Vickery, James. Joy in Worship. Chipley: The Theocentric Publishing Group, 2010. 188 pp. $12.95. Purchase at Amazon for$12.47 or less.
James Vickery has served as a pastor for the majority of his adult life. His heart is that others would see the glory of God in life through the lens of Scripture. Joy in Worship is his first book and seeks to bring the church back to a right understanding of true worship.
The first five chapters lay a foundation, more like an apologetic, for the need to return to the principles set forth in the Scriptures regarding how we are to worship God. Vickery argues in chapter three that ever since the fall of man in Gen. 3, our worship has moved from a theocentric (i.e., God-centered) to an anthropocentric (i.e., man-centered) style. He argues that we must always be seeking to reform our worship from the inside out. In other words, worship comes from the heart and if we are seeking to worship anything aside from God, whether it be the building, the pastor, the music, etc., then we are in need of reformation.
The second major section of the book is based on Psalms 120-134. While not necessarily an exposition, Vickery uses these Psalms of Ascent to direct our attention to the glorious truths underlying our worship. It is in these fifteen chapters that we find, based on Scripture, the true joy in worship.
The book concludes with a few chapters of exhortation. The first of these offers Pastor Vickery’s understanding of how we are to offer perfect worship. I appreciated his quote on p. 169—“The church on earth is not perfect, however, perfect worship is not only possible, it is necessary.” This at once shows two things: first, you can know how to worship God and second, it is of the utmost importance that you learn this.
Many will recognize this as the age-old discussion of the Regulative Principle of worship—that the Bible alone should inform the way in which we seek to worship God. This is a book that is more about the heart of worship rather than the type of instruments and songs used in worship. What I most appreciated is that Pastor Vickery rarely refers to this explosive hand grenade and instead allows the Word of God to do the speaking. In effect, he lets your argument be with the Lord and not with him.
Furthermore, you will not be able to read this book without a Bible. While it would be nice to have the passages, specifically, the various Psalms used at the beginning of each chapter, right there within the pages of the book, it is nice to have to crack open your Bible. After all, his argument is that our theology and practice of worship ought to be informed by Holy Writ.
Finally, when Pastor Vickery “lays the smackdown” on current trends in worship, he does so based upon the authority of the Bible. He never crosses the boundary of going further than what Scripture says. You will find that your arguments are not against Pastor Vickery’s interpretation, rather, you must argue against the clear teaching of the Bible.
Read this book and be challenged. Purchase this book for your pastor and offer it to him. Do so, however, in a loving manner. The modern church has allowed for much of the world to inform what she does and many pastors and church leaders have not really discussed or critically thought about what they are doing each Lord’s Day. Joy in Worship will be a catalyst to open up those all-important lines of communication and, Lord willing, bring about a revival in worship on Sunday mornings.