Not many Fundamentalists have written on the subject of worship, specifically. Scott Aniol has authored a couple of excellent books as well as many articles. A few others have written on the subject of worship, but Fundamentalists have typically written on the subject of music in particular. Because books on worship by Fundamentalists are rare, I decided to read the book through carefully, put it down for about a month, then reread it to obtain a better understanding of Dr. Reimers’ thinking.
Dr. Reimers has written a slim volume of 100 pages, dividing his work into three parts plus an introduction and a conclusion.
Part One: True Worship’s Essence and Elements
Part Two: Multi-Generational Impact: Worship Style and Your Family
Part Three: The Dangers of Deviant Worship
Part One is the longest section (46 pages) and deals with the essence and elements of true worship. Dr. Reimers begins with the essence of worship—that worship must focus on the right Person. He states, “Worship is an event where God should be the center of attention and the guest of honor” (p. 5). He then roots this in the teaching of Psalm 135. He also reminds us that “Right worship must accomplish the right purpose” (p. 7). The purpose is to give to the Lord the glory due His name—worship is giving God glory. Dr. Reimers makes an excellent distinction when he says, “The dilemma, of course, is that God already has everything He needs, and we have nothing of value to give. Clearly worship cannot actually contribute something to God, but it can attribute something to him” (p. 8). He follows this up with a contrast between two questions: “Did you get anything out of the service today?” (p. 8) compared to the more appropriate question, “Did God get anything out of your worship today?” (p. 9) The author concludes the study of the essence of worship by saying that “Right worship must conform to the right pattern” (p. 10).
Dr. Reimers moves on to describe the elements of right worship. His points are alliterated, which might be off-putting to some, but they are quite well chosen and well developed: Preparation gives glory to God; Praise gives glory to God; Prayer gives glory to God; Presentation (giving) gives glory to God; and Preaching gives glory to God. This section is exceptionally rich and helpful.
Part Two goes after the heart of worship style and how style relates to the family. After discussing various approaches to worship, Dr. Reimers notes that for many, “The clear implication is that worship style is simply a matter of personal preference.” (p. 51) “A huge assumption lies behind all this variety: that worship style does not matter to God. The thinking seems to be that as long as people are pleased, God is satisfied with any kind of worship” (p. 51-52). Based on Exodus 20:3-6, Dr Reimers addresses this questionable attitude for the next 18 pages.
Part Three addresses the dangers of deviant worship. Dr. Reimers works through a selection of biblical passages for the next 27 pages. Deviant worship is described under two broad headings: “Worshiping the Right God the Wrong Way” and “Worshiping the Right Way with the Wrong Heart.” In this section the author interacts with most of the prominent biblical texts that warn about wrong worship.
Transparent and pastorally sensitive: From the first page to the last it is obvious that Dr. Reimers has a pastor’s heart and comes to this topic from the perspective of a man engaged in leading a local church in worship. This is not a book written by someone who has just “discovered” worship and is now writing a book to enlighten the rest of us with the latest and greatest. The book is loaded with references to Dr. Reimers’s thinking and study of this subject while involved in leading a Bible-believing church. “After my first few years of pastoral ministry, I became concerned about the worship in my church” (p. 14).
After I gathered a list of every passage that contributed to the subject of worship, I organized those passages into categories… . I realized that one element of worship was missing from our service, and one aspect of our service was not part of biblical worship. (p. 14)
It is a rare blessing to be invited into the thought process of a man engaged in front-line ministry.
Biblically based: this is not a book about the author’s view of worship with a few passages thrown in to justify what he wants to do. Dr Reimers interacts constantly with Scripture and scriptural ideas. He states “My study of Ecclesiastes 5:1-3 several years ago prompted some changes both in my home and in my church … I decided to change how our church opened our worship service” (p. 20). This kind of interaction with the Bible is frequent throughout the book.
Not only does Dr. Reimers interact with Scripture to formulate his ideas, he also has perceptive things to say theologically. Concerning the use of the Old Testament in the life of the local church he says:
A paucity of references to a certain topic in the New Testament does not necessarily indicate that God is no longer concerned about that issue or that He has changed His expectations. It is at least possible that God believes the Old Testament revelation on a given subject to be sufficient, with no need to reaffirm or elaborate in the New Testament. (p. 37)
The entire book is strong on the application of Scripture.
Clear opinions: Dr. Reimers is not polemical in this work, but he certainly expresses strong opinions and convictions so that the reader gets a good idea of what worship both is and is not. On pages 21 and following, Dr. Reimers provides a devastating critique of the view that the purpose of singing is just to prepare people for the preaching. On the subject of public prayer the author says “Of course, churches that follow a more liturgical style of worship often forfeit the advantage of spontaneity by reading or reciting pre-written prayers. As elegant and worshipful as such prayers can be, there is no biblical precedent for that practice” (p. 28). Concerning an altar call he writes “I have adopted the practice of providing a few moments of silence after the message to allow each person to respond to God individually, assuming most need no help to do so. Then I invite those who are unsure how to respond (especially those who do not know Christ) to come during the closing hymn for counsel and prayer” (p. 50).
Footnotes: this slim volume includes footnotes that contain actual notes! Nowadays, footnotes often only confirm that the author has done the necessary reading, if they are included at all. But most of the footnotes in this book are a must read, and some are of exceptional value. Exceptional footnotes would include those on pages 11, 12, 20 (I want the list!), 21, 43, 86 and 87.
The book has a few weaknesses. I could quibble about the use of a verse here or there. I’m not sure that Matthew 18:19-20 deals with congregational prayer in public worship. In the last section of the book, I did not find Dr. Reimers’ categories as helpful as the texts. The categories seem to be somewhat reductionistic, but the texts are excellent and need to be considered.
I found the book to be an excellent primer on the subject of worship. This is a good book for pastors to put into the hands of their congregations. In this day, a biblically sound book written by a Fundamentalist on the subject of worship is a great help to any pastor. Pastors will also find this book to be a good place to start when preparing a series of messages on worship.
Ralph L. Warren has been a senior pastor for 22 years. For the last 14 years he has pastored Lake County Baptist Church in Waukegan, IL. He has earned a BS, MEd and an MA in exegetical theology. Ralph has been married to his wife Ginny for nearly 31 years. Ralph and Ginny are the proud parents of John and Amy Warren.