Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works

Imagining the Kingdom1Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works
James K.A. Smith
Baker

In the Preface to this second volume of his Cultural Liturgies series, philosophy professor Jamie Smith acknowledges that volume one, Desiring the Kingdom, was perceived as “a challenging academic book” by those who operate outside of the groves of Academe. To rectify that in this follow-up, he structures the first part as a more-scholarly apologia and the second part as a more-practical application of the previous theory. That said, much of Imagining the Kingdom will be hard to digest for all but the most intellectually curious. But where Smith shines, for the contemporary Church and its worship leaders, is the final chapter, “Restor(y)ing the World,” an interesting look at how a proper appreciation of narrative—over and against enlightened logic—informs our understanding of how worship works. To wit: “We absorb the Christian faith as a mode of ‘practical sense,’ not primarily by the didactic dissemination of content, … where the Story is the air we breathe and the water in which we swim, operative in the background in ways we might not always realize. There is a kind of grand poetry about the shape of … Christian worship that shows rather than tells. And the narrative ‘showing’ resonates with our imagination in ways that elude our intellectual grasp.” Okay, Bob Webber was saying similar things in more accessible fashion 15 years ago, but for those looking for something a bit more meaty, Smith provides an excellent metaphysical look at worship.

Warren Anderson

 

Watch six informational videos from James K.A. Smith about the book:

What is the Cultural Liturgies Project?

From “Desiring” to “Imagining”

How Worship Works: Implication for Practice

Defined by Our Loves: A Liturgical Anthropology

The Power of Habit and the Gift of Practices

“Imagining” for Practitioners and Scholars

Music Magnifies the Message

Music Magnifies the Message1Music Magnifies the Message
Robert W. Mentze
Alethinos Books 
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Occasionally WL reviews a book that although not new is new to us. Pastor Robert Mentze’s Music Magnifies the Message is an exploration of his passion of synchronizing music and preaching. It is also a response to 228 questionnaires he sent to pastors and directors of music of 24 different denominations to further explore his extensive experience as a pastor/teacher and to test his theories on music in a congregational setting. He reflects on the current state of worship and laces the book with Scripture and instructive, as well as amusing, tidbits from Reformation history (five of Wesley’s seven rules on singing, among many others). He explores the power of music to communicate: psychologically, emotionally, educationally, and spiritually. Mentze then charts how, through planning, thematic unity, a close working relationship between the pastor and director of music as well as all other music personnel, music can magnify the message of Scripture and the gospel. Mentze outlines steps for advance planning and lists potential benefits. His insights and example on synchronizing music and preaching offer powerful possibilities for your service of worship. Though you may not use every tool, or agree with every conclusion, this is one to add to your worship bookshelf.

Andrea Hunter

Operation Screwtape

Operation Screwtape1Operation Screwtape
Andrew Farley
Baker

A modern-day take on one of C.S. Lewis’ most renowned novels, Screwtape Letters. Andrew Farley, bestselling author of God Without Religion and The Naked Gospel, does an exemplary job in modifying the ideas and teachings of C.S. Lewis to fit into our culture today, revealing the weaknesses and temptations to which Christians are prone in ways that are more relevant and applicable. Written from a demon’s point of view, Operation Screwtape is a set of instructions addressed to demonic forces in waging war against the “Enemy” (God) by stealing, killing, and destroying the mind, body, and spirit of all “patients” (Christians). In a counterintuitive manner, Farley exposes the reader to ways Christians may be prone to evil such as doubt, fear, and insecurity in very practical ways, thus creating more awareness of areas in which we must tread lightly. Though fiction, this book recognizes the reality of spiritual warfare and the power Satan can wield over us, if we allow. Stressing the gospel, the author reminds us of grace: that we are holy, we are free, and we are resurrected with Christ.

Lindsay Young 

Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works

Imagining the Kindgom1Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works
James K.A. Smith
Baker

In the Preface to this second volume of his Cultural Liturgies series, philosophy professor Jamie Smith acknowledges that volume one, Desiring the Kingdom, was perceived as “a challenging academic book” by those who operate outside of the groves of Academe. To rectify that in this follow-up, he structures the first part as a more-scholarly apologia and the second part as a more-practical application of the previous theory. That said, much of Imagining the Kingdom will be hard to digest for all but the most intellectually curious. But where Smith shines, for the contemporary Church and its worship leaders, is the final chapter, “Restor(y)ing the World,” an interesting look at how a proper appreciation of narrative—over and against enlightened logic—informs our understanding of how worship works. To wit: “We absorb the Christian faith as a mode of ‘practical sense,’ not primarily by the didactic dissemination of content, … where the Story is the air we breathe and the water in which we swim, operative in the background in ways we might not always realize. There is a kind of grand poetry about the shape of … Christian worship that shows rather than tells. And the narrative ‘showing’ resonates with our imagination in ways that elude our intellectual grasp.” Okay, Bob Webber was saying similar things in more accessible fashion 15 years ago, but for those looking for something a bit more meaty, Smith provides an excellent metaphysical look at worship.

Warren Anderson

 

A Violent Grace: Meeting Christ at the Cross

A Violent Grace1A Violent Grace: Meeting Christ at the Cross (Book and CD)
Michael Card
InterVarsity Press

Why did it have to be a heavy cross he was made to bare
And why did they nail his feet and hands,
His Love would have kept him there…

(From the Song “Why” by Michael Card)

Originally published in 2000, Michael Card’s classic book centering on Christ and the Cross has been re-released and made available in paperback. At the same time, a corresponding CD has been issued with the same title featuring a live performance by Card (with choir and musical accompaniment). The songs being assembled from a number of past albums evocatively echo the story in musical form.

The book, A Violent Grace, is in a devotional format with Scripture, commentary and prayer, along with classic images of Christ’s sojourn on earth reflecting his life, death, and resurrection. Even a glimpse at chapter titles reveals its power: “He Was Stretched Out Between Thieves so I Could Know the Reach of Love”; “His Heart Was Pierced so Mine Could Be Made Whole.”

People describe wishing to be transported back in time, to know and follow Christ as the Son of Man and Son of God. Michael Card takes us there. Both book and CD comprise an emotional and captivating narrative of Jesus—raw, beautiful, devastating, and brimming with grace and redemption—focusing primarily on the last week of Christ’s life. With dramatic and cinematic lyrics and riveting prose, we are eyewitnesses; Scripture becomes flesh for us to see and feel and touch, to step into and experience. Much like Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion, Card’s book and CD stop us in our tracks and ask, even demand a selah. To read through the book and share the life and death of Christ with others during Lent, and then experience the CD as a musical, during Holy Week, would be a truly rewarding and deepening journey for a community of believers.

Andrea Hunter

A Violent Grace1

IVP is offering a free downloadable excerpt Michael Card’s A Violent Grace. To get the free e-book, click here