The adventurous pilgrim in search of true wisdom will brave harsh clime and harrowing climb to question the mountaintop guru about the meaning of life. Modern pilgrims in search of worship-related wisdom need only brave slow Internet connections. The era of the point-and-click expert is here, via the World Wide Web. Of course, not all experts are equally helpful or equally wise. What follows, then, is a report of three helpful worship guru websites I’ve discovered on my electronic travels.
Robert Webber, a professor of theology and ministry at Northern Baptist Seminary (Lombard, Illinois) and Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois), is one of the most widely-known and prolific worship gurus in North America. Many of his forty-odd books—including Worship Is a Verb, Planning Blended Worship, Worship Old and New, and Ancient-Future Faith—are available for purchase at his own guru website, www.ancientfutureworship.com. Information is also available here for a hymnal, educational videos, Sunday school curricula, workshop materials, consulting programs, even distance-learning degree programs. Webber also shares his wisdom regularly in an electronic newsletter whose archives are one click away from the home page. These 500- to 1,000-word essays deal with crucial issues and are interactive in style, with Webber responding to questions put to him via e-mail.
A popular columnist for Worship Leader magazine and a sought-after consultant, Sally Morgenthaler shares with Webber a passion for genuine worship and a heart for evangelizing. She is part of the “Emergent Church” movement, which embraces postmodern sensibilities and tries to figure out how to translate the gospel for and be the church in this new era. Her website, www.sacramentis.com, offers many resources for those who share her convictions —and maybe a few for those who don’t. You’ll find previously published interviews with Morgenthaler, reprints of her articles, and of course, info for those who might wish to book her as a freelance guru.
The site offers Morgenthaler-approved resources as well, including dozens of books on worship and culture whose range of perspective is surprising: from Liquid Church by Pete Ward to Praying Twice by Brian Wren. But perhaps the most interesting part of the site is the extensive page of links (you’ll find it by clicking on “Resources”). Here is a gigantic list of websites related to worship and culture issues: worship planning, Web magazines, P&W music, music for transitioning congregations, ritual, alternative worship, copyright, dance, drama, film, preaching, technology, worship leadership education, royalty-free fine art and photography, PowerPoint, and more. A pastor wanting to learn something about worship and North American culture could do worse than spend an afternoon surfing with this page as a home base.
All these guru-related websites must struggle with the temptation to become—or the perception that they are—merely advertising vehicles for guru-of-the-day(tm) brand worship resources. This perception is particularly sharp when visiting www.heartofworship.com, the website of Matt Redman, most well-known for his contemporary worship songs, including “Heart of Worship” (see RW 64, p. 41 and RW 72, p. 11); the home page of this Shockwave-based site features a large picture of Redman’s latest CD. But in fact, you need to go to an altogether different shopping site to spend any money. At this particular site, with a few focused clicks, you’ll find a wealth of valuable information for what Redman calls “lead worshipers.”
There are articles by and interviews with Matt, as you’d expect, and links to other websites and upcoming events; also brief (1,000-word) devotional and theological essays by pastors and worship scholars (including a multiple-part series on liturgical theology by Chris Jack from the London Bible College). There’s an entire section on “Heritage” that “points to the past for inspiration and instruction.” Among the rich resources in this section are collections of seasonal hymns from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, an article about Gregorian chant, biographies of hymn writers, and a description by St. Justin of second-century Christian worship. There’s also a wonderful section on creativity in worship, including articles on songwriting, music theory, and equipment reviews, plus videos of drummers, guitarists, and other musicians demonstrating practical tips to leading worship musically.