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Entries in cherry creek presbyterian church (13)


How Certain Worship Decisions Are Relative

This post isn't from or for the ivory tower.  It's from and for worship pastors who have their boots on the ground. 

In a message given by Tim Keller at the Advance the Church Conference, he pointed out that one of the results of the gospel taking root in a person's life was "a general unpredictability of thought."   I believe this is also what is at play for us worship pastors who have to make certain calls about our worship practices in the local body.  In one context, I would make one decision, and in another context, I would make the completely opposite decision. This "relativity" is where theology's tires actually hit the road of practice.  A pure theologian probably doesn't have categories for such praxis, but a pastor-theologian should.  (I sometimes wonder whether debates that exist in my own [Reformed] tradition over the Regulative Principle don't often get bogged down precisely because the Principle resides in that gray area where biblical and pastoral theology meet.) Let me illustrate with an example from my own context. 

Over my time at Cherry Creek, I had several encounters with folks who were concerned over the level of talking going on during the prelude of our traditional service.  While our organist would be playing a masterful piece, it was often barely heard, especially if it were quiet and meditative, over the jibber-jabber of the several hundred folks gathering for worship.  The concerned parties would point out to me that the prelude was a time for people to quiet their hearts and prepare to encounter the living God in worship.  They expressed dismay over the fact that people were taking the entry into worship flippantly, even disrespectfully, by talking to one another instead of quieting their hearts.  They would speak powerfully about how worship was to be reverent, and the talking in the prelude was quite irreverent.

Nothing was necessarily wrong in either what they said or the grounding they gave.  I often proffer similar ideas when encouraging the correction of modern worship's leanings.  The Scripture calls for reverence and awe in worship (e.g. Psalm 95:6; Habakkuk 2:20).  The greatness of our God demands a humble posture, and silence certainly is extra-golden in our day and age.  The raw theology speaks plainly enough, and in this instance it would seem that I should aquiesce to the complaints and concerns.  But, as a pastor, I was called to think as a big-picture theologian in philosophy and as a shepherd in application.  Both of these led me to actually deny these requests.

You see, our church's traditional worship service majored on reverence.  From our architecture (dark, tall, ominous brick walls, bright towering stained glass), to our liturgy, to our music, to our formality, the joy-to-reverence pendulum was swung far to the right.  (Some people would challenge my polarization of joy and reverence as a false dichotomy, but that debate is for another time.)  Everything was well-contained and structured.  As a big-picture doxological theologian, I know that reverence is only one part of the worship picture.  In such instances, other Psalm-snippets, like, "enter His gates with thanksgiving" (Psalm 100:4), and "clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy" (Psalm 47:1), start flooding my mind as ballast to the reverence-tipped conversation.  As a pastor, I also know that when people converse at appropriate times before, during, and after worship, great good occurs in fostering a joyful spirit of worship in the assembly.  It also serves to encourage what we often call the "horizontal," people-to-people elements of worship (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:18-20).  (As a little aside: The irony of some who desire quiet reverence as a service begins is that they end up looking more like the "individualistic charismatics" they often criticize, seeking a solitary experience of God that just happens to be in the same room as other believers--having one's private devotions in a public space.)  So, I'm thinking through the fact that these folks could stand to grow in what it means both to worship with joy and to worship with others in that exuberance.  I'm thinking through a service that already heavily leans away from that, and I can't imagine giving up some of the few elements of worship that actually foster the appropriate counterbalance.

Now, I'd rather not debate issues of reverence and whether or not one should talk during preludes.  That's not my point here.  My aim is to show how many worship decisions are often situational, context-specific, and people-oriented, and a good worship pastor knows well how not to fire theological shotgun shells from the hip.  There is a relativity in the application of a theology of worship when that theology hits the ground in a local church. Sometimes, seminaries and other communities of learning fail in giving adequate credence to this difficult reality. 

In a recent text-exchange with my new partner in ministry, Tullian Tchividjian, he said, "It's harder to comprehend high and communicate low than it is to comprehend high and communicate high. That's a piece of cake. It takes more brilliance (and a lot more love for people) to speak in common language."  Tullian was speaking of the art of distilling "high theology" for ordinary folks.  The same is true in worship pastoring when you are committed to being a tenacious doxological theologian.  It takes so much more love, work, and grace to rigorously pursue the Scripture's teaching on worship and then rather painfully live in the tension of its application in a specific local church.  It's so much more easy to sit back and pontificate from on high.  I confess that in my early years of worship leading I did much of this, turning my nose up at the naivete of the "dumb sheep."  Let's just say God slapped me around a time or two before I realized that the naivete was mine and that I lacked a pastor's heart.

So while Truth is unchanging and absolute, its application is relative and contextual.  Between these two realms is where a good worship pastor resides.  The grace of God teaches us such things.


Worship in the Wake of Aurora

There was a lot of crying in worship yesterday.  Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church sits on the edge of Aurora, separated by the Cherry Creek reservoir.  Many in our flock are Aurora residents, and one of our own, Petra Anderson, was in the theater and was hit in the face from a shotgun blast.  Our Senior Pastor, Brad Strait, recounts the miracle of how she is alive and well when she should have been dead in two hours, despite the fact that the pellet from the shotgun came in through her nose, traveled through her brain, and stopped at the back of her skull. 

The Andersons are near and dear to the Cherry Creek family and to my own heart.  They’re a family of intelligent, thoughtful, and theologically reflective artists and musicians, and they have blessed our ministry of worship through their contributions of music, film, and the dramatic arts.  Our pastoral team has been in the middle of the hospital and media frenzy, and we’re praying like mad, through tears.  The Andersons need a lot of support, and their story is even more than just about Petra.  Check out their blog and their indie-gogo site.

How do you worship in a time like this?  How do you do Sunday when such a city-altering event took place on Friday?  For us, it meant scrapping our worship service plans and building them from the ground up.  It meant that Sunday had to be one, extended, corporate, “How long?”  Sometimes our worship services have to model lament in seasons of joy to shape and prepare people.  Yesterday, there was no modeling.

The Service

We organized a fairly simple service of “Lament and Hope."  Here are the orders of worship for our first service and our second service, which, apart from songs, were largely the same.  We began with a series of Scripture readings, in between each was a corporate, sung “How long, O Lord” in a minor key that went like this:

(Here's the simple lead sheet if you want to get the fuller musical picture.)  We gave it lots of breathing room as we slowly and agonizingly read through six different Scriptural lamentations from Habakkuk 1, Psalm 35, and Psalm 13.  We then went into an extended time of Prayers of the People in which we asked our worshipers to lift up prayer requests pertaining to the shooting.  The Spirit was thick in the room--the requests of our people were mature, deep, and well-balanced.  We prayed for the victims, their families, the police officers and emergency response personnel.  We went even deeper, still:

  • For the shooter himself, and for the families who will struggle a lifetime to forgive
  • For the survivors in the room and for the first folks on the scene, who will live with a lifetime of horrific images and trauma
  • For the parents in our flock, in Denver, and around the world who will help their kids process atrocious evils like this
  • For the churches in Denver to rise up, minister well, and display Christ

Brad preached on Psalm 12 (which, providentially, was already part of our sermon series), and then we went into a time of response through offering, singing, and Scripture reading (Psalm 34:1-10; 2 Corinthians 4:6-12).

Pastoring People Through Lamentation

Not everyone there was ready to lament or wanted to lament.  Some were removed from the whole situation enough that it felt like a normal Sunday to them.  Others were probably too numb to express much of anything.  We encountered several folks, though, who hadn't participated in Sunday morning worship for many years but who were looking for some kind of outlet.  One guy, James, an Aurora resident, told me in a conversation that he came simply because "his heart was heavy."  So many were ready to cry out.

To neglect this and just do worship as usual would be an affront to humanity.  We could not worship the same.  Even more, yesterday became an opportunity to train people for heaven, to shape our desires to be more in line with the goals of the kingdom of God, to prepare people for death, and to give God-honoring vocabulary to suffering.  It became an opportunity to proclaim the gospel of the cross--the place where lamentation and hope collide in marvelous mess.  It became an opportunity to deal with the perennial problem of evil, not with logical and philosophical arguments (which have their place), but on the existential ground level of pain and praise.  

There are times of God's choosing when worship leaders need to be smacked out of their pastoral coma and realize that they have a duty to shepherd the flock through the services they plan and lead.  Pastoral care happens at the one-on-one level, but it also happens through faithful worship pastors who make room for the corporate cry of suffering saints.  

Please pray for Cherry Creek, for the Andersons, for Denver, and for all the sufferers across the globe who don't get any media coverage.  Please lift up a cry to God with us, as we lift up our desperate Maranatha.


Worship as Formation: Lessons from Psalm 1

Summer 2012 sermon series at Cherry Creek Presbyterian ChurchI'm preparing to preach (for the second time in my life) on Psalm 1 this Sunday.  As I re-engage the exegesis, I am struck again by the message of this first hymn in God's inspired hymnal.  When we exegete Scripture, we dissect the language, we peer into the mind of the author, and we immerse ourselves into the worldview and situation of the original hearers.  But with the Psalms, some additional things are at play, one of those being the Psalm's placement within the Psalter itself.

Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm (it sounds very much like a proverb), and, by virtue of its placement, it is the introduction to the entire book of Psalms.  As such, it makes a very interesting point that we often miss when reading it narrowly in English.  The key theme verse is:

His (or her) delight is in the law of the LORD,
And on His law he (or she) meditates day and night.
(Psalm 1:2, NIV) 

Several commentators point out that here we have the whole book of Psalms being introduced as torah, which we translate (probably somewhat inadequately) as "law."  But torah in this context does not really mean so much God's moral law, or even the Pentateuch.  Torah means here, more generally, "instruction."  But even then, we might be tempted to think that this is saying that the Psalms exist to teach us something cognitive, to fill our brains with information about God.  Torah as "instruction" is more robust.  It is more like instruction that leads to growth.  Torah is formation.

Psalm 1, as an introduction to the Psalter, is making an important point about the nature of worship: Worship forms us.  It shapes us.  As we worship, God does soul-surgery, making us different than we were.  Our habits are retrained toward the things God desires.  God changes our "wanter," as I've heard others say.  We want different things than we used to.  We start thinking God's thoughts after Him.  We start living the "liturgical life," with all its up and down rhythms, the other six days of the week.

Certainly Psalm 1 exists to encourage us to meditate on Scripture as a primary means for growth and nourishment.  But there is another message contained here, simply because Psalm 1 is Psalm 1 and not Psalm 36 or 114.  Worship is formational.  Pastors and worship leaders should heed this well as we think about planning and leading worship services week in and week out.  The center of our disciple-making call is wrapped up in the content and shape of our worship.


Maundy Thursday at Pictures

(Special thanks to Paul Adams Photo for the oustanding photography!)

Our annual Maundy Thursday Family Service at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Denver is probably one of the more unique times of worship that I've ever been a part of.  It is an interactive, multi-sensory, truly intergenerational experience.  We started doing it in this format four or five years ago, and it's quickly become a tradition.  Several years ago, God convicted our staff and leadership about our lack of attention to children as full-fledged worshipers.  We began a slow but persistent overhaul of how we thought about and engaged children in worship, and the Maundy Thursday Family Service was a part of that process.

We observed how high and formal our Good Friday Service was, and we wanted to be able to allow for a service where our kids would feel less on the outskirts, straining to understand, and more in the inner circle, quite literally.  So we devised a more informal worship service that included dinner as a part of the worship service. Dinner...yeah, it's biblical...and maybe it's especially appropriate for Maundy Thursday, a day commemorating the happenings in the Upper Room and Christ's great mandatum (where we get the word "Maundy"): "a new command I give one another."

As best as we can, with the supplies we have, we transform center court of our multi-purpose center into a replica of what the original Last Supper table might have looked like.  The seating most likely would have been a Roman triclinium setup, with a U-shaped table, where those participating would have reclined forward on cushions.  We modify this idea, creating a center table on floor-level where, during a portion of the service, the kids come to gather for an interactive teaching time, bringing pillows around the table's edge, where the kids, while munching, learn about what the Last Supper would have been like and what Communion is all about (the adults end up learning a bit, too.)

With circular dining tables surrounding center court, we create a pretty communal atmosphere.  People share a meal that would have (slightly) resembled a typical first century meal: fish, chicken (because fish is scary for some), dates, grapes, bread, and a few slight variations like hummus and cheese.  And that's how the service begins, with people eating, talking, and enjoying one another's company.  We opened the meal in prayer.

Zac Hicks (guitar), Lucille Reilly (recorder, hammered dulcimer), Paul Adams (percussion)This year, as dinner was wrapping up, our ensemble (me on guitar, a percussionist, and a hammered dulcimerist) led some music (Rich Mullins' "Creed," to connect communion with the Apostles' Creed), with the congregation joining in on Matt Redman's "How Great is Your Faithfulness," interspersed with amazing, lengthy recitations from three of our kids on God's faithfulness in Christ through every book of the Bible.  The people cheered each kid on, and we were all moved by God's faithfulness from Genesis through Revelation.

We gathered all the kids around for the table experience, which is always a magical, unforgettable encounter, led by our Director of Student Ministries, Chris Piehl.

Our senior pastor, Brad Strait, then taught briefly on Communion and instituted the elements.  As our people came forward to receive the Lord's Supper, whole families came, and kids not ready to receive Communion were invited to take from a cluster of grapes that one of our youth were holding alongside our elders with the bread and cup.

We played an instrumental version of "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded," adapted for guitar and recorder, pulling from J. S. Bach's arrangement along with some of Paul Simon's variation on the tune in the last verse.  

Our music moved into one of our favorite Communion songs at CCPC, "We Will Dance," a Vineyard song by David Ruis that does a really nice job bringing the festive, eschatological themes of the Eucharist to the fore--lots of longing for the Second Coming and the marriage feast of the Lamb:

Sing a song of celebration, lift up a shout of praise
For the bridegroom is come, the glorious One
And oh, we will look on His face,
We'll go to a much better place

So dance with all your might
Lift up your hands and clap for joy
For the time's drawing near
When He will appear
And oh, we will stand by His side
A strong, pure, spotless bride

We will dance on the streets that are golden
The glorious bride and the great Son of Man
And every tribe and tongue and nation
Will join in the song of the Lamb 

Words & Music: David Ruis; ©1993 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing

The final part of the service was an interactive time of people grabbing a few inches of chain from the center of their tables, tying red ribbons on them, symbolizing sins that we're holding, burdens that we're carrying, and bonds holding us down.  Then, while singing "Amazing Grace," people came to center-court and threw our chains down.  

It was a moving experience to hear the chains slamming against the table; it made the freedom of the good news God's grace through Jesus all the more visceral.  After a prayer and the benediction, people left with a strong sense of the "heavy joy" of Maundy Thursday evening.

We musicians shared in communion together at the close of the service.


Is Church Membership Biblical?

Some denominations and churches make room for formal membership in the local body, and others do not.  I've wrestled myself with whether church membership is a biblical practice or whether it's merely a human invention which may be good, but not necessary.

In the church context in which I'm a pastor, we have our fair share of members, but we also have not a small amount of folks who, for a variety of reasons, regularly attend, are quite involved in the body-life of the church, and yet have not gone through the formal process of membership.  For some, if not many, of those folks, their reasons are often pragmatic.  They haven't been able to engage in the classes or meetings that we've set up as a prerequisite for membership.  (In those groups, we briefly overview theology, church history, our denomination's history and distinctives, and our local church's journey, authority-structure, vision, mission, and core values.)  For others, there exists an objection to membership as unbiblical and unnecessary.  "I don't need to take a class and sign on the dotted line to be connected with this local assembly; it's really about a heart commitment, not a piece of paper," they might say in sundry variations.

So, again, is membership biblical?  I believe it is.  Unfortunately, people's perceptions of what "membership" means are often more informed by culture than by the Bible.  When we hear "membership" we immediately think of Costco or a country club.  We think of signing contracts, paying dues, and getting special ID cards.  

When I've done talks on "membership" at our church, the following is a summary of what I've presented, in both defining and defending what biblical member-ship is all about.

"Member" is a Biblical Word

  • oikeios - a member of a household (Eph 2:19)
  • summetochos - member, sharer, participant (Eph 3:6)
  • melos - member, body-part (we retain this in English with words like "dismemberment"; Rom 12:4; 1 Cor 6:15; Eph 4:25; 5:30; Col 3:15)

These three words give us great insight into what "member" means from a biblical perspective.  First, it connotes familial connectivity (oikeios).  This is why Christians have called one another "brother" and "sister" since the earliest days of the Church.  These labels aren't Christian jargon.  They make a theological statement about who we are as members of God's covenant family.  

Second, it connotes active participation, mutual giving and taking, and doing "life together" (summetochos).  The summetochos/metacho word-group is a rich scriptural expression for intimate life-sharing and connectivity.  To be a "member" is to be a life-sharer.

Third, it connotes our union with Christ and subsequent union with one another.  "Body of Christ" is not just a symbolic metaphor for the Church.  It is a statement about who the Church is in relation to the world.  When Christ left the earth, He didn't really leave.  He actually chose to manifest Himself differently, through the Church--His Body--by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.  As odd as it sounds, if people want to physically see Jesus, they are to look at the Church.  A member, in this understanding, is a body-part of Christ.  Someone who is a member of a church recognizes their "body-part-ness" and strives to be the best body-part they can be, recognizing that they are just a small part of an integrated whole.  

This is a very different understanding of membership than Costco or country clubs!

On Membership and Peace

Colossians 3:15

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.

F. F. Bruce:

"Let the peace of Christ be arbiter in your hearts,” he says.  When hostile forces have to be kept at bay, the peace of God garrisons the believer’s heart, as in Phil. 4:7.  But here the common life of fellow-members of the body of Christ is in view; when differences threaten to spring up among them, the peace of Christ must be accepted as arbitrator.  If the members are subject to Christ, the peace which he imparts must regulate their relations with one another.  It was not to strife but to peace that God called them in the unity of the body of Christ.  Peace in this sense figures prominently in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).  In a healthy body harmony prevails among the various parts.  Christians, having been reconciled to God, enjoying peace with him through Christ, should naturally live at peace with one another.  Strife inevitably results when men and women are out of touch with him who is the one source of true peace; but there is no reason why those who have received the peace which Christ established by his death on the cross should have any other than peaceful relations among themselves.1

The Meaning of Membership

1. It means that you realize that you’re not only called to Jesus but called into a community.

Cyprian of Carthage (3rd c.):

Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.  “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” 

This statement can be scary for Protestants.  It sounds "Catholic."  It sounds like it violates the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  Here's how we understand this statement.  We don't believe it means that people are saved by God through becoming members.  We don't believe it means that if people believe in Jesus but aren't part of a local church, assembly, or gathered body that they aren't saved (there are even scriptural counter-examples, like the thief on the cross).  We understand this to be powerful rhetorical shorthand for, "when God saves, he ordinarily, naturally, and necessarily draws us into community with other Christ-followers.  We are saved into community--the Triune Community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of all others who share in that divine life.  Perhaps Cyprian meant something stronger than what we'd be comfortable with, but we think it's a powerful way of saying, "Hey, God didn't intend to create lone-ranger Christians."  To commune with God is to commune with others.  Our communion is necessarily vertical and horizontal. 

2. It means that you’re recognizing you’re weak, and you therefore need the deepest amount of commitment and accountability to support your weakness.

I can’t know their hearts, but I sometimes wonder about people who never commit to church membership.  I wonder whether they fully understand how weak they are and how much they desperately need every tool God has given them for their sanctification and growth. 

3. It means that you’re choosing not to treat the church like a consumer product. 

Sometimes people choose to not become members so that they can hold the church at arm's length.  They want an "out" if something were to go wrong, if something offended them, or if someone displeased them.  In essence, they want to treat the church like a product that they can return if they don't find it useful or helpful.  Membership in a church takes that "right" away.  You're forced to deal with issues from the inside rather than easily running away.  You've made a commitment, and backing out becomes much harder.  Conflict, disagreement, and hardship can now be tools used by God for the growth and maturation of you and the strengthening, edifying, and purification of the church.

4. It means that you help lead and guide the church.

From the documents of my denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC):

Confirmed Members: Those who have been baptized and who have made a public profession of their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and who have been admitted to active membership by the Church Session are entitled to participate in the governing of the Church by voting in meetings of the congregation. (Book of Order, “Book of Government,” 6-1.A)

This results in:

  • Helping us move forward in the vision and mission God has for us.
  • Electing officers (who become your “representatives”) as overseers and servants (elders and deacons).

5. It means that you’re taking your discipleship under Christ seriously.

EPC Documents:

The exercise of discipline is highly important and necessary. The purpose of discipline is to maintain the honor of God, to restore the sinner, and to remove offense from the church.  Ministers must instruct the officers and congregation in discipline and jointly practice it in the context of the congregation and courts of the church. Scriptural law is the basis of all ecclesiastical discipline because it is the revelation of God’s holy will. Proper disciplinary principles are set forth in the Scriptures and must be followed. According to Matthew 18:15 and Galatians 6:1, these principles include instruction in the Word and the individuals’ responsibility to admonish one another.  (Book of Order, “Book of Discipline,” 1-5)

You are:

  • Choosing to submit to Christ and those whom Christ has put in spiritual authority over you (elders).
  • Willingly placing yourself under accountability.
  • Guarding yourself from sin and temptation in a greater way.

6. It means that you want to be a fully committed part of the vehicle God has created to change the world.

The local church is, in Christ, the hope of the world.  Becoming a member is entering into the deepest possible commitment to the most important enterprise in the world.  How amazing is that?!?

7. It means that you’re willing and committing to give sacrificially of yourself for the sake of others.

We choose to give out of both our external resources (e.g. our time, money) and our “internal” resources (how God has gifted us).

8. It means that you’re willing to make and keep promises.

The membership vows for people joining an EPC church:

1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God and without hope for your salvation except in His sovereign mercy?

2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of sinners, and do you receive and depend upon Him alone for your salvation as He is offered in the Gospel? 

3. Do you now promise and resolve, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?

4. Do you promise to serve Christ in His Church by supporting and participating with this congregation in its service of God and its ministry to others to the best of your ability?

5. Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and to the spiritual oversight of this Church Session, and do you promise to promote the unity, purity and peace of the Church?




1 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984, NICNT), 156-157.




When the Holy Spirit Breaks Open the Worship Service (Or, the Surprise of Super Bowl Sunday at Cherry Creek)

Just in case you were mistaken, this isn't a worship service. It's a football game.Quite at the last minute yesterday, I felt nothing less than a strong compulsion from the Holy Spirit to urge our congregation to do something in worship quite foreign to us.  Many moons ago, I posted on physical expressiveness in worship with what I’ve found to be a very compelling argument. 

Click to read more ...


Worship Reading Goals for 2012 

Worship leaders should be worship readers, so here’s my ambitious list for 2012 (off the heels of what I have read in 2011).  These are the books I want to focus on in the field of worship, but they won’t be the only things I read.  In fact, I want to take seriously C. S. Lewis’s admonishment to read one old book for every new one.  These are all relatively new books, and though I won’t read as many old books, I hope to read a few (Bradshaw, below, will open me up to some primary source material that will take me into the old stuff).  I also hope to read one or two works of classic literature and am open to recommendations.  Literature always stirs my soul and imagination and often helps me think about well-worn issues in new ways.


John Jefferson Davis, Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence (2010)

I’ve actually read this one already, but I plan on revisiting it, outlining it, and imparting its wisdom to others.  In fact, our Worship, Music, & Arts team at Cherry Creek will be discussing it at our retreat this January.


Simon Chan, Liturgical Theology (2009)

I’m about half way through this book already, so it will likely be my first finish in 2012.  It is blowing my face off.  Its dialogue is so different from what evangelicals typically talk about, and it really lifts up a high view of gathered, corporate worship.  It is also heavily footnoted (which I love) and is therefore opening me up to a host of resources, especially to choice worship-thinkers outside of the evangelical tradition.


Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice (1965)

Both Davis and Chan (above) have cited this resource enough times that I feel it’s important enough to dig up.  It’s from a Reformed perspective, but it takes some surprising turns, I believe, such that it wouldn’t sound like the standard fare from Reformed worship writers (not that they’re bad!).


Edward Kilmartin, Christian Liturgy: Theology and Practice (1988)

A Roman Catholic liturgiologist who will especially inform me in the area of Worship and the Trinity.  Chan references this book a fair amount.


Paul Bradshaw, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy (2002)

I’m looking forward to this book being a resource of primary material regarding early Christian worship and its roots in Jewish synagogue worship.


Hilaire Belloc, “On Song,” from On Everything (1910)

I honestly can’t remember why I’ve flagged this essay to read, except that something else I read referenced it and compelled me to check it out.  Free download from Google Books.


Paul Westermeyer, Te Deum: The Church and Music (1998)

This one won’t be read from cover to cover but will be referenced heavily, especially as it pertains to traditional worship music and liturgy.  Bruce Benedict at Cardiphonia turned me on to this resource.


John Williamson Nevin, The Mystical Presence: A Vindication of the Reformed or Calvinistic Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist (1846)

I’m interested in understanding my Presbyterian/Reformed tradition better when it comes to the theology of the Lord’s Supper, and many have said that Nevin’s work is seminal.


Honorable mention (or, books on my radar that may either gain or lose traction on the journey to making the 2012 list): 

Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, The Works of God (2001)

Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (1997)

Alexander Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology (1966)


Worship leaders & thinkers: What are you reading?  What will you read?  What has recently impacted your view, practice, and leadership of worship?  I'm very curious.


Great New Denver Worship Artist - John Gooch

The tide continues to turn in modern worship.  Faux-hawks are increasingly being covered with thinking caps.  I met John Gooch a few years ago when he moved to Denver from out of the state.  He’s finishing up a degree at Denver Seminary, and one of the primary goals of his studies is to be the best worship leader he can be.  I praise God that we’re seeing more up-and-coming worship leaders hungering for deep theology and wide biblical reflection.  Would to God that more aspiring worship leaders believe that the best thing for their craft is a deep love for God honed in the woodshed of thoughtful, intentional Bible-training.  Because John is one of these kinds of worship leaders, I value him, even enough to ask him to sub for me at Cherry Creek when I’ve been out of town.

John has just released a stellar EP entitled The Waiting Room.  It’s a clean and clever pop-rock album, some of the songs on which have great congregational potential.  My favorite track is “Home,” a powerful ballad which internalizes and personalizes the story of the Prodigal Son.  You get the sense that John is writing from the perspective and voice of the Prodigal himself and yet sharing something deeply personal about his own story.  There’s a lot in this song for everyone to identify with, as the first verse and chorus illustrate:

I’ve been a liar
And I’ve been a thief
I’ve killed another’s hope
And I’ve stolen their dreams

How could You ever love such a broken man like me?
Still You say, “I love you, son. Come home.”

All my fear, all my shame
On the cross You took my blame
In Your grace I’m not alone
God, you say, “Come home.”

Ahh…the good news just never gets old.

There are a lot of emerging singer-songwriters out there making records.  What makes John stand out?  Well, for one, not every singer-songwriter has a great voice, and even fewer have that natural, knock-you-out vocal sound (I think I fall short of this, myself).  John does; his voice is pro.  Secondly, if The Waiting Room is the beginning of John’s official songwriting journey, then we’re in for a treat as we see him develop in his craft, because these songs are both solid and deep.  John has a clear passion to inhale theology and exhale praise through song.  The Waiting Room typifies this and prophesies of greater depths to come.  Part of my hope and prayer for John is to figure out how to wed the passion and heart of modern worship with the church's rich history of hymnody.  I don't know that we've fully seen the potential of that explosive combination, and I think John's the type of songwriter that will have the chops to do it.

The album was recorded in a fine studio (Epicenter) out here in Boulder, CO, and its mix is fresh and clean.  I love some of the electric guitar choices and colors, especially on “Beautiful Savior” and “You Are.”

Go give The Waiting Room a listen, and pick up a copy while you’re at it!