Christian Worship | Notes & Review

Posted on October 18, 2009


Franklin M. Segler and Randall Bradley. Christian Worship: Its Theology and Practice (3rd Edition). B&H Publishing Group, 2006. (333 pages)

Christian Worship


1 – What is Worship? It is the “opus Dei, the work of God, which is carried out for its own sake.” (Barth) (3) “It is a relationship of mutual dependence…It is a measure of giving and receiving.” (5) “The church has no possibility of being Christian without worship. … The most important function of the church is not evangelism or nuture but worship. Worship forms the center from which all other priorities of the church revolve.” (8)

2 – Biblical Foundations. This chapter charts through primitive worship and the ancient backgrounds to the Biblical stories citing Molech, polytheism, Mosaic Covenant of revelation and response, the period of the judges, temple and cults, the psalms, Micah, the synagogue, and the New Testament, all in 14 pages.

3 – Historical Backgrounds. Discusses the Didache, in which certain liturgies for rituals such as the Eucharist are laid out. “In the early centuries there must have been considerable latitude since the choice of psalms and hymns would vary and the earliest prayers were probably extemporaneous.” (28) They move to the Medieval period stating, “The emphasis upon outward form and ceremony was due to the theological system of sacramentalism and sacerdotalism.” (28) With the Roman Catholic Church, “The development of the liturgy during the Middle Ages has been described as the struggle of religion with art. The spiritual became subordinate to the artistic. There was an emphasis upon the visible church as the seat of authority…” (31) A survey through Reformation and Post-reformation worship cites the Anabaptists, the Baptists, Pietism, Moravians, Wesleys and Methodists, the Second Great Awakening, African-American worship, the Second Vatican Council, and Charismatic Influences .

4 – A Theology of Worship. Here we find quotable ideas. “Worship without theology is sentimental and weak; theology without worship is cold and dead. … Christian worship is first an experience, not an art. It is based upon a historical fact… The way we think about these historic facts is called theology.” (49) “Worship is the experience of conscious communion with God, and theology is the effort to describe the meaning of the experience. (50) Other theologizing includes Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the Church are also included.

5 – A Psychology of Worship. It is a personal experience, that is “objective-subjective.” (63) Basic needs are met and listed:

  1. The sense of finiteness seeks the infinite.
  2. The sense of mystery seeks understanding.
  3. The sense of insecurity seeks refuge.
  4. The sense of loneliness seeks companionship with God.
  5. The sense of exclusion seeks fellowship with other worshippers.
  6. The sense of guilt seeks forgiveness and absolution.
  7. The sense of anxiety seeks peace.
  8. The sense of meaninglessness seeks purpose and fulfillment.
  9. The sense of brokenness seeks healing.
  10. A sense of grief seeks comfort.

The physical postures are discussed, and a brief description of the permission granted to the leaders to be led. “We must always be conscious of the fine line between worship as art and worship as manipulation.” (72)

6 – Worship, Renewal, and the World. “Genuine worship in the church is the secret of renewal.” (73) “Worship is not primarily utilitarian.” (74) There are aspects such as the church in the world, evangelism and mission, and Christian unity [“True worship in the church will move toward the goal of Christian unity among the people of God.” (79)]

7 – Community and Worship. “We must be clear that worship cannot create genuine community.” (81) This kind of community is Biblical, based on love, has a role of humility, and is intricately connected to faith, and has a distinctiveness which is also a part of the larger Christian community.

8 – Postmodernism and Worship. A brief survey of history, time lines, eras, and cultural changes lead to a large list of postmodern characteristics.


9 – Music in Worship. Describes OT worship as “expressing emotion,” “liturgical,” and then charts through church music through history including choral, congregational music, and leadership, including giving tips on how to introduce new songs.

10 – Prayer in Worship. There are guiding principles concerning public prayer, different types of prayer, and simple, practical “do’s” and “do not’s.”

11 – Verbal Communication in Worship. How to read the Scriptures, and lead the lectionary, as well as how to preach the Word suggesting that “preaching is an act of worship.” (139)

12 – Learning Styles and Worship. “While worship is not altogether about cognition, it certainly has cognitive content.” (144) There are auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic styles, which leads to a few guiding principles for providing a variety of worship experiences.

13 – Children in Worship. “The worship of God should be intergenerational.” (159) “Children in worship are strongly affected by the moods of adults around them even if they are not aware of the all the cognitive content.” (160) Practical advice such as utilizing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and movement help us to understand that “faith is developmental.” (163)

14 – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There is power in the symbolism. The origin of the Last Supper was the Passover. Also, “just as God is revealed in the written Word (the Bible) and in the spoken word (the witness of a redeemed person), God is revealed also in the enacted word through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” (178)

15 – Other Acts of Worship include the “call to worship,” offering, affirmation of faith, reception of new members, the gathering, and the greeting.

16 – The Use of Symbols. “The word symbol is derived from the Greek verb symballo, meaning ‘to compare or infer.’ The noun symbalon means a sign by which one knows or infer something. … Symbols bridge the gap between teh sensory and the spiritual.” (197) There is “value” but there are also “dangers” (e.g. symbols becoming objects of worship–idols) (199)

17 – Architecture, Acoustics, and Worship. What is an architectural philosophy? “For whom is a worship room built? What will be the primary activities to take place in this space? and What beliefs about God will our worship structure reflect? … Worship space is first of all built for the congregation.” (205) They include a chart for acoustical reverberation, and suggestions for the use of color

18 – The Christian Year and Other Special Days charts through the Christian and secular calendars giving suggestions and guidelines for services.

19 – The Arts in Worship. How drama, plays, monologues, storytelling, pantomime, tableau, pageantry, puppetry, sermons, dance, and other  expressions can be used in worship.

20 – Rites of Passage. How to do and think about Child-Dedications, Weddings, and Funerals.


21 – Planning the Order of Worship. Why and how; process, form, principles, and evaluation.

22 – Leading Worship. Includes the leader’s “spirit,” “appearance,” “manner,” and “preparation.” A brief listing of principles of leadership are listed in addition to how to get the congregation to participate.

23 – Managing and Leading Worship Change. Includes, how and why to consider changing service and/or style. “When the culture changes, or when the community changes (e.g. when the church is no longer effective or becomes institutionalized). (286-7) There is a nice reminder that change can be fearful and some helpful tips on how to make change easier.


A – The Ordinary of the Mass

B – Wedding Policies

C – Copyright Guidelines: The United States Copyright Law

— VIA —

The book is simultaneously quite comprehensive and inadequate for the task. While it seeks to cover a vast array of subjects, as listed above, each one is unfortunately very sparse, and the general content is piecemealed together with little cohesion. So, practically speaking, a good survey of the book will yield some tidbits of helpful hints and tips. It is also good as an introductory primer to the subject, and the various other areas related to worship. The bibliography is actually fairly extensive, and can lead you to other more focused areas. But if you’re looking for something thorough or specific, you’ll have to delve elsewhere. (e.g., for worship theology, cf. Robert Webber’s writings, or for worship leading, see Alison Siewert’s Worship Team Handbook).