These are books I have found helpful. They are simply in chronological order by comment.
Story Shaped Worship
The form that corporate worship takes varies across denominations, and within churches of the same denomination. In some places, the form and shape of worship has become a reason for disagreement among Christians within the same fellowship; often because the concentration has been upon outward ‘appearance’ such as the type of music used. In this book, Castleman takes us through the biblical and historical patterns for worship to help us understand the theology behind what we do, as God’s people, when we meet to corporately worship him.
Her stress is upon the need to have the story of salvation at the heart of worship. Our worship should be a reminder that we are part of a wonderful story of redemption and should be a reenactment of that story. As she says “Worship shaped by God’s great story is a rhythm of promise on a journey of faith” (p 204). This story is something that should not only guide individual acts of corporate worship, but also the life of worship over the year.
For those of us who come from evangelical traditions where the older forms and patterns of worship have been thrown out and replaced by more ‘contemporary’ forms, it is a timely reminder that worship can never be – and must never be – about meeting our needs–worship must be about bringing glory to God. Castleman encourages us to ask questions about what our intention with worship is, and what god it is that our present services invite us to worship. If our concerns are about style, pleasure, or personal satisfaction and fulfilment then we are not worshipping the God of the Bible.
This is a book that contains gems in every chapter (I blogged on one of these here
) and Castleman supplies questions and discussion topics at the end of each chapter as a spur to further thought. Chapter four, “The Shape of Biblical Worship,” would be especially useful for anyone involved in assessing their church’s worship services with an aim to changing them to more closely reflect biblical patterns and priorities. A highly recommended book.
The Tortoise Usually Wins
Very few of us who find ourselves in positions of leadership in churches or Christian organisations are natural-born leaders: charismatic, energetic and visionary. Most of us are ‘situational’ leaders who find ourselves in leadership positions and then encouraged to look at the outstanding leaders of our age and somehow emulate them. Rather than this being a spur to greeter things and an encouragement to excellence, it cam all too easily become a source of frustration and disappointment as we realise that we don’t really match up. It is this reality which Brian Harris tackles in his book, The Tortoise Usually Wins.
Recognising that most leaders are ‘quiet’ leaders who often have leadership thrust upon them rather than being naturally gifted in it, he tackles the areas where quiet leaders can be effective leaders. Discussing various well-known areas of biblical leadership, such as servanthood, encouragement, delegation and character, he shows how quiet leaders can be good, effective and God-honouring leaders.
If I were to be critical, then I found some of the examples he uses a little trite, though always relevant.
In a christian world where there are any number of books on leadership, this is a book that deserves to be read and which will be of benefit to many leaders and leadership teams. He helpfully puts a series of questions or points for reflection at the close of each chapter and I would suggest it would be a good book to work through week by week in a leadership team where time to discuss the implications of the chapter in the team’s specific context would be beneficial.
Introverts in the Church
A great deal of what happens in a normal evangelical church surrounds speech – talking. Whether it is the sermon, the notices, prayer – even our times of corporate praise – or the ‘fellowship’ time after the service where we are all expected to participate in conversations. As those who believe passionately in evangelism and the need to share our faith, there is an expectation to be continually verbalising that faith in conversation. As believers in the importance of fellowship, we organise evenings, socials, bring-your-own lunches and picnics, family quizzes, games evenings. In other words, much of what takes place in our churches takes place ‘out there’; it is verbal, it is corporate, it is social. If you are, however, someone who is introverted; someone who processes ideas internally rather than externally; someone who finds conversation and social interaction draining rather than invigorating this can all be very difficult.
In his book, Introverts in the Church, Adam McHugh tackles some of these issues and encourages us to find ways in which introverts can truly feel at home in our churches. It is an important read for anyone involved in church leadership of any kind, whether introverted or extroverted. The church needs and benefits from people of all characters being fully integrated in the corporate life of being God’s children together and this book helps in identifying the issue as well as offering some solutions.
McHugh AS, 2009, Introverts in the Church, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press