Let Us Draw Near: Biblical Foundations Of Worship | Ron Man

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Man, Ron. Let Us Draw Near: Biblical Foundations Of Worship. Eugene, Or: Cascade Books, 2023. 604 Pp. $58.00.

Ron Man has spent his adult life training worship leaders and pastors all over the world. He is the director of Worship Resources International (WRI), whose mission statement synthesizes Man’s passion and calling: “Through teaching and resources, Worship Resources International assists churches around the globe as they glorify God through worship, the arts, and missions” (WRI website). In addition to his world-wide speaking and teaching schedule through WRI, Man maintains his role as missionary in residence at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, TN, where he has also served as worship pastor (1988–2000, 2009–2018). In the interim years, Man moved to Germany when he joined Greater European Mission and developed WRI.

Armed with his own artistic gifts as a musician (Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition and a Master of Music in Conducting from the University of Maryland and further study in conducting at the State Music Academy in Munich), in-depth theological studies (ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary and DMin from Liberty University), significant local church ministry experience, an extensive personal understanding of global worship and missions, and a true gift of teaching, Man’s new book is a culmination of his life’s work—truly his magnum opus.

Some readers might also be familiar with Man’s Proclamation and Praise: Hebrews 2:12 and the Christology of Worship (2007). In Proclamation, Man helpfully corrects modern evangelicalism’s unfortunate propensity to worship worship as he clarifies and expounds upon the absolute necessity of the continuing ministry of Christ as the only mediator of worship between God and man.

In Let Us Draw Near, Man examines and illuminates the Christo-centric priority of worship, and interestingly his specific discussion of Hebrews finds itself near the center of the book (chapter 24 of 40) wrapped in a cocoon of valuable information that explores biblical, theological, histor­ical, practical, and missional aspects of worship. He writes of Hebrews 13:15: “The intense Christ-centeredness of the book comes to a head here. In Christ we have life. With Christ we can boldly approach the Father. Through Christ we offer our worship” (227).

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According to the author, his hope for Let Us Draw Near is that it—

  1. explores “biblical and theological foundations of worship”
  2. examines “the centrality of worship to all of life and ministry”
  3. attempts to “highlight unifying truths … [and] dig out from the Scriptures foundational understandings … that should remain true in every culture and church setting”
  4. affirms the “considerable freedom that the New Testament seems to give individual churches to apply [these] foundational truths” (18).

Among all the aspects of this book that provide the reader with both practical and theological insights into Christian worship (as enumerated above), the work’s most valuable treasure is the extensive research, detailed citations, and references to hundreds of scholars, theologians, practitioners, and worship resources. The bibliography is nearly twenty pages long, which is why readers will be grateful for footnotes rather than chapter endnotes. In addition to the exhaustive bibliography, a helpful subject index and scripture index reference forty-nine of the sixty-six books of the Bible.

While the book is saturated with scripture and significant quotations from leading scholars and theologians, Man weaves his own thoughtful and helpful insights into the fabric of his teaching, making this book accessible. Because of the way Man writes, the reader can imagine him standing in front of a group of indigenous pastors speaking to them and listening to what they have to say about worship in their culture. For example, in his chapter on the “Centrality of Worship in Missions” (chapter 9), Man writes,

At the 2010 Global Consultation on Music and Missions in Singapore, I delivered a plenary address entitled “Creative Arts, Missions, and Worship” …. I summarized my con­clusion with … this explanation: “Why should we use the creative arts? In order to contextualize and focus the message of missions. Why should we do missions (evangelism and discipleship)? So that God might receive the worship of all peoples. Why should the peoples worship God? Because he is supremely worthy of all praise” (95–96).

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In nearly every chapter of the book, Man reiterates the essential divine dialogue that should take place in worship. He writes that the “paradigm of true worship” is the principle of God’s revelation to man and man’s response to God. “Worship is always a response; until God has shown us himself, we have nothing to say to him” (23–24).

Another helpful aspect of this book is its flexibility. It would find a home in the local church setting or the academy. Man has effectively organized the material so that portions can be pulled out for specific Bible study discussions or course reading assignments. For example, a series on worship in the Old Testament (Part 4) can stand alone as a specific study. The same is true with New Testament Worship (Part 5), Worship in Church History (Part 6), and Worship in the Church (Part 7).

In the Conclusion (Part 8), Man shares a synthesis of forty years of study and praxis by articulating “twelve biblical principles of worship” (438). “The principles—general, transcultural, unifying principles—that grow out of our study of the biblical texts” (438) begin with God’s glory (Principle 1) and move to the reality in Principle 2 that worship is “first and foremost for God” (442). The other principles articulated by the author include (3) “Worship is a dialogue … of revelation and response” (446); (4) “The Word of God must be central in our worship” (449); (5) “Worship is the responsibility of all God’s people” (455); (6) “Our wor­ship is acceptable in and through Christ our High Priest” (461); (7) “Our response of worship is enabled, motivated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit” (464); (8) “Worship is the response of our entire lives to God” (470); (9) “God is much more concerned with our heart than with our form of worship” (474); (10) “Worship should promote the unity and edification of the body” (478); (11) “Young and old need each other in the body of Christ”; and Principle 12, “These truths must be taught and retaught”(491).

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While some aspects of the book are repetitive, the author was probably trying to heed his own twelfth principle (“truths need to be taught and retaught”). Furthermore, because of the possibility that some might want to extract sections for specific study, the repetition is necessary.

Man leaves little uncovered in the exploration of evangelical worship as the author systematically and comprehensively covers topics (listed above) for a vast audience. Worship leaders and worship educators dare not miss the valuable four appendices with titles such as “Think Before You Speak,” “Whose Gathering Is It Anyhow?,” “Music for Worship,” and “An Outline for Teaching Worship in Evangelical Seminaries.”

Occasionally when reading this book, I would have preferred Man take the mic back and let the reader know more of what he thought about a particular subject rather than merely citing other scholars’ ideas. While his exhaustive research and use of authoritative quotations are jewels on this crowning achievement, I felt the author used too many voices for each section and they ultimately outweighed his own voice. With his forty years of teaching and leading worship globally, Man is certainly one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject of worship, and he has earned the right and the respect of all of us to keep the microphone in his own hands.

Ron Man’s Let Us Draw Near is an invaluable contribution to the study of Christian worship. I look forward to using it in my classes and in our worship curriculum in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s School of Church Music and Worship.

Joseph R. Crider

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