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Reviews

Experiential Worship by Bob Rognlien. Navpress, 2005.

This volume is a treasure for all who are eager to move beyond balance, blend, or convergence in worship to a holistic, communal encounter with God.

Rognlien’s starting point is Jesus’ response to the question of which commandment is the greatest (Mark 12:30). He makes a compelling case for worship that enables God’s people to express their love and worship of God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is what he calls “worship for the whole person,” or “experiential worship.” It’s worship that touches all the dimensions of our humanness: heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Rognlien devotes a section to each type of worship, clarifying what it means and offering practical examples and suggestions. Corresponding to what he calls “Jesus’ anthropology for worship,” Rognlien contends that “heart worship” relates to the volitional side of our character—the part of us that makes choices and commitments. Heart worship is particularly strong in the Baptist tradition of worship with its emphasis on calling for a decision. “Soul worship” engages our emotional side, our feelings, and is especially characteristic of churches in the Pentecostal tradition. “Mind worship” taps into our intellectual side, what we think and understand. Those of us from the Reformed and Lutheran traditions (Rognlien himself is senior pastor of a Lutheran church) should be quite familiar with this accent in worship. “Strength worship” is expressed through the physical, what we do; our senses. Think of worship in the Orthodox tradition, which is a deeply sensory experience.

In the last section of the book Rognlien lays out the process that his team follows in designing experiential worship. It is highly collaborative, fun, and utilizes a range of gifts within the congregation. It is also adaptable.

Worship that hits on all cylinders engages worshipers at every level. This is the great challenge that Rognlien poses for us. Considering the varied learning styles represented in every congregation, it is a challenge we do well to take to heart.

It is no small achievement to offer worship wisdom that is just as accessible and serviceable to an emergent church full of postmoderns as to an established church committed to worship that is both authentic and true to its heritage. So do what I did. Get a copy of Rognlien’s book for all your worship planners (current and/or potential). Discuss it together. I am confident that the process will produce fresh energy in your team and some wonderful God-encounters in your weekly worship. If you want to whet your appetite further before buying this book, check out Rognlien’s website at www.experientialworship.com.

—Reviewed by Kenneth Baker, pastor at Third CRC of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Prayers & Litanies for the Christian Seasons by Sharlande Sledge. Smyth & Helwys, 1999.

Whether used for worship planning, family devotions, or personal meditation, this book is a beauty. Sledge has composed a collection of prayers and litanies that move through the seasons of the Christian year. Each is built on a single word from the vocabulary of the Christian faith—words from the faith language we draw on as we journey from season to season.

Advent selections include Awakening, Coming, Expectation, and Preparation. Christmas includes Adoration, Incarnation, and Joy. Epiphany investigates Baptism, Calling, Journey, and Seeking. Lent explores Brokenness, Discipleship, Pain, and Renewal. Easter offers Alleluia, Mission, Promise, and Surprise. Pentecost is the longest section and includes Beginning, Dreams, Hospitality, and Thanksgiving.

Sledge is a contemporary psalmist. Her prose is fresh, vibrant, edgy, deeply human, and profoundly biblical. During the season of Lent I have used the prayer “Commitment” at the opening of worship. It begins:

Create in each of us
a kneeling place,
where we may empty ourselves
of our self-importance
and become vulnerable
to your Word to us.
Help us set our faces firmly
against friendly suggestions
for safe, expedient lives,
and toward the risk of discipleship.
Loosen our grip on certainties
that smother possibilities.
Forgive our resistance to change. . . .

Or imagine closing an Easter service with “Resurrection”:

When others dismiss your story as an idle tale,
who will you be?
Resurrection people with Easter in our hearts.
When the world seems to be crumbling around you,
remember who you are:
Resurrection people with Easter in our hearts.
When despair would seem to squelch all hope,
believe in who you have become:
Resurrection people with Easter in our hearts.
When it is hard to persevere against all odds,
trust in God who names you:
Resurrection people with Easter in our hearts.
As we follow Christ into the world,
may God help us remember who we are . . .
Resurrection people with Easter in our hearts.

You might open a Pentecost service with “Church”:

Young and old,
sons and daughters of God,
all you who are the diverse creations
of God’s imagination and love,
join in praise and thanksgiving
as we worship the One
who brings us together.
We come to this place,

bringing our varied stories,

our unique gifts,

and our distinct calls to serve . . .

That’s just a sampling of the feast set out in 127 pages. Buy it and enjoy the rest! Your faith will be enriched. So will that of your traveling companions.

—Reviewed by Kenneth Baker, pastor at Third CRC of Kalamazoo, Michigan

What Are YOU Reading?

Is there a book or resource that you have found particularly helpful as you plan and lead worship? If so, we would like to hear from you! E-mail borgerj@reformedworship.org with your idea for a review.