Book Review

"Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down" by Marva Dawn

Diana S. Frazier
Marva J. Dawn
Friday, June 29th 2007
Jul/Aug 2007

Each issue we'll look at a book published during Modern Reformation's 15-year history, with a look to why this book was and is still is significant. -EDS.

Marva Dawn's Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down is just as valuable now as it was when published in 1995. Her book encourages church leaders and members to think about worship in a

fresh way – to avoid both a stale approach to tradition and liturgy and a capitulation to a culture of church as entertainment.

While some may disagree with her empahsis on traditional hymns, the issue as she lays it out is not about taste, but rather, whether or not the lyrics and music last over time. Worship is about God. If the church seeks to imitate popular culture to attract people, it does not ultimately achieve its purpose. That is not to say that new hymns cannot or should not be introduced. But intentionally singing the hymns that link us, generation to generation, has a value the helps build community – something often lacking in our society at large.

My own observation of a church I was a part of for over 25 years was that the heavy emphasis on Scripture memory and the catechism was a great blessing to the children of the church – many of whose parents had never benefitted from a thoughtful curriculm themselves. The rigorous educational program did not scare people away as some might think; in fact, families with young children continue to join the church and the Sunday school classes are overflowing.

Now that I am part of a church plant, I see anew the reason to carefully consider how we develop the worship service and start our Sunday school curriculum for the training and nurturing of a new generation of covenant children. Dawn's work is an encouragement to think through church issues in a way to reach our church family without giving in to the latest trend. It also exhorts us to reach out, drawing others into our fellowship, offering them participation in worship that is substantive and meets them in their deep need.

Friday, June 29th 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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