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Reaching Out without Dumbing Down
A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time
POD; Published: 7/10/1995
ISBN: 978-0-8028-4102-5
Price: $ 31.50
328 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Foreword by Martin E. Marty

Why do churches fight "Worship Wars?" Why do discussions about how to conduct worship often split into two vitriolic polarities over "traditional" versus "contemporary" styles or into two opposing camps, such as organists/ guitarists, baby boomers/elders, returnees/loyalists or clergy/musicians? These "worship wars" prevent us from being the Church.

In Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, Marva Dawn writes to help local parishes and denominations think more thoroughly about worship and culture so that they can function effectively in contemporary society. She roots her discussion of worship issues in a careful assessment of significant aspects of the present technological, boomer, post-modern society and names criteria by which to judge the various cultural influences. She then sketches essential attributes of worship. Dawn recognizes that the vitality and faithfulness of our personal and corporate Christian lives and the effectiveness of our outreach to the world depend on the character that is formed in individuals and communities.

How can churches best reach out to society without "dumbing down" this essential character formation? Dawn discusses music, preaching, and all the accouterments of worship and offers practical suggestions for choosing the best tools and forms to deepen worship life, nurture faith development, and increase believers' outreach throughout the universal church and to the world.

Academy of Parish Clergy, Top Ten Books of the Year (1996)
Bibliotheca Sacra
"Few books on worship are as articulate, thought-provoking, well researched, and prophetic as this volume. . . Dawn displays a broad awareness of the popular trends and conclusions presented in contemporary church growth literature as her quotations, discussion, and ample footnotes demonstrate."
CBA Bookstore Journal
"Dawn's perspective on worship is refreshingly theocentric. . . An interesting work that addresses a key topic for Christians."
Christian Century
"In her warmly encouraging book, Dawn explores ways that congregation members and leaders can plan appealing and accessible worship services without 'dumbing down' to the lowest common denominator of popular culture. . . An especially helpful guide to the literature on church growth, authentic contemporary worship and music, and doing theology in congregations."
Christianity Today
"A vigorous defense of more traditional worship. . . Reaching Out without Dumbing Down represents a prophetic voice raising probing questions about worship that evangelicals ought to consider."
First Things
"An insightful treatment of the 'worship wars' that afflict many Protestant denominations and are being felt also among Catholics. Marva Dawn provides much-needed help in understanding why worship that is really the worship of god cannot be compromised to the goal of 'church growth.' No friend of traditionalism, Dawn knows the most astute appreciation of contemporary culture cannot be a substitute for a solid grounding in authentic Christian tradition. An important book."
Modern Liturgy
"This is a serious and accessible call to uncompromising liturgical reform."
New Theology Review
"Liturgists and musicians alike would profit from this pastorally oriented text. The author's genuine, convincing, impassioned account of the meaning of worship and its importance in the life of the worshipper should enable the fulfillment of her hope that it will lead to asking 'better questions."
Southwestern Journal of Theology
"This book is must reading for pastors, musicians, and laypersons who seek to deal with the 'worship wars' in a biblical and practical way. If you read only one book on worship this year, make this the one!"
The Anglican (Canada)
"For those who are longing to find an answer in the morass of today's muddle of worship, Marva Dawn's book is not only a source of hope, but indeed a source of strength. . . For all Christians who take their faith seriously, this is a book to be read and pondered. There is material here for everyone. . . Easy to read, but leads one into deep channels of thought."
The Christian Ministry
"A helpful contribution to any discussion about appropriate life-giving worship."
The Clergy Journal
"Sobering, significant, well written, and well documented. . . Her analysis and observations are persuasive and must be taken seriously."
Theology Today
"A welcome study of the state of the art of worship at the end of this century."
Word & World
"Anyone interested in a book that sizzles and pops while probing important matters of worship and church life might well enjoy (and be challenged by) Marva Dawn's passionate attempt to articulate a theology of worship for the turn-of-the-century culture."