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Christian Worship Worldwide: Expanding Horizons, Deepening Practices

by Charles E. Farhadian, ed.

Essays on the worship revelation taking place in today’s global world.

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2140 Oak Industrial Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505, 2007, 301 pages, $20.00.

Reviewed by Roberta R. King, associate professor of ethnomusicology and communication. School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.

Worship around the world has always challenged Western Christianity’s precepts of theology, missiology, and praxis. Indeed, bringing the nations to worship the living God has always been the ultimate goal of mission. Until recently, however, meaningful studies of Christian worship have remained outside the boundaries of mission and ministry studies. Yet, as phenomenal growth of the Church has shifted south of the equator, new developments and studies in contextualizing the gospel in the critical arena of Christian worship are finally coming to the fore.

In this rich volume world-class scholars have initiated long overdue reflections on the worship revolution taking place in today’s global world. Written by leading scholars in missiology, theology, and worship praxis from multiple continents, the work emerged out of two meetings of its esteemed contributors. Lamin Sanneh hosted the first colloquium on “Worship and Culture” at Yale Divinity School in 2002, while the second meeting on “Christianity, Cultures, and Worship Worldwide” took place in 2003 at Calvin College.

The rich tapestry of essays aspires to “paint a few strokes in this broad mosaic” of Christian worship worldwide. It is organized in three sections: (1) a biblical reflection on the Ephesian Moment by the missiological statesman, Andrew Wall, (2) case studies from Peru, Zimbabwe, India, Samoa, Indonesia, Korea, and Latin America, and (3) critical issues in the praxis of worship. Major questions addressed center around the intertwined relationship between Christianity and culture. How are assemblies worldwide compelled to grapple with ways in which “their worship challenges, adopts, and adapts both local and distant cultural elements?” What does this mean in a globalized world? What is the importance of worshipping in the vernacular?

While some case studies, such as Robert Priest’s chapter on “Worship in the Amazon,” reveal stark contrasts in worship praxis to that of North America, others highlight the complexities and dizzying diversity found worldwide. Additionally, Michael Hawn’s informative essay convincingly argues for learning from the non-Western Church in ways that contribute to worship in the West.

Ultimately, Farhadian has presented a valuable book for beginning to understand the significance of worship in a globalized world. It validates the Christian Church worldwide and encourages those who have not felt free to deal with critical issues in worship and culture to consider how God speaks to his people within their own contexts.

Check these titles:
Corbitt, J. Nathan. 1998. The Sound of the Harvest: Music’s Mission in Church and Culture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

Hawn, C. Michael. 2003. Gather into One: Praying and Singing Globally. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

King, Roberta R. et al. 2008. Music in the Life of the African Church. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press.

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