A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship

Understanding the Ideas That Reshaped the Protestant Church

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Pub Date 07 Dec 2021 | Archive Date 16 Jan 2022

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New forms of worship have transformed the face of the American church over the past fifty years. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources, including interviews with dozens of important stakeholders and key players, this volume by two worship experts offers the first comprehensive history of Contemporary Praise & Worship. The authors provide insight into where this phenomenon began and how it reshaped the Protestant church. They also emphasize the span of denominational, regional, and ethnic expressions of contemporary worship.

New forms of worship have transformed the face of the American church over the past fifty years. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources, including interviews with dozens of important stakeholders...

Advance Praise

“The story of Contemporary Praise & Worship is fascinating and complex, and Ruth and Lim follow its twists and turns with historical precision, theological sophistication, and wondrous clarity. This book is a remarkable achievement. It will remain the standard work of reference on evangelical and Pentecostal worship for years to come.”—Melanie C. Ross, associate professor of liturgical studies, Yale Divinity School

“What a remarkably rich and thought-provoking account of the people and the convictions that have directly or indirectly shaped the worship practices of millions of Christians in several quite different traditions. Those who remember the people or events described here may well be astonished to see the contours of the larger story in which they played a part. This is a book that will help us slow down and listen attentively, a crucial task for anyone who is called to discern the nature of vital, faithful worship practices in the years to come, including Christians from traditions that seem at first not to be influenced by the worlds described here.”—John Witvliet, director and professor, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin University
“I have had the wonderful privilege of personally experiencing and participating in the birth of Contemporary Praise & Worship. My heart wept as I read Ruth and Lim’s masterful and comprehensive capture of our worship ‘heritage.’ But, as precious as our heritage is, this book is much more than a historical narration of praise and worship. The authors identify significant principles and pitfalls of contemporary worship expression. This book overflows with the richness of our intimate relationship with God through times, seasons, and different emphases of an encounter with God. This book needs to be in every church leader’s library and is a must-read for everyone who desires to be grounded in our heritage of praise and worship!”—Howard Rachinski, founder, Christian Copyright Licensing International, Inc.
“Ruth and Lim’s A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship is a landmark volume. With remarkable breadth and analytical depth, this book provides the most comprehensive account to date of the liturgical forms that reshaped the landscape of Christian worship during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This book will become required reading for courses in liturgy and worship, church history, and church music.”—Monique M. Ingalls, associate professor of church music, Center for Christian Music Studies, Baylor University
“Lester Ruth and Lim Swee Hong’s A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship is a long overdue and much needed historical documentation of one of the world’s most important Great Awakenings to ever impact the church. While the church was trying to understand all the cultural underpinnings of the Jesus Movement itself, the Holy Spirit was ushering into the body of Christ and into local assemblies around the globe opportunity to create a worship experience that was rich, deep, and extraordinarily personal. The authors explain how the movement transcended denominational preference, practice, and policy. Ruth and Lim demonstrate how God superintended new paradigms and pathways for worship and, along the way, placed gifted people in positions of meaningful communication to proclaim his wonders and purposes. This is an excellent, much needed, dynamic, and insightful resource. It is an honest look at one of the most important and critical times in church history. I enthusiastically endorse its study by any serious student of worship.”—Vernon M. Whaley, Associate Vice President of Program Development: Music and Worship, Trevecca Nazarene University
“Modern worship is often maligned and misunderstood. But caricatures and criticisms abound without a proper distinction between the many iterations and impulses that make up the movement. Ruth and Lim have meticulously studied original sources and interviewed primary actors, documenting the complexity and the significance of two main root systems of Contemporary Praise & Worship. From their work detailing the theology, the people, and the practices that belong to each, we gain nothing short of a history of the modern church in North America told through the lens of one of the church’s most critical callings: to worship Jesus. No study or critique of the church and its worship today should begin without this book.”—Glenn Packiam, author of Worship and the World to Come
“If you would like to know more about people in history who, like Mary of Bethany, ‘wasted’ themselves on loving and seeking Jesus (Mark 14:3–9), then I encourage you to read Ruth and Lim’s new book. It is a serious yet practical study that shares about people who sought a deep relationship with God.”—Mike Bickle, director, International House of Prayer of Kansas City

“The story of Contemporary Praise & Worship is fascinating and complex, and Ruth and Lim follow its twists and turns with historical precision, theological sophistication, and wondrous clarity...

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Featured Reviews

Very detailed and informative book. Since I finished my Master of Sacred Music degree 5 years ago, I haven't read as many academic and detailed books outside of school. If I were in school today, I am sure this would be a welcome addition to classes on congregational song. If I were to teach a seminar in the future, I would include this book to cover an area not often written at such a level.

*I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my review.

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This book is a gift to the church. The amount of time and research that went into this work is undeniable. The work answers the question of how our worship took the shape that it does today. They go all the way back to the 1940-1950's to show the origins of contemporary worship. They also take pains to show the development of the theological ideas that guide so many churches approach to worship.

Most of the people and churches discussed in this book will probably be unknown. This book really is a comprehensive history. It is focused on the history of these ideas and tracing them as they developed.

The book is very much a historical book. If you want a popular level overview of worship, this is not your book. But if you are used to reading longer biographies, or other historical works than you may enjoy this.

The level of scholarship and detail is impressive. Anyone writing about praise and worship should be required to interact with this book. If I was teaching a class on worship, this would be required reading.

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