Worship Old and New by Robert E. Webber

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Book and Article Reviews, Worship
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As indicated by the title of this book, Webber makes a case for incorporating old forms of worship into modern worship practices.  Webber believes that the biblical basis for worship must be recovered in order to maintain the message, story, and faithful content of Scripture.  As such, there has been a trend among churches to re-discover and integrate early church forms of worship.

Webber believes there is a four-fold pattern in biblical worship: Assembling, Word, Eucharist, and Sending.  Each of these acts is an enactment of the story of God, which we are called to embody, not simply remember cognitively.  Within the worship model there are three things to consider as we assemble (called), listen and respond, give thanks, and enact social justice: content, structure, and style.

Content is the most important part of worship.  Worship is directed toward God and is about God.  Losing either of these elements makes worship shallow and egocentric.  Worship is a holistic life of obedience.  Worship is also the Gospel at work in the world.  It is the power of redemption experienced in the lives of the community of God.  It is not simply ascribing “worth” to God, nor is it a message to the congregants.  Worship is initiated by God and for God.  That should sober our attempts at making worship relevant to us… especially since worship is not about us.

Structure is a necessary and important part of worship.  Every church has a structure which correlates with their view of worship.  If we desire a more holistic worship experience, it is necessary to structure our worship to facilitate this desire.  Content helps dictate the structure.  In all things, our structures must participate in the “narrative” of God’s story and not simply be a “presentation.”  Structure moves us from observers to participants in the grand narrative of the Gospel.

Finally, style is a contextualizing of the message.  It is a “flexible” characteristic of worship.  This is often the conflict of the “worship wars.”  Most often, it is based upon preference rather than accessibility to others.  There is no “right” style.  Rather, style allows us to situate the Gospel in a certain culture.  As such, it is necessary that we are inclusive of other styles that help generate a whole, rather than segmented, community.


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