Book: Selling Worship: How What We Sing Has Changed the Church

Pete Ward. Paternoster Press, 2005. 235 pages. $15.00.

Many worship leaders are familiar with the names Graham Kendrick and Matt Redman, two of Britain’s most influential worship song writers. Selling Worship tells the story of the movements and the culture that influenced their compositions and careers. Ward, a lecturer at King’s College, London, offers a historical review and evaluation of the rise of Praise and Worship music in the UK from the early 1960s to today. He traces the use of popular music in the British evangelical church from its conception as a tool for evangelistic outreach to youth to its maturation as a vehicle for Charismatic worship.

The book draws out several themes for comment and critique, including the marketing of worship songs, the theological content of lyrics, the contextualization of popular music, and the changing modes of participation for worshipers.

Ward understands well the culture of the Praise and Worship movement and the industry that supports it. He writes as an insider, appreciating the Charismatic emphasis on worship as encounter with God and the worship renewal he has witnessed through the singing of popular musical forms. Given the title of his book, it is somewhat surprising that Ward refrains from making a pointed critique of the movement’s participation in the dynamics of production and consumption. Even so, he provides some cautionary words and makes some excellent suggestions for the further development of the movement, including a call to reconnect lyrically to the historical acts of Christ.

Paul Ryan (psr2@calvin.edu) is coordinator of Christian formation and resource development specialist for worship teams at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan.