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January 1981 · Vol. 10 No. 1 · pp. 33–36 

Resources for Worship: A Bibliographic Essay

Larry Martens and James N. Pankratz

The following books are representative of the varied resources which may be helpful for planning and leading the public worship of the church.


There are only a few good theological studies of worship which do not strongly reflect a particular denominational emphasis. One of the very helpful books of this kind is Paul Waitman Hoon’s, The Integrity of Worship (Abingdon Press, 1979). Hoon also deals with the nature of language in worship from a psychological and from a cultural perspective. His basic concern is that only as the church deals with integrity in its worship can it possess integrity in its life and mission.

Another author who has written many helpful books and articles about worship is James F. White. His books, New Forms of Worship (Abingdon, 1971), Christian Worship in Transition (Abingdon, 1976), and Introduction to Christian Worship (Abingdon, 1980), provide a balance of historical material, theological reflection, and practical suggestions. Many of his examples are drawn from churches with liturgical traditions which are stronger than our own, and yet his breadth of vision and openness to new insights make his work useful to us all.

Anglicans and Episcopalians have published countless volumes on worship. Much of their liturgical practice is not transferable to our churches without distorting both their tradition and our own. Some very helpful biblical studies of worship have, however, been published in their Grove Liturgical Studies series. C.F.D. Moule has written two small volumes in this series entitled Worship in the New Testament (Grove Books, 1977, 1978) in which he discusses baptism, communion, and the language of worship. Obviously Moule’s understanding of church membership is not the same as ours, but the biblical study is helpful nonetheless. {34}

A book by Robert G. Rayburn, O Come Let us Worship (Baker Book House, 1980), is written from the Reformed Church perspective. The book reviews the biblical and theological basis for worship and offers suggestions on the order of worship, hymnody, and the sacraments. There are helpful sections on weddings and funerals. An evangelical Presbyterian, Rayburn provides a critical analysis of worship common in evangelical churches which can provoke us to think about and evaluate our own corporate worship experiences, even though we may not agree with everything he says.

There are a few Anabaptist/Mennonite resources available. Millard C. Lind’s Biblical Foundations for Christian Worship (Herald Press, 1973) is very helpful. It describes Old and New Testament perspectives and patterns of worship. A small pamphlet by Walter Klassen, Biblical and Theological Bases for Worship in the Believer’s Church (Faith and Life Press, 1978) is a summary of New Testament and Anabaptist worship and a reminder of some of the principles of worship which can be applied to our church life.

Two articles on Anabaptist worship should be noted, because they concisely describe the principles and practices of early Anabaptist worship. They are Paul Miller’s “Worship Among the Early Anabaptists” (Mennonite Quarterly Review 30 [October 1956]: 235-246) and Alvin J. Beachy’s “The Theology and Practice of Anabaptist Worship” (Mennonite Quarterly Review 30 [July 1966]: 163-178.).


There are many new “how to” books and resource packets available. Many of them are desperately contemporary; that is, they try to ride the latest wave of fashion. Good churchworkers will recognize the limitations and temptations of such resources.

The following have not all escaped completely from the urge to be fashionably contemporary, but they have much to commend themselves.

Anne Ortland has written Up With Worship (Gospel Light, 1975). Ortland expresses the purpose of her book clearly and succinctly: “The game plan for this book is that it deals with the local church, maybe your church, in how to bring life out of a deadness—in how to make the worship service a happening.” The material is arranged into fifty-one short chapters which deal with the entire spectrum of Christian Worship, answering the why, who, what, when, where and how of worship experience. The book could serve ideally as devotional material for pastors, musicians, church staff, church councils, church choirs and even for the person in the pew.

God’s Party: A Guide to New Forms of Worship (Abingdon Press, {35} 1975) provides a practical, step-by-step guide for those interested in exploring ways for the church to move toward unique and vital worship experience. The author, David James Randolph, analyzes the elements of typical worship experiences and offers innovative and creative suggestions on how to get to the “party.” He suggests eight steps in initiating changes for more meaningful worship experiences. While some of his ideas will be too radical for most Mennonite Brethren, his creative spirit will stimulate any congregation to think of ways to enhance its worship experiences.

Wilfred J. Unruh’s, Planning Congregational Worship (Faith and Life Press, 1978) is practical, although superficial. It includes a short bibliography of other “worship resources.”

A very thoughtful book written by the Episcopalian, Leonel Mitchell, is Liturgical Change: How Much Do We Need? (Seabury, 1975). Although the book comes out of a very different liturgical tradition, it focuses several issues sharply: what is changeable and what is unchangeable? what is the core of Christian worship? how do we balance uniformity and diversity? what is the relationship between our worship and our service in the world?

Much of our worship includes music. Fortunately the resources here are rich.

Most hymnal handbooks deal with the nature of hymnology and the stories which surround the hymns. Fred Bock and Bryan Jeffery Leech have given us an effective alternative in The Hymnal Companion (Paragon Associates, 1979). This handbook is unique in that it is designed to offer resources for the actual use of hymns in public worship. There are helpful insights on the history and use of hymnody, constructive and practical ways for ministers and musicians to prepare for worship, plus a wealth of ideas covering all aspects for creating worship experiences. While the handbook is a companion to Hymns for the Family of God (Paragon Associates, 1976), it has universal appeal and can easily be used as a companion to most hymnals used in our churches. Its hymnal should also be purchased. The last verse harmonizations and descants which are included for many of the hymns alone justify its cost.

Those interested in instruction in hymnology and worship should try Hugh T. McElrath’s Hymnody and Worship Kits, I-VI (Convention Press, Nashville). Structured as programmed learning, the kits may be used by individuals or in small or large group settings. They include a cassette tape, a guide for the instructor, and a student manual.

Instrumental music offers infinite variety in structuring worship experiences. Phillip C. Posey has provided a helpful manual, Strings and Things: Building a Successful Instrumental Program (Convention Press, {36} 1974). The manual offers practical suggestions on how to get started, even for the novice. Posey reviews the various families of instruments and how they can be used in a variety of groupings. He also includes suggestions for conducting instruments and an extensive annotated bibliography of sacred instrumental music suitable for church services.

For the pastor or music committee interested in implementing music programs to improve worship, William J. Reynolds’ Building an Effective Music Ministry (Convention Press, 1980) will be most helpful. The “Preamble,” which is a series of statements which clarify what Church Music is and how music enhances worship experiences, alone is worth the cost of the manual.

For those who have wished for a simply way of correlating hymns with scripture, the answer is Hymn and Scripture Selection Guide (Judson Press, 1977) written by Donald S. Spencer. The book is organized in three sections: Hymns with Scripture References, Scripture References for Hymns, and An Index of Hymns. The book is designed to aid one in finding appropriate scriptures for use with specific hymns or to select appropriate hymns for use with specific scriptures. While it is designed as a companion to the Baptist hymnal, most of the hymns are also found in our Mennonite Brethren Hymnal. It is indispensable for anyone responsible for the selection of hymns for worship.

One final suggestion: there are numerous workshops, seminars, and conferences available throughout the country in both the United States and Canada on worship and church music. Such resources give one an opportunity to learn from specialists in worship and can become enriching learning experiences.

Larry Martens, former pastor, now speaker on the “Words of the Gospel” radio broadcast, is in graduate studies at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. Dr. Jim Pankratz is Academic Dean at Mennonite Brethren Bible College, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and teaches in the area of Contemporary Ministry.

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