Engage: A Guide to Creating Life-Transforming Worship Services

by Nelson Searcy

Paperback, 2011



Call number



Baker Books (2011), Paperback, 224 pages


Offers step-by-step instructions on planning creative Sunday worship services that combine the efforts of pastors, volunteers, and worship leaders.

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LibraryThing member deusvitae
A work encouraging greater planning and work toward transformation through Sunday assemblies.

There are many good attributes to the things they suggest. There is value in preparation and planning; there is value in demonstrating competence and seeking after excellence in glorifying God through the acts of the assembly. The idea of a preaching calendar featuring monthly series with different emphases at different times of the year based upon group composition has much to commend it. Seeking life transformation through the Gospel of Christ through the acts of the assembly is certainly a worthy goal.

Nevertheless, I remain a bit uncomfortable with much of what is presented. The authors are bluntly honest about a lot of aspects of planning and preparation, and that honesty has value, but it does seem like they are putting God in a box at times. They value the Holy Spirit, and suggest the Spirit works more effectively through conscientiously planned assemblies. Again, there is great value in planning, but is this perhaps going a bit far?

Perhaps my biggest concern is in regards to the whole concept of the assembly. The book assumes and therefore seems to be speaking towards a congregation with a performance-based mentality in terms of much of what goes on during the assembly. The members of the congregation/visitors to the congregation are relegated to a more passive role, absorbing and relishing the experience so as to make changes in life and being transformed in life. Life change and transformation is well and good, but the book never seems to address, or seems to have much room for, community within the assembly. I have no doubt that the authors value Christian community, but it's not being expressed in terms of the assembly, and that is very distressing. It seems as if the authors expect people as their own individual units to go and be transformed on the basis of what they hear, see, and experience on Sunday. Christianity is absolutely all about transformation, but the transformation takes place within the Christian community and the encouragement and edification of the group.

It does not take long to see how the system the authors suggest will almost entirely consume the time of the minister/evangelist/"pastor"/"teaching pastor," and, in many instances, the time of the "worship pastor" as well. Sunday assemblies are quite important for encouraging Christians and promoting discipleship, and provide an effective time for presenting the Gospel to unbelievers if they happen to be present. But where do we ever get the impression in the New Testament that evangelists/preachers/pastors were entirely consumed by Sunday assembly preparations? Where is the time for evangelism outside of the assembly, or for encouraging Christians at other opportunities, or such like?

Therefore, I remain quite suspicious of the system: it turns an opportunity for mutual encouragement featuring the Lord's Supper and a prepared talk by a preacher into a high-quality performance with excellent entertainment, distinctive from worldly forms of entertainment only on account of the substance and the expectation for future action. It's one thing to engage with people in culture; this involves an abandonment of the Biblical purpose and concept of the Sunday morning assembly of the saints.
Those things which can be prepared can and perhaps should be more effectively prepared. The book does describe many forms of preparation which can make the assemblies of Christians more effective and encouraging. But the system, as a whole, elevates the Sunday assembly to the point of being the pinnacle of Christianity and the endeavor toward which most of the energy of the "professionals" should be directed. The assemblies are important; energy must be expended toward glorifying God through them; but where does the New Testament seem to suggest that assembly work is the only thing on which a minister should focus?

Consider the book with caution.
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Physical description

224 p.; 5.5 inches


0801072174 / 9780801072178
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