Critical Review of A guide to preaching and leading worship by Wilimon

Wilimon, W. H. A guide to preaching and leading worship. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. Print

Critical Review

a) Summary Primary Areas of Concern

The main areas of concern to be highlighted for discussion in the following discussion for Wilimon’s book critical review include the introduction, planning of the service as contained in chapter One and worship pattern proposed in chapter Two. The reason why these areas are a concern in the worship literature is because the modern church has undergone considerable metamorphosis and the generalized approach to worship and preaching may not be as effective as it used to be a while ago. It is perhaps important to realize the implications of the social changes that the modern human community is experiencing at a rate not witnessed before, which calls for a well propagated theological approach of issues concerning the church (Mosser & Willimon, 126). The author’s introduction highlights the changed times in roles of the minister to such an extent that there is a gap that has emerged in the effective delivery of the ministerial duties. Planning of the worship entails a number of worship and sermon attributes that the minister needs to give attention to, but a closer look at the authors’ work reveal some areas that need better input. Alternatively the author proposes certain approaches that he deems fit for the modern church to make the appropriate realignment in terms of worship and preaching. These two are the main areas of concern that this review shall be focused on as contained in the work of Wilimon (2008).

b) Interaction and Dialog with these concerns from Personal Experience

The author introduces the book by lamenting on the increased number of roles played by the modern day religious leaders as the main cause of incompetence among them. As far as vocational duties are concerned, it is however incorrect to give such an opinion since modern clergy has the benefit of theological training that assists them to approach nearly all social and religious issues competitively in a number of approaches. While it is normal for burnout to affect human delivery of expected duties, a wide spectrum of roles does not necessarily present enough explanation to vocational training cited by the author at his introduction (Willimon, ix).

Despite the fact that preaching and worship have been emphasized by the author as the main parts of the Christian service, the ministry faced with the many challenges as mention in the opening remark contradict this position. It follows that the ministry in the modern church requires a more balanced theological approach to deal with the spiritual, social and psychological needs of the flock. Although the mention of the importance of worship and preaching might be for purposes of developing a clear scope for the book, it does not come out well since there are contradictions on the roles of the modern church minister which certainly and evidently go beyond preaching and worshiping.

In Chapter One, planning and preparation of the service day is highlighted in various perspectives by the author. However, emphasis of worship preparation in the initial part of the chapter is contradicted by the explanation of the author’s understanding of the celebration of the Holy Communion. A mention of the sitting arrangement as a weakness of worship during sharing is perhaps laughable since the Holy Communion is not necessarily a physical union of the congregation in every aspect. Providing guidelines for innovation of worship for rituals observed during worship is does not augur well with the sections of the liberal church with the same impact that it does among the conservative Christians. It would probably be better to consider highlighting both sections of the congregation in terms of receptivity to change in dealing with church rituals.

Another particular area of concern in the explanation of worship by the author involves common weaknesses during worship. Inadequacy in terms of exposure to scripture during worship as well as congregation participation in worship needs better approach than that offered by the author. While scripture exposure needs a thorough attitude particularly in terms of biblical topics, it is important for the church to realize that the scope of the church service must be within reasonable time to keep spiritual nourishment as balanced as possible. According to Rex (98) the quality of the sermon and reading matters most to spiritual growth than quantity. With regard to the author’s opinion, it is impractical for the minister to read the entire bible for the congregation during the limited time offered by the service and handle other areas of the service with the appropriate attention. It implies that the only approach to correct this is through a proper congregation network to complement the scripture sharing during the service. The question of inadequacy of scripture sharing should not arise but rather how the service assists the congregation to read the bible outside the service as a day to day activity.

Chapter Two proposes some form of a pattern for adoption during service, which conspicuously highlights the service of the word and the service of the Last Supper as the main areas of concentration. Contrary to this pattern, it is obvious that the theological practice of a standard service should include at least four main areas of worship for following in the worship pattern. Reading the word of God should perhaps be the initial item, followed by the sharing in form of sermon, offering of gifts and finally the Lord’s Table. McKim (52) reckons that there is no need of long sermons infiltrated with excessive rhetoric that does not contribute to spiritual growth like the bible teaches. In view of the pattern given by the author giving two main pattern areas is not only criticizable but also incorrect.

c) Critical Assessment:


It is doubtful that the approach given by the author in terms of service preparation and the proposed pattern of worship can make contributions to eliminate the evident gap in modern church ministry. Creating a link between the author’s opening remarks and the delivered text on the worship and sermon preparedness as well as the proposed pattern of service for their demonstration is only remotely possible. To clear this doubt, it is perhaps important that the author considered the circumstances surrounding the complexity of the church within each of the highlighted areas of worship and sermon delivery.


Certain questions remain unsolved after a critical peruse of the author’s work among which include what the church minister can do to factor in the increased demand of church assistance. The author does not give the explanation of how the various sections of the church perceive the changes that are evidently imminent in the delivery of church worship and preaching (Campbell and Cannon, 11). Alternatively, questions remain as to whether the highlighted pattern is enough for the pastor to adequately include all the theological elements of worship during church serve. The crowded list of roles of the church minister is not articulated in the proposed order of service and the way in which the church can reach out to more followers amid tighter schedule.

Effect on Personal Understanding

Willimon does not deliver on the main issues of traditional tenets of the church in terms of dealing with changes affecting the church. This text contradicts the teachings of the church on grounds such as the significance of the Eucharist as a purely spiritual event that ought to be jealously guarded by the church. While the author is keen to note the physical attributes of the sharing involved during the celebration of the Lords Table, he is not practical within the confinement of the modern church challenges. Among the obvious understanding that the church goers have in this age, the sharing of the communion emerges from the common conversion of the bread into the body of the Lord by the minister taking the position of Christ. It is not necessarily in the physical drinking and eating of the blood and body of the Lord as happens in the sitting arrangement, the number of cups and plates. It is a purely spiritual encounter that brings the entire church across the world together regardless of sitting positions as argued by the author.

Personal Reflection

I reckon that although the author identifies some important areas of the Christian worship, he clearly misses on several opportunities where he could have delivered immense contribution on the changing nature of the church. Inclusion of the huge responsibility of the church minister at the beginning of the author’s work is perhaps a point that could have been developed throughout the text to include the most important gaps that the modern minister needs to bridge. However, the author completely moves off this rare opportunity and engages worship and preaching for a totally different agenda, coming out of the topic on several occasions such as the manner in which the Holy Communion should be served. I hold the opinion that the link between worship and preaching could have been used throughout the text to develop the contributions that the minister of the modern day church ought to approach vocational service amid the glaring challenges. Theology offers a chance for the church minister to provide objective leadership and rise to the occasion in cases where decisions are required in defining conservative and liberal input in order of service which does not appear to be illustrated in the book.


Campbell, W. H. & Cannon, J. S. (1893) Lectures on pastoral theology. New York, NY: Charles Scribner

McKim, D. (2001) The Westminster handbook to reformed theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press

Mosser, D. N. & Willimon, W. H. (2007) The stewardship companion: lectionary resources for preaching. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press

Rex, R. (2003) The theology of John Fisher. Cambridge University Press

Willimon, W. H. (2008) A guide to preaching and leading worship. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press