Review of “Essential Worship: A Handbook for Leaders” by Greg Scheer


In a really good way, reading this book made me feel like a child again. Finally, I’ve found a worship primer written for normal people. The writing is clear, his summarizations are succinct, and his pictures, discussion questions and activities are memorable. The author doesn’t make any assumptions about what you might already know and he doesn’t waste time showing you what is necessary for you to begin. I found this to be a very engaging text – a book to not just be read, but to be used!

The genesis of this book is a while back, the author noticed a lacuna: A book to lay out all the basics of worship and specifically, leading worship. A few years ago I would have been surprised to hear that this would be difficult to locate but reading it now, I completely agree. I’ve been looking for a good primer to be utilized by my church for a few years now. A few years ago I read a bunch from Robert E. Webber, and I especially enjoyed his classic Worship Old & New, but this was a historical book more than anything else. Last year, I read Daniel I. Block’s For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. This book was phenomenal in its exhaustive depth on the theology of worship but also really dense, and thus not a book I could utilize for most of the leaders in my own church without me having to significantly synthesize.  I recently found Brian Croft and Jason Adkins’ Gather God’s People: Understand, Plan and Lead Worship in Your Local Church to be a fairly helpful “manual” but still felt like it was a bit broad. Simpler and shorter, but not quite as specific as what I needed. This book, on the other hand, scratched my itch. It provides a fairly comprehensive list of topics while each chapter is filled with practical insights (he even has a chapter dedicated to “how to sing a Psalm” – how cool is that?!). Every subject is covered in readable amounts for the average joe. Each chapter is about 8 pages long.

This book “happened” because in the authors’ trips to Indonesia, Uganda, and Ukraine Scheer noticed many pastors were lacking adequate training materials. Many leaders were “patching together their worship philosophy from whatever they came across on YouTube or saw in other local churches.” (Of course, we know this isn’t only an international problem!) Then, closer to home, Scheer had a friend ask for a recommendation for a book on worship that would provide a simple overview of worship and worship leading – and Greg couldn’t find one. So he wrote it! There were three components of this book that I especially appreciated:

1) His pictures! Scattered throughout the book are visualizations of what he is saying. Every single picture is both really simple and really illuminating. Whether it is on the definition of different components of worship (28-29); worship as nourishment-in-action (51); a visual of the liturgical church year (74); the roles of congregational songs (147-154); theological architecture (199-200) or the flashlight funnel of distributed leadership (258),  the pictures help the reader to see the forest from the trees. I’ve included one picture to give you a sense of what I mean. On this page, the author is showing the potentially diverse actions or moods our worship songs should consist of. Really cool:


2) His questions! Oh, his questions are really good! He realizes that all too often, we ask the wrong questions: “What would my people like? Who will get upset about it? How long will it take? Instead, we should be asking questions that will help us go deeper: What does the Bible say? How have Christians worshiped in the past? What do my people need?” Scheer begins the book with a potent one: “What kind of worship do I want to take to the grave with me?” (19) Beginning with the end in mind helps us to know where we want to go. As well, before every chapter he has a paragraph titled, “Before you begin” which includes a thought provoking question to get you started. So many of these are! I plan on utilizing some of these questions in my own upcoming church worship team meetings. His questions force substantial processing and have a lot of potential for clarifying for actual worship teams what our stances should be on these practical issues of leadership each of us deals with, often.

3) His recommendations!  Peppered throughout the book are little boxes titled, “Further learning.” As a primer, this is really helpful. His suggested resources include a lot of really, really good books – some I had never heard of (including the one I just bought which looks so, so good, The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition). Although, in his suggested further reading on public prayer on page 86, I wish he would have included the recent book by Jeffrey D. Arthurs’, Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture: The Transforming Power of the Well-Spoken Word, which is in my mind, one of the better more practical resources for normal pastors working in normal churches.

I would recommend this book to every pastor I know because this isn’t just a book that can be read in the church, this is a book that can be used for the church.

*Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied*


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