Saturday, March 27, 2010

IWS - where the amount of product in your hair doesn't matter

One of the great things about the late Bob Webber was his understanding that worship is not about us—it is about God.

I was reminded of this the other day when I got my review copy of Stuff Christians Like, by Christian satirist Jonathan Acuff. (Acuff’s book available here ; his website, here .)

Stuff Christians Like devotes several pages to the Metrosexual Worship Leader Scorecard. A worship leader with a soul patch gets three points, while one with a goatee gets only two. A scarf with a t-shirt gets a one point, while a winter knit hat in summer gets an additional two. And having huge gobs of product in your hair is absolutely essential to being a Metrosexual Worship Leader. (My score is somewhere in the negative numbers.)

Acuff’s satire sends up the way certain parts of the worship movement are consumed by style and appearance. And that made me appreciate the legacy of Bob Webber all the more. Worship, Bob kept reminding us, is about God. It “sings, preaches, and enacts God’s story,” not ours. Bob admonished us to turn away from forms “that assert the self as the source of worship.”

The day before the mail carrier delivered Stuff Christians Like, my e-mail brought me a press release about an important milestone for the Institute for Worship Studies, the graduate school Bob founded in 1999. For just over a decade, IWS has been training students in God-ward worship. In 2005 it began the accreditation process with the Association for Biblical Higher Education. Now, the school has been granted accredited status. IWS President Jim Hart calls it “a significant and critical threshold for the institute.”

A few days later I was walking across the campus of Wheaton College with Bob’s widow, Joanne. It’s the faculty, she said. The quality of the faculty is what impressed the accreditation team. In fact, faculty excellence was item two on a list of six commendations the team handed Jim Hart.

Other key items from that list of commendations: the school is operating debt free; it assembled library resources rapidly; it uses a blend of online and onsite instruction to create an innovative and substantive academic program; its capstone courses are noted for their rigor.

Having enrolled over 400 graduate students in its masters and doctoral programs over the past decade, IWS is playing a crucial role in focusing church leaders on worship that tells and enacts God’s story. This latest step—accreditation—is an important factor in the continuing stability of this mission.

Congratulations to everyone in the IWS family.

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Photo: IWS President James R. Hart and Registrar Laura Ritter receive the plaque from Lisa Beatty, Chair of the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education.
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