The Book for which New Calvinists Have Been Waiting

Recovering Mother Kirk was at one time selling for upwards of $200 at some used book outlets, much more a function of economics than of talent (Baker pulled the plug sooner than markets became saturated). Now it is back in print, thanks to the folks at Wipf & Stock. Here is a sample that may attract the young restless sovereigntists:

To hear some proponents of contemporary worship one would think that the church of Jesus Christ had never been able to worship well and properly until the advent of praise songs, Contemporary Christian music, and greater expressiveness in church services. Bill Hybels, for instance, the pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, the flagship congregation for so many of the innovations in late-twentieth-century Christian worship, admitted in a recent interview that he did not understand worship until the mid-1980s while attending a conference at Jack Hayford’s (the author of the now classic praise song, “Majesty”) Church on the Way. There Hybels witnessed a worship leader who was prepared and was able “to take us from where we were, into the presence of God.” After forty-five minutes to an hour of singing when the leader assisted in “adoring,” “confessing before,” and “expressing our absolute trust and devotion” to God, Hybels went back to his hotel room and said “This changes everything!” “Every Christian should regularly experience what I did tonight.”

Key to Hybels’ new conception of worship was the biblical teaching that Christians are to worship their God “in spirit and in truth.” This meant not only that sounding teaching was important for worship, as in a good sermon, but also that believers need to be “emotionally alive and engaged” in the experience of worship. Indeed, what has been crucial to the success and appeal of the newer forms of worship has been a rediscovery of the work and presence of the third person of the Trinity in the gathering of believers to bring praise and honor to God. One Reformed pastor, whose congregation began to incorporate some of the recent worship innovations in his services, says that when his church “discovered a new way to sing praise” the power of the Spirit “washed over us that day.” Previously this congregation had only given “lip service to the Spirit” but now they were uniquely aware of the “gentle presence of the third person of the Trinity.” Likewise, Jack Hayford, writing for Leadership magazine, links the newer forms of worship directly with the Spirit. “Expressive worship cultivates a willingness to be taught by and to submit to the Holy Spirit.” This connection between sponteneity, informality and emotional intensity in contemporary worship explains the popularity of such phrases as “spirit filled,” or “spirit led” in discussions about worship. The presence of the Holy Spirit, along with the signs of his presence, means that worship is not only of God but authentic, sincere and right.

These appeals to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, however much they spring from sincere devotion, reflect a profound misunderstanding of the third person of the Trinity. Advocates of spirit-filled worship act as if the work of the Holy Spirit has been inextricably bound up with the use of praise songs, electric guitars and overhead projectors. Few of these writers seem to remember exactly when and where Jesus said that his disciples were to worship in “spirit and truth.” As it happened, our Lord said those words almost two-thousand years ago in Samaria and his intention in uttering that phrase was not prophetic, as if he saw a day, two millennia in the future, when his people would finally apprehend the reality of spirit-filled worship. In fact, coming to terms with Christ’s meaning in this widely appealed to phrase, “in spirit and truth,” clarifies what Christian worship is because it explains the work of the Holy Spirit both in the salvation of God’s people and in the period of redemptive history after the ascension of Christ. (from “Spirit Filled Worship,” pp. 91-92)


26 thoughts on “The Book for which New Calvinists Have Been Waiting

  1. I prefer my copy’s cover much better–old stone church with a cemetery set upon rolling hills under a cloudy sky. This one is so neo–church set upon a hill with sunshine breaking through.


  2. Great book, Darryl. I read it this February, and then while in NYC one weekend couldn’t make it out to Franklin Square OPC for the evening service due to subway issues.Thus hours after finishing Recovering Mother Kirk I had no NAPARC church to attend but Keller’s Redeemer. It was a bracing juxtaposition.

    With very few exceptions, when it comes to theology, my expereince has been always read the dead guys: Old Life book of the month?


  3. David, that’s like finishing a review of Bistro Bella Vita, Wolfgang’s, or Hopcat’s and having only Applebee’s to visit.


  4. David, used to be when we were southeasters. Now as southwesters more a Hopcater. But yes, though I don’t think they have a breakfast menu.


  5. Is Mother Kirk DG’s best book? I reckon it has more insight to what the church should be than a dozen offerings from the celebrity studded book publishers known to most Reformed types. Imagine what the church would be like if the quote from the book on worship is taken on board, replacing the emotion fuelled Getty/Townsend/Piper fashioned stuff pumped out today even in most PCA churches?

    Here in equality and diversity driven Britain what would the influential Proclamation Trust and their evangelical Anglican peers make of the male ministers role mentioned in Mother Kirk as opposed to their way around this by having ministry teams in which women have a seemingly prominent and unbiblical place? Finally, to repeat one contributors question, will Kirk be soon available with a Kindle version?


  6. Everything should be kindle, it would boost sales.

    The publisher would know.

    If there’s a principled reason against kindle, that’s fine. But for some of us, we have too many books as is, and not much room for more bookcases.

    Kindles are effectively infinite books and no physical space. And good for reading on the exercise machine.



  7. Paul and AB, many of the more academically oriented religious publishers have deals in place with Logos or other bible study software providers where they get exclusive e-book rights, precluding Kindle editions. Sucks.


  8. It’s so obvious that non-charismatics cannot be spirit filled and spirit led if they’re singing just the psalms; and there’s no arm waving, body-swaying or a letting of the subjective emotional experience take over and washing in the majesty. Hayford shares the TBN platform with Hinn. LAME, but everyone already here knows this.


  9. if this article isn’t enough to whet the appetite for spending the $28 for RMK, then I don’t know what will. it was the gateway drug for me anyway..

    looking forward to it coming in the mail, too bad I won’t have the version Zrim speaks so highly of – it should be in the ark of the covenant (or at least a museum or something, sheesh ; – )


  10. A great companion to this article is this from RSC, a conversation between DGH and the Heidelblogger himself, touches on this blog some, might be good if you are new around here.

    Was delighted when my copy of RMK showed up yesterday, best $28 I’ve spent in a while.

    DGH, thanks as always!


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