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Review: Honest Worship

IVP Formatio, 2018. 224 pp.
Today’s worship leaders are, to use one of their favorite words, reckless. Many crave the culture and all its flash—from high-tech productions to laser shows to Nashville-quality music. Yet that is not the core of worship; if the extravagance is stripped away from a Sunday morning service, then what is left? Worship leader Manuel Luz, in his new book Honest Worship: From False Self to True Praise (IVP Formatio, 2018), pushes us toward a vision of worship that detaches itself from performance and personal praise, instead seeking a God-honoring experience.

At its core, this is a spiritual formation resource targeted especially (although not exclusively) toward worship pastors. Luz lays some of the foundational concepts for a theology of worship, and then applies it to the identity of the worship leader. Instead of becoming absorbed in a postmodern culture, Luz argues, the worship leader must submit to the grand vision of worship—a reenactment of the Story of God in community. Each chapter ends with a worship practice that can be applied to a worship leader’s weekly rhythm, and there is a discussion guide at the end of the book with questions for laity and pastors. I found these resources invaluable when processing the book.
"We must not mistake the smoke for the spirit." (Luz, p. 17)
I was impressed with this book. As a student in the school of thinkers such as Robert Webber, James K.A. Smith, and Constance Cherry, it was delightful to hear reverberations of their teaching accommodated for a popular audience. Luz is evenhanded in his balance of liturgical theology and practical application. For worship leaders who adhere to a similar philosophy of worship but do not know how to practically realize it, especially within the postmodern Church, this book is a helpful start. It is medicine for the self-absorbed worship leader, encouraging him or her to pursue a life of worship and approach God authentically so that Sunday services can, in turn, glorify God. I highly recommend this book to worship pastors who are feeling burnt out, pressured to be more creative each week, or obsessed with a cultural stereotype of stardom. Read each chapter slowly, and consider how God might want to shape you to lead others in encountering God.

Buy this book

(My thanks is given to IVP for providing a complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review.)

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