Review: Leading in Worship: A Sourcebook for Presbyterian Students and Ministers Drawing Upon the Biblical and Historic Forms of the Reformed Tradition

Leading in Worship: A Sourcebook for Presbyterian Students and Ministers Drawing Upon the Biblical and Historic Forms of the Reformed TraditionLeading in Worship: A Sourcebook for Presbyterian Students and Ministers Drawing Upon the Biblical and Historic Forms of the Reformed Tradition by Terry L. Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve never given a book one star and four stars at the same time, but Leading in Worship is so mixed in what it tries to do that it gets both rankings. The introduction seems as if it were written for a different book, in which Johnson argues for his view of what constitutes Reformed worship. He flattens out the diversity of the Reformed witness, blithely charging those who would add praise choruses and new musical forms with a flippant betrayal of their heritage, while glossing over the fact that he and Calvin would completely disagree over instruments in worship and exclusive psalmody. Evidently, Johnson thinks that reforming Reformed worship gets to stop with his own convictions. He attempts to bring the weight of tradition and Scripture to bear, browbeating other ideas, promising Scriptural and theological arguments, but letting his footnotes do the heavy lifting. His arguments are scatter-shot, and compare poorly to something like Jeff Meyers’ The Lords Service in articulating a biblical basis for the structure of a service.
But then the book delivers (as promised by the subtitle) a sourcebook for Presbyterians, and does a fantastic job of providing resources, ideas, and examples for conducting God-honoring services. There are still some wonky opinions and ideas like disallowing families to join the infant and parents up front at a baptism, advocating children’s church, rejecting the church year but upholding Thanksgiving, marked by the singing of My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, and the ghastly specter of an omnipresent organ hovering over the service, but the actual service plans, the prayers, and the sample liturgies are tremendous and quite helpful. The collects from the BCP that form appendix two are pure gold.

So if the intro was more along the lines of “Hey, guys, I’ve found some great reformed resources for worship”, then the book would be a unified success. As it stands, I fear the slipshod introduction will scare potential readers away from the riches that follow.

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