Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
The Worship Pastor
Those who choose songs and lead public worship in singing and prayer aren’t just musicians. They are pastors, because leading people in public worship is by definition a pastoral task, insists Zac Hicks (an Anglican worship pastor). He describes the ministry of leading in prayer and song from 17 helpfully imaginative perspectives: Worship pastors, he writes, are corporate mystics, missionaries, theological dieticians, morticians—and failures who need Christ. Hicks’ insights are valuable not only for worship leaders but for teaching pastors and pew-sitters.
Old Paths, New Power
The apostles devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Henderson pleads with today’s church leaders to do the same. Leaders must develop a prayer culture by praying together and applying “relentless pressure over time” (more crockpot than microwave) to the congregation. Old Paths includes profiles of pastors who gave themselves to prayer and taught their churches to pray, and it trumpets the truth that “the Holy Spirit is the ‘how to.’” Anecdotes and exegesis alike confirm that the church needs fewer leadership books and more praying, preaching pastors like the apostles.
Worship in the Way of the Cross
Frederick has a thing for adjectives, deploying headings like “The ecclesio-pneumatic ideation of Jesus Christ.” But if you can overlook the prose, his ideas are profound. In worship, he says, we meet with God, in and with our fellow saints, and are thereby transformed into the likeness of Jesus. In other words, worship is not primarily education, encouragement, or entertainment (“cover gigs for God … in a Top 40 Christified Karaoke Chapel”). Instead, it’s the time when we encounter Christ through word, song, and sacrament, as the Spirit leads us to the Son through God’s church.
Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey
Gibson and Earngey trace the history of worship through the Biblical narrative and the Reformation period. Though Reformation worship varied from place to place, they discern a common focus on word and sacrament, and a common attitude of seriousness and reverence. Their purpose is not to suggest the church return to the 1500s, but rather to show her age. As heirs of six millennia of worship, those who lead a congregation must conduct a beautiful service to glorify a beautiful Savior. The book includes 26 Reformation-era liturgies, each with an essential-background introduction.
Cameron Cole’s Therefore I Have Hope (Crossway, 2018) starts with “the Worst”: His 3-year-old son inexplicably dies in his sleep. Cole discusses “provisional grace”—God gives us what we need only when we need it—and criticizes the words of purported comfort some offered him: “God didn’t have anything to do with this.” Cole says that idea “terrifies me. … I would have falsely believed in a universe with higher order … falsely believed that all of life had meaning.”
Kelly Kapic’s Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering (IVP, 2017) shows the importance of both hope and lament: Lament makes up more than 40 percent of the Psalms, but many contemporary churches emphasize happy or upbeat music. Christ’s work saves us from the tyranny and finality of death, but we need to learn much about confession and faith along the way. —Marvin Olasky