Top 5 Books on Worship 2022


Now more than ever, we have access to resources that will make us better Worship Leaders.

Never before in history has so much information been available to so many people so quickly for so little money. This blog (and the website it’s posted on) witness to the plethora of resources available to anyone with internet access. I would contend that blogs, articles, and podcasts are great for opening the mind up to new ideas, but intellectual development requires nuance and depth that are typically found in books.

There are thousands of books written on the subject of worship spanning hundreds of years. By and large this is a blessing and a privilege that those even one generation prior didn’t have.

But having access to so many books on worship creates a problem..

how do we know what information is valuable and trustworthy?

What is truly worth our time? 

The sifting process can be overwhelming and to do it well is a skill in and of itself.  In this post I’m going to share five books on the subject of worship that I would generally recommend to worship pastors across denominations and church contexts. I tried to select books that cover both the nature and the function of corporate worship. Meaning, some of these are “how to” books, but some are “what for” and “why” books. We need a consistent intake of both because our “why” always shape our “how to”. With that said, let’s jump in… 

 

Book #1:  Ancient-Future Worship by Robert E. Webber 

 

Ancient-Future Worship was the first book of its kind that I read a number of years ago. In many ways it launched me onto the trajectory of learning and discovery that I’ve now been on for more than a decade. Robert Webber was an academic pioneer. As an Evangelical theologian and early-church historian, his work focused largely on retrieving the best models of worship from the Bible and the historic Church. All aimed towards the health and guidance of contemporary corporate worship.

Webber argues that God’s story should be central in our worship gatherings. He reminds us that we have been brought into God’s family – God’s story – not the other way around. Quote: “When worship fails to proclaim, sing, and enact at the Table the Good News that God not only saves sinners but also narrates the whole world, it is not only worship that becomes corrupted by the culture, it is also not the gospel.” (p.40)

Click Here to go to “Ancient-Future Worship”

Book #2: The Worship Architect by Constance Cherry 

 

Recently I was training a volunteer to open service with the Call to Worship and found myself rereading Cherry’s whole section on the topic. In this book, Cherry, a student of Robert Webber’s, gives us a handbook on worship design and implementation. If that sounds boring to you, fear not: it’s well-written and a far more simple read than you might think. I have found this book to be most valuable as a resource to which I refer time and time again.

Cherry’s thesis is that design – structure and flow – are as important to corporate worship as content, and there are well-worn paths we can follow that are both grounded and relevant for today.

Pick this book up, read it slowly, and refer to it often. Examine the services you plan or lead and find ways to deliberately establish a foundation in your community’s worship that will stand the test of time. Quote: “There will always be some worship services built on sand, but they will eventually collapse under the weight of the next trend to come into vogue. They will only be as stable as the foundation on which they are constructed.” (p.xvii). 

Click Here to go to “The Worship Architect”

Book #3: Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace by James B. Torrance 

 

While certainly this is the most theological book on the list, I believe it is also the most rewarding. This little book is all about “who” we worship – the triune God of grace – with very little about the “how.” Torrance rightly suggests that the Trinity is central, not simply for right doctrine and ethics, but for both understanding worship and for worshiping rightly.

In most of our churches we talk ad nauseum about the “how to’s” of the Christian life and very little about the nature of the God into whose life we have been brought. Simply put, our worship does a lot of things, but the ultimate aim is that we live in communion with God: Father, Son, and Spirit. Torrance reminds us that in all of our practices and expressions that God is the primary actor and it is for life with Him and in Him that we have been created. Quote (the final sentence of the book): “Let us look to him [Jesus] and his Spirit will lift us up as a community of faith into the very triune life of God.” 

Click Here to go to “Worship Community and The Triune God of Grace”

Book #4: Spirituality of the Psalms by Walter Brueggemann 

 

This is the shortest book on the list at only 74 pages, yet it’s the most spiritually demanding and insightful. As worship leaders we *know* that the Psalms are important. We *know* that they were the songbook and prayer book for the Jewish people and they should be important for us today. But how so, exactly? What are we to do with them?

Of course, this is a multi-faceted response – we should read them, we should pray them, we should study them, and we should find ways to sing them. But we should also hear in them permission to wrestle and struggle with God. Not just for important people like David, but for every person who is drawn into relationship with this living God.

Here, Walter Brueggemann provides us with a “spiritual theology” of the Psalms. He identifies within the Psalms recurring themes of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation and suggests that every one of us – including those in your congregation – will walk through these seasons. Personally, this book gave me language and permission to be honest about my faith and lack of faith. To be vocal with my praise and my disappointment. Quote: “…the study of the Psalms… shows how the psalms of negativity, the complaints of various kinds, the cries for vengeance and profound penitence are foundational to a life of faith in this particular God.” 

Click Here to go to “Spirituality of the Psalms”

Book #5: The Worship Pastor by Zac Hicks

 

This is the book you’re most likely to come across in your research on worship leading. Zac Hicks is a worship pastor who, in his own development and experience, recognized that the vocation of a worship pastor is far more diverse in function and responsibility than most have been trained for. This book is brilliantly organized around the many callings of a worship pastor, beginning with the primary calling to be a pastor. Hicks identifies sixteen – SIXTEEN! – responsibilities that worship pastors regularly carry and he treats each one with its own chapter. If this sounds daunting, it is!

Which is why his conclusion reminds us that we will fail in our ability to faithfully embody the perfect “worship pastor” and when we do, we fall into the arms of the One who called in the first place. I listed this one last as it’s the most “practical,” but if you haven’t read it I recommend starting here. Quote: “The goal of this book isn’t to load you up with a whole new set of duties that you don’t have time for. It’s to offer a vision of how what you’re already doing is pastoral work, with the hope that your pastoral call might be strengthened toward a more robust and intentional ministry.” 

Click Here to go to “The Worship Pastor”

These are by no means the “best” books for worship pastors to read, whatever that would mean.

 

I’m not qualified to make such judgments! I wrestled to curate a short list that collectively treats the act of worship, the purpose of worship, the function of worship, and the calling of the worship pastor. I hope that at least one of these will launch you further into your own journey of learning. Who knows, maybe you’ll be prompted to write a book that will end up on a list like this in the future. 

 


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