Discover the Mystery of the Faith

Glenn Packiam's book, Discover the Mystery of the Faith, makes the (to me) inarguable point that the way we worship does not merely reflect what we believe but shapes what we believe. It tracks more or less with his journey as a worship leader (and one of the founding leaders and songwriters for Desperation Band) and pastor, and expresses the general frustration and dissatisfaction many in the church have felt with how our corporate worship has changed over the past fifty years or so. He suggests that many churches, pastors, and worship ministries have been "playing around in the kitchen and calling it dinner."

By contrast, he says, "Good, rich, Christ-centered worship is a feast. This kind of worship is a bounty of beauty and truth, with layers of flavor, textures of taste. Each course builds on the previous one, elevating the dining experience from a functional necessity to an odyssey of ecstasy." He structures the book around six key points of a good, rich, Christ-centered worship experience:
1. Celebration: Why We Rejoice
2. Proclamation: Tethered to Our Story
3. Invocation: The Personal Presence of God
4. Confession: Finding the God of Mercy
5. Invitation: Turning to One Another
6. Eucharist: Embracing the Mystery of Faith
Much of this book (and the author's journey) resonated with me, particularly his calls for a return to a narrative (story) structure in worship and for a re-discovery of confession as a key component in worship. However, I was disappointed in several things. First, I found myself wishing that his excellent exploration of worship in the early Church had recognized that the Church Fathers were blazing new trails that made both theological and cultural sense in their milieu, rather than suggesting (if I understood him right) that their patterns were necessarily intended for all contexts. Second, I wish with his call for a re-discovery of the Psalter in worship he had pointed out the rich lyrical possibilities for modern songwriters to write new melodies to incorporate the psalms into public worship (a la John Michael Talbot and Sons of Korah). And, finally, I found myself wishing that he had called less for a return to the past than creatively sketching a new way forward.

Nonetheless, I found it an engrossing and thought-provoking read to which all pastors and church leaders should give consideration.

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