John D. Witvliet

John D. Witvliet is director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and professor of music and worship at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also teaches in the religion department at Calvin College.

Articles by this author:

  • What Church Websites Communicate about Worship

    Part 1 of 2

    Q

    Our church is redesigning its website and asked for our worship team’s help with including materials related to worship. What advice does RW have?

    A

  • On Short Songs in Worship

    Q

    I am a fan of short songs in worship—simple songs that don’t take a lot of rehearsal. No one on my praise team is all that interested in this. Help me convince them

    A

    I am happy to take a crack at this! Short songs (coritos) offer much:

  • Naming the Time After Pentecost

    Q

    Our church celebrates Christmas and Easter, but not the rest of the year. We are bit perplexed by the long stretch from Pentecost to Advent. Help us understand.

    Q

    What should we name the season after Pentecost? We debate this every year and never quite arrive at consensus.

  • Worship and Mental Health

    Q

    We are struggling in our ministry with many people in our congregation who have mental health concerns. We have responded to this pastorally, but not really in worship. Are there resources for engaging this in worship?

    A

  • Human Misery and Compelling Causes

    Q

    What profound needs we face in the world! How few of them we ever hear about in worship, in spite of dozens of remarkable Christian agencies and organizations that are responding to them! How can we change that?

    Q

  • Sunday’s Prayer and Monday’s Work

    Praying for Discipleship in the Workplace

    Q

    We are excited about a vision of “vocational discipleship,” the idea that faith shapes how we engage in the workplace. We are starting to think about setting aside a Sunday to focus on this. What advice do you have?

    A

  • The Holy Spirit in Worship

    Beyond a “God of the Gaps”

    Q

    I hear a lot of colloquial language about the Holy Spirit that doesn’t feel right to me. For example, one of our leaders likes to say, “I didn’t have time to plan—what a great opportunity for the Holy Spirit.” What do you think?

    A

  • Lament and Praise as a Way of Life

    Why Every Church Should Assess Its Weekly Worship Pattern

    Q

    Our church feels called to address some major societal issues as a congregation, including racism, the history of genocide of indigenous peoples, and human trafficking. The question is how we will do this in worship. Some have suggested we have a special service that focuses on each key issue. But that doesn’t feel right. I fear we will just have a succession of single-issue services and then drop our concern.

  • Commemorating the Reformation for the 500th Time

    A Compelling Pastoral and Discipleship Opportunity

    Q

    I am hearing a lot about ways to commemorate the Reformation, especially as we approach the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 theses in 2017. I am feeling a bit ill-equipped to approach this thoughtfully. What advice do you have?

    A

  • The Super-Concentrated Practice of Public Worship

    Q

    I have recently been reading some literature that speaks about public worship as a “concentrated form of Christian practice.” I like the sound of that phrase, but I can’t define or explain it. Can you help me?

    A

Blogs by this author:

  • A Compelling Pastoral and Discipleship Opportunity

    I am hearing a lot about ways to commemorate the Reformation, especially as we approach the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 theses in 2017. I am feeling a bit ill-equipped to approach this thoughtfully. What advice do you have?

  • Learning What Tenderness and Hope in Response to Jesus Feels Like

    One the most tender moments in the entire Bible is Simeon's joy at the presentation of Jesus (Luke 2:29-32). His serene and hopeful song is a model response to the revelation of the Lord: 

  • Insights from My College Students About What Helps and Hinders Worship

    I recently taught a class on worship and theology to an insightful group of 30 undergraduate students. They came from churches all over the stylistic spectrum, from eight denominations, twelve states and provinces, and three countries. 

    As part of the course, I asked them to submit brief written reflections to these open ended questions: 

  • When an international student moves to the United States, and starts watching American football or baseball, they are often perplexed. When a North American student explains the game, they start to appreciate it. But when they hear a true fan of the game respond to a brilliant play by exclaiming “now that was amazing,” then their attention is focused in a new way. That exclamation—a testimonial, really—becomes an invitation not just to understand the game, but to fall in love with it.

  • Drills and Scales as Building Blocks

    Every good soccer or basketball team does drills to practice basic skills. Every good pianist or saxophonist practices scales. Drills and scales are the building blocks of success any time our bodies and minds are involved in an activity we love.

    Scales and drills shape how human nerves and muscles work together seamlessly in real time. They get us ready to respond to whatever a game or musical performance brings our way. They make doing the right thing instinctive, like second nature.

  • Portuguese

    Remembrance: An Incomplete Truth

    Every year, I ask my college and seminary students to tell me how they think 8 and 9 year olds in their congregation would summarize the point of the Lords’ Supper in a sentence. Invariably, the vast, vast majority say “the Supper is about remembering Jesus’ death.”