Film / Book Reviews

Theological and practical worship leading

Aug 2011    

WORSHIP: A Practical Guide
Author: Jeffrey A Truscott
Publisher: Genesis Books, an imprint of Armour Publishing Pte Ltd, 2011 66 pages Available from the Bible Society of Singapore (Tel: 6337-3222) and Armour Publishing (Tel: 6276-9976)

WORSHIP IS CENTRAL to the life of Christian churches, as evidenced by the considerable time and resources they devote to holding services of worship on a regular basis. Yet the ways that churches view worship and practise it vary greatly. Consequently, “worship wars” have resulted, especially between advocates of “traditional” versus “contemporary” worship. ere is also much confusion about worship, its purpose, meaning and role in the life of the church.

The scenario just expressed is the stimulus for a new and welcome book by Jeffrey A Truscott, a lecturer at Trinity eological College, Singapore. Entitled WORSHIP: A Practical Guide, the book seeks to offer a biblical understanding of worship, drawing out practical implications therefrom for Sunday worship. In the author’s words, his aim is “to equip readers with both the historical/theological background and the practical guidance needed for competent worship leadership”.

One of the first tasks that Truscott meets head-on is the clarification of what worship is. He corrects a misunderstanding that worship is merely a matter of thanking and praising God. Nor is worship a mere human-centred activity which ironically leaves God out!

Truscott raises a further alert: does the language we use in worship focus on the wants, desires and aspirations of individuals, as when we are urged to “feel” the presence of God or encouraged to examine our hearts and minds and make our confession to God, so that worship becomes essentially an individual activity that just happens to take place within a group? If so, we need to be reminded that worship is a communal activity with its primary focus on God’s objective being.

From defining the meaning of worship (no mean task) which both solidly informs and gently challenges the way we do worship, the author turns his attention to a number of “building blocks” which bear on the experience of worship, namely ritual, culture, music and time.

Admittedly, ritual has been getting a “bad rap” in Christianity. Why bother with rituals which are often viewed as “meaningless” or “empty” ceremonies? Yet there are convincing reasons for attending to rituals. According to the author, they provide continuity with the past, and serve to help people cope with the changes experienced at different life stages. Being from a somewhat liturgical tradition I now look forward to participating in my next ritualised service with a consciousness that I and my fellow worshippers stand in continuity with a cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.

As Christians we are always part of a particular culture. It follows that worship cannot be devoid of cultural elements. Indeed, it is even desirable to express the praise of God in and through words, songs and gestures of local cultures. ough there is general agreement about the need to contextualise worship, attempts to assimilate actions or gestures from a certain culture to sacramental services are likely to meet with objections, if not rejection.

As regards music, the concern is that the songs and hymns we sing should reflect sound theology. is will not be easy to address, for songs and hymns are chiefly chosen on the basis of popularity or availability. Perhaps churches should form commissions to evaluate the theological soundness of their repertoire.

The chapter on the issue of time makes a convincing case for a return to observing the “Christian Year” (also known as “Liturgical Year”). The author argues that more than mere remembrance of events in Jesus’ life, the Christian Year, when observed, reinforces our identity with the Lord Jesus Christ as His followers. The earlier argument for observing liturgy or ritual applies.

The book concludes with seven chapters devoted to the practice of worship. Therein are invaluable resources to help one plan, organise and lead services of worship in a form and substance that is pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. (Rom 12:1).

Lim K Tham is the General Secretary of the Bible Society of Singapore and the National Council of Churches of Singapore.

God’s enduring Word

BISHOP DR ROBERT SOLOMON has just written a book entitled The Enduring Word: The Authority and Reliability of the Bible. This is his 13th book, and it is about the Bible, the “most important book in the world because it is God’s Word”.

The Bible’s authority and reliability have been questioned by some who point out that we do not have the original manuscripts today, only copies; there are thousands of variations in these copies, some of which contain copyist errors; and so many different versions of the Bible are used today. ey ask: How can Christians be confident that what we read in the Bible today is indeed the Word of God?

The Bishop’s book sheds light on these and other questions by demystifying issues such as the canon, biblical manuscripts, textual variations, base texts and Bible translation. Through it, we can discover how the Bible was written thousands of years ago, compiled to form the Bible as we now know it and preserved till today in various translations and versions.

Written in a thought-provoking yet easy-to-understand manner, the book aims to inform readers and strengthen their confidence in the authority and reliability of the Bible. Reading this book will help enlighten us about the Word of God and inspire us to read it seriously and obey it wholly.

The book is available at Armour Publishing (tel: 6276-9976) and the Bible Society of Singapore (tel: 6337-3222).

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