Several weeks ago,¹ I wrote rather extensively on worship, dealing largely with words and core concepts. Then on Sunday I shared a bit about songs, articles, and periodicals that have been formative in the worship realm. Now to a few influential books. . . .
At first blush, it might seem ironic that one reads about worship instead of spending that reading time worshipping. Not so. Taken in balance with experience, dialogue, and scripture study, the reading of books about worship is also important. Through the years, I have discarded or traded in some books that seemed mute or otherwise less than worthy; others, less likely to be referred to, now reside in a box. Below are descriptions of some standout books that have had clear influence at points along the way.
Jack R. Taylor: The Hallelujah Factor (1983) This little volume came along at just the right time for me, and I always wished I could have experienced what Taylor experienced. He was asked to be interim pastor at a church in Texas and agreed to do so, on the condition that the church would study and practice worship exclusively during his tenure. This book relates the fruit of such a concentration on worship, and I suspect that many churches, if bold enough to venture forth like this, would realize they hadn’t previously been worshipping much at all.
Matt Redman: The Unquenchable Worshipper (2001) Although I only read this once, I feel a fondness and a yearning every time I spy it on my shelf. I remember thinking that this leader of contemporary worship knew God and understood more deeply most people of this era.
Gene Edwards: The Divine Romance (1984) A poorly proofread book by a less-than-polished but highly poetic writer, this is an unusual one. It is a work of fiction, but one based to a degree on scriptural truth and insight. It’s not that this book taught me about worship per se, but it uniquely stirred my spiritual imaginings of the One Who is the Object of worship. One could say that awestruck wonder resides in the background of every page.
Andy T. Ritchie, Jr.: Thou Shalt Worship the Lord Thy God (1969) My parents edited and typed the final manuscript of this book authored by my mother’s father. Their work was accompanied by “a rare kind of empathy,” according to the inscription. Through the years, I have returned to this book—a section here, a richly poetic prayer there. At this point, the influence comes largely indirectly—from remembrances of the man who, by so many accounts, allowed deeply adoring words of worship to flow through him as he led and taught. The brief, written prayers that conclude each chapter of this book are the best of this “genre” that I’ve ever read.
Steven Mosley: God—A Biography (1988) How could one resist this title?! I think I picked it out of a CBD magazine with no knowledge of the author, but I was stimulated to ponder the historical and spiritual realities of God’s activity through Mosley’s writing. The book alternates the telling of biblical history with other stories in which Mosely observes the work of the great God of All. All this spurs the reader to worship from a posture of admiring awe.
Max Lucado: He Chose the Nails (2000) At an especially fragile time in my life, I sat on a plane and opened my new copy of this Lucado book. It was my 5th or 6th Lucado book, I think; No Wonder They Call Him the Savior and God Came Near had almost as much impact on me. These days, I don’t gravitate to Lucado as much (so I didn’t join the “Max Lucado addicts” Facebook group). However, there were words in this book about my Savior that moved me deeply, leading to joy-filled worship. Yes, on a plane. Quietly and with full eyes.
The above captions aren’t necessarily representative of the whole (and neither were the mentions of a few song titles in the last post). I would also point to the writings of of A.W. Tozer, Twila Paris, Michael Card, Philip Yancey, and others² who have offered various inspirations in their books . . . along with the witness of lives of friends committed to the worship of God.
B. Casey, Sept. 2015
¹ I left the academically important pursuits around worship words/concepts several weeks ago, picking up with a few other aspects before letting this topic rest. Here are links to some of the earlier posts:
- The priority premise
- Archives from September (scroll down to 9/8 “Preface” entry and read up/forward from there)
- Vertical and horizontal (one of several essays relating to Romans 12)
- A summary post (what’s the point of investigating worship?)
² The influential “others” have not, for one reason or another, included the exemplary-yet-Calvinistic 🙂 theologian J.I. Packer (Knowing God, 1973/93), the late guru Robert Webber (Ancient Future Worship, 2008; Planning Blended Worship, 1998), or any CofC writers who expend significant effort dealing with mechanical instruments vs. the voice. Although some of these do have something respectable to say, what I’ve read simply didn’t meet me where I was living at the time I encountered the writing.