Transforming Christian Worship - A Must-Read Book on Worship
Christians learn to worship from the generations of God’s people who have worshipped before them. We sing Psalms, because thousands of years ago, God’s people sang them. 500 years ago, the leaders of the Reformation transformed Christian worship with the active participation and understanding of the individual worshiper. Christian worship today is built on this foundation. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey have made Reformation worship accessible, by compiling the most comprehensive collection of liturgies from that era, newly translated into modern English from the original German, Dutch, French, Latin, and early English.
These twenty-six liturgies, including historical introductions that provide fresh analysis into their origins, are invaluable tools for pastors and worship leaders as they seek to craft public worship services in the great tradition of the early Reformers. Their structure, language, and rhythm continue to communicate the gospel in Word and Sacrament today. These liturgies provide a deep sense of God’s call to worship and an appreciation for the Reformers as, first and foremost, men who wanted to help God’s people worship. This book will also be of great interest to theological scholars and students who wish to understand early Reformation leaders. A useful tool for individuals, Reformation Worship, can be used as a powerful devotional to guide daily prayer and reflection.
By providing a connection to the great men of the Reformation, Gibson and Earngey hope that through their work readers will experience what John Calvin described to be the purpose of all church worship: “To what end is the preaching of the Word, the Sacraments, the holy congregations themselves, and indeed the whole external government of the church, except that we may be united to God?”
“Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey, using skillful academic scholarship, have assembled one of the most eminently practical volumes for ministers and church leaders who oversee public worship. A perusal of the various liturgies and service orders reveals how much freedom there is to craft services of worship, and yet at the same time the commonalities shine through and begin to impress themselves on the reader. This book, then, protects from two dangers. On the one hand, it keeps us from conducting worship in a way that is cut off from the wisdom of our Christian ancestors; on the other hand, it prevents the rigidity of thinking that there is only one order of service that is biblical. I highly recommend this book!”
—Tim Keller, Pastor Emeritus, Redeemer Presbyterian Churches, New York City
“Much is written today about Reformed worship without a lot of engagement with formative liturgies of our tradition. This well-selected collection makes it easier to see in concrete, practical terms how the truths of God’s Word shaped the worship of God’s people. I’ll definitely be using this in class.”
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
“This is a long, dense book filled with five-hundred-year-old liturgies, so you might not believe me when I say I am absolutely thrilled that this volume is seeing the light of day. Every Reformed and Presbyterian pastor with a book budget should get this on their shelves. The vision for worship presented in these pages is refreshing, reverent, realistic, and just what we need in our day. Corporate worship rooted in the Reformation can be, and should be, so much more than four songs, a sermon, and a closing prayer.”
—Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Church (Matthews, NC)
Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte, NC)
"In this extraordinary volume, the Reformation is played out, not on the vast scale of European nations, but in the simple, familiar terrain of the Sunday Service. What did the Reformation look like in church? That’s the question this volume answers with care, specificity, and helpful interpretive essays, with lots of primary sources. Having read this book thoroughly, I can say that I've been personally helped by it spiritually. The gospel is presented in the form and substance of these beautiful examples of corporate worship, from which we have much to learn today. I highly recommend you buy, read, and then use this book."
—Mark Dever, Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; President, 9Marks.org
“Calvin once said, ‘The whole form of divine worship is nothing but mere corruption.’ At Calvin’s Geneva, at Zwingli’s Zurich, in Knox’s Scotland, and, of course, at Luther’s Wittenberg, God used the Reformers not merely to bring about theological reform, but to bring about a reform of all matters of church practice, especially the liturgy and form of worship. This delightful book brings together a supremely rich and rewarding collection of these Reformation liturgies. May it serve the church today as we seek to praise and adore God in biblical fidelity and earnestness.”
—Stephen J. Nichols, President, Reformation Bible College
“The book you now hold in your hands, or that perhaps lies on your desk, is a resource of almost unparalleled richness in its field, representing as it does an immense labor of love on the part of its editors and translators. Here, gathered together in one large volume, are liturgies crafted by some of the leading figures in the Protestant Reformation and employed by them to aid worship in a wide variety of places and churches.”
—Sinclair B. Ferguson, Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary (from the Foreword)
“Every church has a liturgy or pattern of public worship. The question is: Does your church worship God according to his Word? The desire to answer ‘yes’ with a good conscience energized the sixteenth-century Reformation. Whether we come as eager students of Christian history or as worshipers hungry to bring to God what pleases him, this fascinating book of liturgies provides much food for thought and life. A treasure house of enlightening and helpful material!”
—Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids
“Learning from the past is part of our Christian fulfilment of the fifth commandment. We honor those who came before us as we listen attentively and allow the past to challenge our present preoccupations. In that very act, we honor the God who placed us in our own time and place, but with this inheritance. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey have done us a great service in making the liturgies of the Reformation accessible to us. The range in this collection is one of its greatest strengths. The deeply theological consideration of what makes for the honoring of God and the edification of his people when they gather, which shapes each of these liturgies, stands in stark contrast to our contemporary preoccupation with entertainment and professionalism. Of course, liturgy is not the only way we worship the God who made us and redeemed us. Worship is undoubtedly an all-of-life affair (Rom. 12:1–2). Nevertheless, we need to learn how to respond to God’s overflowing grace when we are together, and this resource will serve that need for many years to come.”
—Mark D. Thompson, Principal, Moore Theological College, Sydney
“Concern for the proper worship of God was central to the Reformation, even as it is central to our most important theological debates today. Nothing is more important than our understanding of worship, for our concept of worship is inescapably tied to our understanding of God and his sovereign authority to reveal the worship he desires, deserves, and demands. This book reminds us that worship matters and must be dictated by the Bible. Reformation Worship is a unique and valuable resource that both pastors and laypeople can turn to repeatedly for biblical wisdom on corporate worship.”
—R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“We are in the midst of a fifty year-long, worldwide recovery and resurgence of Reformation theology, especially in the doctrine of God, Scripture, and salvation. A crying need remains for a recovery of the Reformation doctrine of the church, and especially its theology of worship. That’s why this book is so timely and important. We study the Reformed liturgies of the past, not because the past is infallible and finally authoritative, nor because we pine for some golden age to which we may repair, but because we want to learn the inner logic of their biblical convictions and practice, see the blind spots of our own, and more faithfully lead God’s people in his praise in our own time. One thing our Reformation forbears understood with crystal clarity: A theology of grace requires a pattern of worship that is consistent with it, flows out of it and fosters it, if it is to flourish in the church. Learn this, and a hundred other vital truths as you read and reflect on Reformation Worship.”
—J. Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary
“Gibson and Earngey provide a rich treasury of resources from within the Reformed tradition that help inform contemporary worship planning, reformation, revitalization, and innovation that is needed for churches remaining faithful to gospel principles and mission. Those considering what it means to reflect the Reformers’ desire to “reform worship according to the Word of God” will find many of their principles well described to inform today’s practice.”
—Bryan Chapell, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church; author of Christ-Centered Worship.
“A brilliant resource! This volume should be in the hands of every minister, worship leader, seminary student, and liturgist.”
—Andrew Atherstone, Latimer Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and member of the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission
“With historical accuracy and fresh insights, this volume highlights both the unity and diversity among the Reformers’ worship practices—a liturgical treasure-trove.”
—Mika Edmondson, Pastor, New City Fellowship OPC
“The renewal of the Reformed churches as theologically, confessionally, and faithfully catholic will not come about through better doctrinal formulations, mission and outreach programs, or even more effective preaching per se. The Church is at bottom the liturgical community of God in Christ by the Spirit, and the recovery of this identity and orientation is the tragic missing ingredient in much that passes today for retrieval. Indeed, the lecture-hall or coffee-shop paradigms of worship in many Reformed churches only make audible and visible that we have lost our way. In contrast, ‘Where [the eucharistic] Christ is, there is the catholic church,’ said Ignatius—and the Reformed tradition has zealously affirmed this biblical and confessional truth. Though often overlooked, the majority of the great figures of the Reformation and post-Reformation periods were actively involved in liturgical reformation by way of the construction of new liturgies, vigorous treatises on the Word and Sacraments, and explanations of the Creeds confessed by the Church. This collection of liturgies by Gibson and Earngey is therefore nothing short of thrilling, not only for its refreshing reminder of what it meant to be Reformed, but for the clear result of such a reminder: A pointer to the way forward, the way we now must go. Reformation Worship ought to be carefully studied by all who lead and participate in Reformed worship and education. The editors are to be enthusiastically thanked for their important work.”
—Mark Garcia, President & Fellow in Scripture and Theology, Greystone Theological Institute
“The crying need for the Church to rediscover theologically rich liturgy, which is both beautiful and edifying, is ably met here. The four most important words our people hear each week are ‘Let us worship God.’ This terrific resource for minister and church will help us all to do that better.”
—Paul Levy, Minister, IPC Ealing, London
“What refreshing treasure has come the Church’s way, from the vintage reserves of Reformation worship! Here we have select, newly translated liturgies to meditate upon, to cull, and then to enrich the gathered worship of God’s people. The variety is inspiring and energizing, from Oecolampadius (who implemented the first evangelical liturgy of the Reformation), to Bucer (with his sample confessions and thanksgivings all offered in a single liturgy), to Ursinus (with his remarkably tender pastoral ministrations). As a pastor of over fifty years, who has studied and written on Reformed liturgy, I am jealous of, and for, young pastors who now have this amazing resource. Reformation Worship should be required reading in every theological seminary to train the next generation of pastors how to lead Christian worship each Lord’s Day.”
—R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor Emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, and the John Boyer Chair of Culture and Evangelism, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
“Having grown up in a non-reformed, non-creedal, somewhat ahistorical church setting, my ideas regarding corporate worship were shaped mostly by pragmatism and programming. It never occurred to me that the Bible might have something to say about the content and even the order of the gathered worship of the Church. But now, as I savor more purposefully planned worship week by week, I’ve come to appreciate the story well-conceived worship invites me into, and the steps it walks me through, as I feast on the grace of Word and Sacrament. It is that richness, anchored in the convictions of the Reformers, that is put on display in Reformation Worship. This book takes readers back to the historical foundations of the application of reformed doctrine and conviction to gathered worship. It pulls back the curtain of years to reveal the specific words and ways of worship established by our courageous church forefathers who turned the tide away from empty ritual, and toward the richness of Word-centered worship.”
—Nancy Guthrie, Author and Bible Teacher
“Christian worship is the sacred anvil of biblical discipleship, the context whereby God’s redeemed people are fashioned and shaped, by Word and Spirit, into the image of Christ. It is no wonder then that the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers were so intent on crafting new liturgies for the Church. This liturgical renaissance was requisite to the recovery of sound doctrine and piety. It is no less necessary in our own day where evangelical worship has degenerated into an unholy constellation of personal preferences. That is what makes Reformation Worship such an essential resource for modern pastors and laypeople. It unearths a treasure trove of freshly translated Reformation liturgies—with scholarly reflection—that challenge us to worship God on his terms, not man’s. Informative and inspirational, this volume will prove valuable for many years to come.”
—Jon D. Payne, Minister, Christ Church Presbyterian, Charleston, South Carolina
This volume is a veritable library of Reformation liturgies gathered together in modern English in a single volume. It will be an invaluable and handy resource for those with an interest in Reformation worship, both to access individual liturgies and for the purpose of comparison.
—Tony Lane, Professor of Historical Theology, London School of Theology
“From the introductory lowlands of biblical theology and liturgical principles, to the textual highlands of famous and forgotten orders of worship, this book has something to engage students, pastors, and academics alike. Using accessible language, clear explanations, charts and glossary, this book prompts us to think about what we do when we gather for worship, and why. Worship is the topic du jour, and we need resources like this to give depth to the conversation.”
—Rhys Bezzant, Dean of Missional Leadership, Ridley College, Melbourne; Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center, Australia
“This rich treasury of Reformation liturgical resources provides not just a window into the public worship of the evangelical church in the past, but also a challenge for evangelicals in the present. While there is variety in the materials gathered here, they also bear witness to the essential unity of the mainstream Reformers across Europe. The principles they all shared in creating their liturgies still apply today. We can learn much from the great care they took to ensure that every aspect of their church gatherings, not just the preaching, built up God’s people in the true evangelical faith, as taught in Scripture. And we should also reflect on the Reformers’ deep concern to build, as far as possible, on the tradition of the past, rather than starting completely afresh. For the church of today, which is in such danger of losing its identity by forgetting its roots, this should surely mean returning to the liturgical foundations of the Reformation, rather than seeking to start anew each Sunday.”
—Vaughan Roberts, Rector, St. Ebbe’s Church, Oxford; Director of The Proclamation Trust, UK
“In our current age that eschews denominational roots, Reformation Worship is a very welcome addition. The Church’s worship is always a reflection of its theology, but if this link is lost, any form of worship can become dead traditionalism. Traditionalism should not be confused with tradition. Whereas traditionalism focuses on a form that is dead and lifeless, tradition allows those who have died to speak with time-honoured relevance. The antidote to traditionalism is not finding more contemporary form—this may be replacing one void with another. The answer is to replace that which is lifeless with that which is informed by life-giving theology. This book is a study of those who have gone before us, and assists us in this quest.”
—Ian Smith, Principal, Christ College, Sydney
“The editors of this collection of Reformation liturgies are to be congratulated for reviving the legacy of our sixteenth-century forefathers. For it was not only reformation of doctrine that concerned the Reformers, but reformation of life, which found liturgical expression in the forms of public worship, that emanated from the pens of Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, and others. The transformation for God’s people from being spectators at a Latin Mass to being active participants in the worship of God in their own tongue cannot be overestimated. And true to this principle, the editors of Reformation Worship have provided an English translation of key European liturgies for the edification of English readers. In the modern church where so little attention is given to ‘entering his courts with praise,’ this collection of liturgies should inspire and correct much of the blandness of the assemblies of God’s people on earth, so that they might truly reflect that festal gathering of angels at Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to which we have already come.”
—Glenn Davies, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia
“It is a pleasure for me to commend Reformation Worship. In the past few decades throughout the evangelical world there has been a manifest impoverishment of corporate worship. In the quest for relevance, the passion for modernity has all but blinded many pastors to the rich heritage of the Church’s worship. This is most seen in the absence of worship that is radically God-centered. Little time is given in prayer and praise to reflect on and rejoice in God's Trinitarian nature, his holiness, his majesty, his sovereignty and his grace in Christ. Consequently, confession of sin is usually brief and general. Corporate confession of faith in, for example, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, is rare. The publication of Reformation Worship is therefore a timely reminder of the rich, God-centered, Trinitarian, Christ-exalting worship that marked the Reformation. As John Calvin reminds us, the primary reason for the Reformation was because God was not being worshipped as he prescribed in the Scriptures. Reformation Worship is not an attempt to impose ‘liturgy’ on gospel churches. It is, however, an attempt to reacquaint gospel churches with worship that is biblical, thoughtful, purposeful, and orderly. I warmly commend this volume without qualification.”
—Ian Hamilton, Lecturer in Church History, Edinburgh Theological Seminary
“Every church has a liturgy, whether written down or not. And every liturgy teaches something about the God we seek to worship and how to approach him. In this impressive collection of liturgies from the era of the Reformation, Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey have assembled a stellar cast of teachers to urge the modern church to reflect more carefully and critically on how to shepherd the flock in corporate worship. It will both enlighten and enrich all who take up and read it—and their congregations.”
—Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society; Author of Cornerstones of Salvation: Foundations and Debates in the Reformed Tradition.
“Reformation Worship opens to us a deeply layered treasure of words and worship. The prayers and liturgies made accessible in this volume are diverse and yet beautifully unified in their gospel-centered focus. In this rich collection of Scripture-saturated words from five centuries ago, the Church has been given an invaluable aid in the ongoing work of semper reformanda.”
—Kathleen Nielson, Director of The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Initiatives
“Reformation Worship opens a hidden treasure trove of historic liturgy that will surely be welcomed by all who care about the worship of the Church. Building on the works of Bard Thompson and Charles Baird, Gibson and Earngey have greatly advanced our understanding of liturgical development in the Reformed tradition. By focusing on less well-known or previously unavailable liturgies, the editors demonstrate the importance of liturgical reform as a central concern of the Magisterial Reformation. The three opening chapters offer a helpful grounding in the biblical theology of worship, the shared concerns of the Reformers in the development of their liturgies, and clear guidance on how today’s church might profit from the historic liturgies that follow. This book is no argument for naïve repristination. It is, rather, a call for humble self-examination and critical re-appropriation of Reformation insights often missing from contemporary evangelical worship. The liturgies themselves are fascinating in their unity, variety, beauty, and profundity. They remind us how determined the Reformers were to shape the worship of the church in accordance with the theology she confesses. Lex orandi, lex credendi indeed! We may begin to read Reformation Worship with an academic interest, but the spirit of mere rational inquiry will soon give way to the spirit of doxology.”
—David Strain, Minister of First Presbyterian, Jackson, Mississippi
“With complementary chapters considering worship—biblical-theologically, historically, and practically—and serving to preface over 600 pages of annotated examples of 16th century Reformation liturgies, this volume succeeds admirably in its goal of providing ‘a subtle encouragement for the modern church to reflect critically on how she worships today.’ Here is a rich resource that will greatly profit those who share the early Reformers’ commitment to furnish the Church with sound liturgy, but, like them, are above all, again in the words of the editors, ‘concerned more with a beautiful Savior than with a beautiful service.’”
—Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary
“Though often forgotten, a central aspect of the Reformation was the reform of worship. The medieval church had largely failed to retain biblical boundaries for corporate worship and the Reformers were compelled by their desire to be biblical Christians to both talk about worship and craft new liturgies. This new collection of Reformation liturgies is thus an extremely helpful reminder of our need to follow Scripture when it comes to worship. But it also helps us see what a biblical pattern of worship needs to look like for we too live in a day when worship needs again to be brought back again to the template of the Bible. Highly recommended.”
—Michael Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“If you desire to know what the Magisterial Reformers theologically embraced concerning divine worship in our Lord’s church; and if you desire to understand their convictions as to the place and practices of divine worship in our Lord’s church; and if you desire to experience their passion vicariously from a distance of 500 years, then this volume is a gift of God’s providence for you. Come, let us worship and bow down!”
—Harry L. Reeder, III, Senior Pastor, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama.
“The editors of this volume deserve our gratitude for making accessible to the churches of today a rich variety of liturgical resources from the fertile legacy of the European Reformations.”
— Steven Gunn, Professor of Early Modern History, University of Oxford
“This volume opens up the lost world of historic Protestant liturgical worship and reminds contemporary pastors that the Reformation was fundamentally a renewal of biblical worship. This deeply edifying and challenging collection has the potential to renew our longing for worship that is pleasing and acceptable to the one who is Father, Son, and Spirit.”
—Michael McClenahan, Professor of Systematic Theology, Union Theological College, Belfast
Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey have done the Church a great service by making accessible a wisely chosen breadth of Reformation-era Protestant liturgies. Students will appreciate the modern English versions of numerous classic texts, the concise introductions helpfully setting each text in its own historical and theological context, and the handy concluding charts that make comparisons between the various liturgies straightforward. In their opening essays, the editors have called the Church to reconsider covenantal worship in the light of the Bible and the Reformation. At a time of general evangelical reassessment of congregational practices, many will welcome the unique opportunity provided by this book to heed Gibson and Earngey’s call.
—Ashley Null, German Research Council Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Humboldt University of Berlin
About the Authors
Jonathan Gibson, (PhD, Cambridge) is ordained in the International Presbyterian Church, UK, and is Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. Previously, he served as Associate Minister at Cambridge Presbyterian Church, England. He studied theology at Moore Theological College, Sydney, and then completed a PhD in Hebrew Studies, at Girton College, Cambridge. He is contributor to and coeditor with David Gibson of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her (Crossway, 2013), as well as author of historical and biblical articles in Themelios, Journal of Biblical Literature, Tyndale Bulletin, and “Obadiah” in the NIV Proclamation Bible. His PhD dissertation was published as Covenant Continuity and Fidelity: A Study of Inner-Biblical Allusion and Exegesis in Malachi (Bloomsbury, 2016). He is married to Jacqueline, and they have two children: Benjamin and Leila.
Mark Earngey (DPhil candidate, Oxford) is ordained in the Anglican Church of Australia (Diocese of Sydney) and is currently a doctoral candidate in historical theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University. His dissertation, “New Light on the Life and Theology of Bishop John Ponet (1516–1556),” aims to bring significant new manuscript evidence to bear upon one of the leading, but highly neglected, theologians of the early English Reformation. Previously, he served as Assistant Minister at Toongabbie Anglican Church, Sydney. He studied theology at Moore Theological College, Sydney, and has completed an MPhil. in Theology at the University of Oxford. He is married to Tanya, and they have three children: Grace, Simeon, and Sophia.
We Also Recommend
A Survey of Church History, Parts 1-6 - DVD Set