Book: The Dialogue of Worship: Creating Space for Revelation and Response

Gary A. Furr and Milburn Price. Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., 1998. 96 pp. $13.00. (1-800-747-3016)

What happens when Christians worship? What really goes on? The Dialogue of Worship is a wonderful book for pastors, musicians, and worship planners about the very nature of the Christian faith and how it is “lived out” in the context of worship, of genuine communication with God. Although not focused on artistic styles, historical traditions, or “worship wars,” this concise and profound book is truly biblical, historical, philosophical, and practical. Here are ninety pages that are filled with substantive ideas about our dialogue with the God who has clearly revealed himself.

The authors take us beyond Kierkegaard’s famous analogy in which Christian worship is portrayed as a drama (congregation as actors, ministers and worship leaders as prompters, and God himself as the audience). Here, the language of dialogue “suggests interactive communication. The emphasis is not upon talking to God, but with God. There is anticipated dialogical give-and-take. Both revelation and response are present.”

The authors, a pastor/church musician team, have included a wonderful section on the importance of silence in the dialogue of worship. There is a challenge to church musicians to make sure that the vocal and instrumental music—as well as the hymns and songs—are planned as a relevant part of the dialogue. Of special interest is the section of the book dedicated to “worship in other settings”: personal worship, small groups, retreats, weddings, funerals, even the important pastoral call to the bedside of a grieving person—all occasions in which “revelation and response” have a place in the life of faith.

The following comes from the conclusion of the book:

The intent of this book has been to present an understanding of worship—at its heart and at its best—as being dialogic in nature. The tapestry of worship is formed by the various threads of conversation that occur in the interweaving fashion: God’s Word being communicated to the gathered community (both individually and corporately), worshipers responding to God under the prompting of God’s Spirit, and those same worshipers sharing with each other their understandings of their faith commitments and of the ways in which God is at work in their lives (p. 87).

My only negative comment is that The Dialogue of Worship seems overpriced—$13.00 for a short book that I would like to buy for every member of my church staff and worship committee.

Carl Stam (carlstam@aol.com) is the director of the Institute for Christian Worship at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the part-time minister of music at Louisville’s Clifton Baptist Church. Since 1995, he has distributed a weekly e-mail devotional on worship and prayer, Worship Quote of the Week (www.wqotw.org).