By Sally Morgenthaler
Zondervan Publishing House
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Reviewed by Bruce Roberts, Director, South Pacific Stewardship Ministries
A mere book review cannot do justice to Morgenthaler’s book, Worship Evangelism. At the cutting edge in her analysis and presentation of data, Morgenthaler is driven by a refreshing appreciation of the need that most people have for a real experience within the realm of spirituality.
Many attend worship services in a non-committed capacity. What message are they getting? Morgenthaler suggests that our worship of God either affirms or contradicts our message about God. She also suggests that those who attend our worships will draw much from what they see and experience if we ask ourselves, Can they see God’s presence at work among us? Do they detect something supernatural and life saving going on?
Unfortunately, worship attendance is becoming very erratic in the United States (and by implication, the whole of the Western World). She attributes this partly to the fact that efforts to regain worship attendees often center on production-type models that generate spectators, and not worshipers. Her arguments for this proposition alone are worth the price of the book. She quotes Barna, Gallup and other data collectors to show just how serious the whole worship landscape has become: Of the Baby Boomers, who were once seen as leading a revival in church attendance and worship, 24% skip worship completely and another 30% attend irregularly. She quotes Hendricks who suggests that the dropouts are occurring not just because worship was seen as boring, but that the worship programs were not worshipful. Money hasn’t been the problem—Recent Barna research reveals that over an eight-year period in the United States, $250 billion dollars spent in domestic ministry resulted in a zero percent increase in born-again Christians.
Morgenthaler believes that changing times require changing worship styles but that many worship leaders have not understood the nature of the problem, or more correctly, the nature of true worship. She notes that some of the old worship models have been thrown on the scrap heap but the problem is that much of the substance of worship was thereby discarded as well. She comments wryly that as long as we have a worship band and an oversized screen in our service, we won’t question the worship.
Real worship is where we allow the supernatural God of Scripture to show up and to interact with people in the pews, Morgenthaler says, adding that our failure to impact contemporary culture is not because we have not been relevant enough, but because we have not been real enough. . . .While we are consumed with sound systems, synthesizers, and skits to the exclusion of real encounters with God, time is running out for reaching the few seekers who will still give us a chance.
About reaching out to the boomers and busters, she says the how-to-its is in the whys. Until we know why we are to worship in the first place and why much of our present worship is negatively impacting our outreach, none of the practical information we accumulate will be of any lasting value.
The book is presented in three parts: (1) Worship: In Search of the Real Thing (2) Unpacking the Worship Evangelism Paradigm (3) Worship Evangelism Applied
The third part is the hands-on, put-it-to-practice section that includes a detailed music checklist, an appendix, and many case studies. Of course, not everyone will agree with everything Sally Morgenthaler has to say, but that does not detract from the value of this book. It is good and it is worth having. Do yourself a favor and get one.