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Reaching out without Dumbing Down by Marva…
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Reaching out without Dumbing Down (1995)

by Marva J. Dawn

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A bulletin from the front.
  kijabi1 | Jan 6, 2012 |
Having heard Marva Dawn's presentation of this book a seminar in the 90's, and gone through the struggles of structuring meaningful worship for many years, I find myself indelibly marked as a pilgrim and participant. This book will remain an important text, documenting the journey for all of the pilgrims, hurt feelings included, who find themselves trudging the steep path soli deo gloria. ( )
  historykeys | May 25, 2009 |
In the book, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, Marva Dawn attempts to address the worship struggles that have been occurring in churches and have left some churches vacant because of the division and controversy. At the outset, Dawn suggests four primary goals of the text: to understand the culture that the church attempts to reach; to understand what causes the church to move into idolatry and the things that divide the Church’s life and worship; to better understand how we, as a church, are “dumbing faith down” in the way that our services and programs are implemented; and to devise better ways of reaching those outside of the Church (11). Since many churches are split due to the “traditional” versus “contemporary” debate within the church, Dawn has written a text that is a must read for church worship leaders, pastors and congregations desiring to reach the lost. As outlined in the final chapter with the help of James Turner, the author suggests that the cause of this division is more often the church trying to lower its standards and becoming submissive to the demands of society (303).

In attempting to reach the before mentioned goals, the author begins with an introspective look at the church’s methodology through sociological means. The book begins with an analysis of the Technological, Boomer, Postmodern Culture that has produced a television and technologically driven society that has dumbed down the culture. In addition, there is a critical perspective of the church as “market driven”, which shows the shift of focus from the careful exegesis of the Word of God to the determination of what worship participants desire within a service (24). The author then attempted to list and evaluate some of the idolatries seen within our churches: God of efficiency, idolatry of money, idolatry of tradition, idolatry of numbers and success, etc. She quotes Horstman in what seems to encapsulate the thrust of the whole text. “We simulate real life by eliminating risk and commitment, and end up mistaking what is real for what is only artificial. We exist, that is, encased in a giant cultural condom (49).” Horstman was describing the artificialness of society in making shopping malls look like the outside environment and the creation of online sexual environments that posed as authentic relationships. The reality in many of the churches today is that this is not just a reflection of culture, but rather a reality of the church and its congregation.

Dawn continues to proceed within the text to evaluate the authentic worship of the church and the church’s role in spiritual formation of the believer. In the chapter, God as the Center of Worship, the author proposes that authentic worship is when God is both the subject and object of worship (80). This is shown to be in direct contradiction with some congregations when worship leaders and pastors are placed in an unsuitable role within worship. The chapters following discuss the importance of the church’s spiritual formation through the character formation of the believer, the development of authentic biblical community and the proper exegesis of the Word of God. As for the latter point, Dawn states, “When we give people an inferior gospel, we also fail to train their capacity for judging truth and for seeking the best expressions of it (151).” In the final parts of the author’s text, she studies more intently the music, Word, rituals and outward focus of the church in regard to reaching the secular culture. ( )
  dive222 | Mar 6, 2009 |
This was a response to the "worship wars" of the '90's. What she had to say was important, but I really disliked some of her comments that really struck me as condescending, even if they were true. ( )
  nevusmom | Jun 4, 2007 |
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Why do churches fight "worship wars"? Why do discussions about how to conduct worship often split into two vitriolic polarities such as "traditional" versus "contemporary". Working to bridge opposing sides in the various "worship wars", Marva Dawn here writes to help local parishes and denominations think more thoroughly about both worship and culture. She roots her discussion in a careful assessment of significant aspects of the present technological, boomer, postmodern society and names criteria by which to judge various cultural influences...In the process, Dawn discusses music, preaching, Scripture readings, rituals, liturgies, art, and all the accoutrements of worship , and offers practical suggestions for choosing the best tools and forms to deepen worship life, to nurture faith development, and to increase believers' outreach."
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