Lynn Anderson. In Search of Wonder. West Monroe, LA, Howard Publishing Co., 1996. 147 pp. $13.99.
In the 1996 work, In Search of Wonder, longtime minister, pastor, author and teacher, Dr. Lynn Anderson assembles six long time respected pastors, theologians and practitioners, from Churches of Christ in an attempt to help re-disccover what is collectively referred to as “the wonder of worship.” While that is the title, each chapter seeks to redefine and examine an important piece of cultivating a theology of worship, a subject that has often been neglected in Churches of Christ according to these authors.
The work looks at seven specific areas to formulate a theology of worship for the twenty-first century, to rediscover how to “bring fellow worshipers back to the heart of biblical, inspirational, and expectant worshipers” (foreword). In the opening chapter, the editor, Dr. Anderson, takes on the task of defining worship. He defines worship as the offering of humans to our God, the God who has been forever changeless. He points to worship as being first about God; second, about deliverance; third, as being usually set within the context of the assembly; fourth, as including both human expression and human experience; fifth, as being contemporary and finally, as beginning with a hungry heart.
In the next section, longtime minister Mike Cope looks at what he calls humanity’s small view of a powerful and worthy God as this chapter discusses “the God who is worthy of praise” (p. 28). Similarly, Randall J. Harris, popular homelitician and professor at Abilene Christian and David Lipscomb Universities, looks at defining who humans are as worshippers-people attempting to understand a God who we will never truly be able to comprehend in this life.
In the next chapter, author, pastor, and current president of Rochester College, Dr. Rubel Shelly looks at the human response to tradition and traditionalism. How are we to look back and in response, look forward in a transitional culture and increasingly technologically dependent society? How are we to examine and challenge those traditions which have come before, be it music, male and female participation, worship planning or other media and methods?
Additionally, long time Memphis minister, Dr. Harold Shank looks at a very important subject in the connection of the Sunday worship assembly with “the other six days” (p. 95). Shank asks the question of how does worship effect ethics? If so, what are the implications for how we “do church?”
In the book’s next chapter, worship theologian and longtime dean of the College of Biblical Studies at Abilene Christian University, Dr. Jack Reese, talks about something that is at the very core of worship; word, water, bread and wine. Reese talks about the place of the table in the assembly and the relationship between the table and the water of baptism and their balance in the Christian assembly. What is the church’s eucharistic theology? What is the balance between word and table? Where is the wonder in these sacramental events?
The book’s closing chapter addresses worship and evangelism, a question that has been at the center of denominational conversations for centuries. Anderson has given this task to the one who has been deemed as the most popular Christian writer of our time, long time San Antonio pastor and Church of Christ minister, Max Lucado whose premise centers around our ability to seek, find, and testify to our ability to see what God has done, is doing, and will do among his people.
On a personal level, this book was of great importance in my early college life as well as in my early discussions on the subject of worship, particularly within Churches of Christ, which my family has been a part for four generations. While each of these authors addresses important subjects, it is quite difficult to find any level of great theological depth within the writings found in In Search of Wonder. This book, while it is not intended as a work of substantive proportions, is better used as a discussion starter for churches, pastors or students of worship as they begin to discover the purpose of worship and worship’s relationship to individual and congregational life. However, a helicopter view of these core tenets of worship can be important at times. Sometimes, one can find themselves looking at such minutia that they forget the most important factors of who worship is for and what worship is about. Here is where this book might be very helpful. Beyond that, I would not recommend this work to be of much value.
The Churches of Christ are a close-knit group and I have personally and intimately known each of these authors for ten plus years. Most of them have had a significant impact on my own personal spiritual formation over the course of those years and I greatly respect each of their work. But this work is only the beginning of the worship conversation that our churches must have if we are going to recover a God-centered, biblical theology of worship. This book is only one piece of a much larger puzzle that our churches need to be constantly putting together, and whose shape changes often as time goes by. May God use this work to help continue the conversation and to take us to deeper, healthier places of worship.
DJ Bulls is the Director of Choral Music for the Greater Atlanta Christian School.