Updated: Feb 20, 2020
In the Splendor of Holiness
by Jon D. Payne
Tolle Lege Press (2008)
As a pastor I am often looking for a brief, highly accessible, yet informative book on a certain topic to put in peoples’ hands. Jon Payne has written just such a book for Reformed worship and liturgy. While any number of good books on Reformed worship have been written recently (this book provides a great bibliography), Payne’s book would be a wonderful introduction to the subject. He covers all of the bases, and he covers them with admirable brevity.
The book begins by arguing for the biblical importance of liturgy. Indeed, Payne points out that liturgy is an inescapable reality of corporate worship. Unfortunately, to the degree that we are captive to our cultural perspective as 21st Century Americans, we will tend to construct liturgies that are, “…radically informal, presumptuously innovative, and biblically impoverished.” In light of this tendency, Payne insists that care must be taken to arrive at a God-centered, biblically-regulated liturgy.
Payne also spends time exploring the important topic of preparation for worship. He begins by setting forth an understanding of what is a distinctively biblical approach to worship. Biblical worship is: saturated with Scripture, God-centered (not man-centered), dialogical, and simple; it is expressed in all of life, and at sacred times. It is reverent, Trinitarian, and it specifically sets forth redemption in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I’ll let you pick up his book to find out what he says about each of these principles.
He then advocates a paradigm for worship that encompasses all of life including corporate Lord’s Day worship, family worship, and private worship. He argues persuasively that Christians ought to see family and individual worship as preparation for Lord’s Day worship: “Faithful preparation during the week cultivates a heart of worship, helping us to offer God our best on the Lord’s Day.” It would seem that corporate worship on the Lord’s day also sets the trajectory for worship on the other six days.
The book concludes with several chapters setting forth various elements of a distinctively Reformed liturgy. Each of these concise explanations provides a basic understanding of the element and its place in the liturgy. Any pastor looking for a solid, no nonsense treatment of Reformed worship will profit from this work. Are you a Christian looking for a competent but accessible summary of what is distinctive about Reformed worship? You couldn’t go wrong with this book.