Revolutionary Worship is the latest book from William Taylor, published by 10ofThose. This short book (five chapters and a few appendices, including several Frequently Asked Questions answered by Taylor and other church staff-members) seeks to challenge our understanding of worship. The subtitle of the book is ‘All of life for God’s glory’, and Taylor states that he wants to encourage his readers that (20) “the work of Jesus means that all times are worship time; every place is worship space.” Though this point is clearly made, Taylor’s book, let down by poor editing and an at times unkind tone, ultimately fails to offer a great deal.
One Big Point
Taylor explains in his introduction that unlike most books, where each chapter brings the next point in the argument (3) “in this book… each chapter will make essentially the same point: namely that the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus has revolutionised our worship such that it involves the whole of our life.” Revolutionary Worship drives home this central point. Taylor begins each chapter with a lengthy extract from Scripture, and then unpacks it through the following pages. And some useful insights are given; (chapter one – John 4) all time is worship time as we draw near to God in Spirit and truth, (chapter three – Hebrews 12-13) our worship is uninstitutional as we approach the throne of God.
Taylor’s main point is well made, and each chapter offers a slightly different scriptural angle on his argument, grounding most of what is said in Scripture.
From Many Talks
Nonetheless, despite this central theme running through the book, each chapter in and of itself reads like a separately delivered sermon. Whilst the book is open about the fact that it was based on a sermon series Taylor delivered to his London congregation, it is also clear that little effort has gone into making the book read less like a series of sermons and more like a coherent book.
The book further disappoints in the manner in which it engages with the reader. Cultural approaches are often unhelpfully elevated to the same authority as Scriptural instruction. For example, repeated strong arguments against appointing someone as a ‘Worship Leader’ in church seem slightly excessive, and perhaps an ungracious nitpicking over the use of words. (I agree words are important – but hopefully the reader of this review can understand my dissatisfaction here.)
The fifth chapter, titled as a question: ‘Corporate Worship?’, is particularly unhelpful. Taylor’s point is that there is nothing special about the Sunday meeting of a church family; like the rest of our lives, it is worship, but it isn’t some kind of special worship. Though the universality of worship is true, Taylor relegates the importance of the gathering of the Local Church. More than this, he overlooks the fact that the gathering of the Local Church ought to be a special time of corporate worship before and of our God and Saviour.
Taylor doesn’t like the term ‘corporate worship’, sure, but his dismissal of it once again appears uncharitable. Placing a heavy emphasis on the need to sing etc ‘to one another’, Taylor is critical of those who take a moment to privately meditate or reflect on an aspect of the service when the church is gathered. (87) “It should make us so disappointed when we see someone in church with eyes closed, shut off in their minds from everyone else in the congregation…” At best this is clumsily phrased, at worst it is patronising and unloving. Not only ought we to look with compassion and brotherly or sisterly love upon our church family, but Taylor’s irritated dismissal of such reflection shows how he presents a manner of engaging with one another that is more prescriptive than the Biblical text which this chapter explores (Ephesians 5:15-6:9). For Taylor, the way to engage with one another is to look around, measured emotion on our faces, and anything outside of this is labelled individualistic. Surely our gatherings ought to recognise that we come carrying all manner of burdens, joys, pains and hopes? A time of reflection is a perfectly natural response to the beauty of the gathered church joining in worship, and can in itself be a form of encouragement to those around us. As Matt Merker points out in his excellent new book on this topic, when we genuinely understand the role of the church in corporate worship, we can be deeply encouraged by the responses of others in the congregation.
This is one example, but it illustrates how the final chapter of Taylor’s book presents the weakest part of his argument. He ends up digging himself into a hole where he characterises the Sunday whole-church gathering as unimportant, and projects his own cultural expectations of group singing or prayer onto Scripture.
Unfortunately, whilst there is some good content in this book, it simply doesn’t offer anything that has not been better said elsewhere. More than this, Taylor is overly critical of those whose expressions and actions differ from his own, and his tone is at times simply unloving. The book is further hindered by poor editing. This reviewer noted several typos, as well as a repeated variance in style with the quoting and referencing of biblical passages.
Overall, an underwhelming read, and an often frustrating one.
‘Revolutionary Worship’ is available from 10ofThose.
If you have questions about corporate worship in the life of the Local Church, I would warmly commend Matt Merker’s new book ‘Corporate Worship’, which is available in the UK from 10ofThose.
Similarly, Ligon Duncan has recently released a short book, adapted from some material originally written in 2003, ‘Does God Care How We Worship?’ This is available from the Evangelical Bookshop.