridge.
Martin Luther, On Hymns and Liturgy
In the multi-volumed works of Luther is one volume on his hymns and liturgical writings. I’ve already been reading a bit from it, and I’ve found him to be an incredible example of what it means to both pastor through liturgical reform and do so graciously with patience.
Elmer Towns & Vernon Whaley, Worship Through the Ages: How the Great Awakenings Shape Evangelical Worship
I recently read Lester Ruth’s paper on the historiography of contemporary worship, and he mentioned this book as being one angle on a more “sociological read” of the modern evangelical worship movement. I think I’ll find some important insights here.
UPCOMING BOOKS I’VE GOT MY EYE ON
Andrew B. McGowan, Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective. Due out in October, this one looks good.
Daniel I. Block, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. Due out in June, and written by a solid evangelical exegete.
Melanie Ross, Evangelical Versus Liturgical? Defying a Dichotomy. Coming in May. The title alone intrigues me. Can’t wait to see what the blogosphere has to say about it.
F. Gerritt Immink, The Touch of the Sacred: The Practice, Theology, and Tradition of Christian Worship. Like the previous book, it’s due date is May, and it is also a Calvin Institute-borne work…so of course it’s going to be worth checking out.
Alcuin Reid, ed., Sacred Liturgy: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church. A Catholic work due out in May. I’m fascinated by the language of the title and how it is at least positing mission as flowing from the pinnacle ecclesiastical act of worship.
Jeremy Begbie, Music, Modernity, and God: Essays in Listening. I’m not precisely sure of the release date on this one, but everything Begbie writes melts my face.
What am I missing? What would you recommend?
Gordon Wenham: The Psalter Reclaimed
Good finds! The Melanie Ross book will be fantastic. McGowan is a major scholar well worth reading. The title of the Reid volume comes from the Vatican II document on liturgy (liturgy as source and summit of the Christian life). I look forward to reading it.
These aren't so new, but have you read any of these?
Paul Bradshaw, Reconstructing Early Christian Worship
Paul Bradshaw, Early Christian Worship, 2nd ed.
Laurence Hull Stookey, Calendar
Edward Kilmartin, Christian Liturgy: Theology and Practice [probably the most robust systematic theology of worship that I've ever encountered]
I don't think you will find much about liturgy in J. K. A. Smith's Imagining the Kingdom that isn't already in Desiring the Kingdom. The second volume in his series is mostly an elaboration of the philosophical anthropology that he introduced in DTK. There is a good section on the goodness and necessity of habits and ritual. But you won't find reflection on the specific aspects of liturgy like the end of DTK.
Ten Smptoms of the Lucifer Syndrome and Beyond the Gates of Praise.