John Frederick’s Worship in the Way of the Cross offers a unique vantage point concerning worship in the church. Raised in a Roman Catholic Church that primarily embraced a contemporary style, Frederick subsequently experienced worship in an assortment of churches. After a few years in a non-denominational, Emergent-style church with Baptist leanings, Frederick moved to Scotland where he worshipped in the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Free Church of Scotland. Upon completing his PhD in New Testament Theology at the University of St. Andrews, Frederick led music at the historic Park Street Congregational Church before becoming an Anglican Priest. He has continued to blend together his various gifts and passions, and he is presently assistant professor of theology and the worship arts coordinator at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. This amazingly diverse background provides the backdrop for his novel and innovative approach to worship.
In Part 1, Frederick’s innovation is exhibited in his application of the idea of cruciformity, which he borrows from New Testament theologian Michael Gorman. Frederick says, “The adjective cruciform is a theological word used to refer to the worldview and way of life that focuses on the others-centered, self-giving love of God in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ” (p. 24).
In Part 2, Frederick points to the cross as an “act of family resemblance” through which Jesus expresses his solidarity with the character of God. As Frederick says, “The cross is not an exception to the rule of God’s character; it is the norm, and that norm is love.”
Frederick demonstrates how we work out this same “family resemblance” through rituals, practices, and habits that allow us to receive and enact the love of God in Christ.
Later, in Part 5, through the application of hermeneutical theory, historical research, and solid biblical interpretation, Frederick reveals how the cruciform love of God can be applied through Scripture, prayer, preaching, singing, and the Eucharist.
Along with his emphasis on cruciformity, Frederick’s perspective as an artist provides a unique outlook. Regarding musicians in the Church he says, “Rather than being rigorously examined for their theological knowledge and character, worship leaders are often selected prima
rily on the basis of their musical skill and their fit with the particular congregation in terms of musical style” (p. 123). He challenges this conventional practice by asserting his view that the role of music is just as important to the practice of gospel proclamation and cruciformation as that of preaching. He also appeals to musicians for more authenticity and purity in their artistic practice in order to avoid “playing cover gigs for God” (p. 83).
Finally, the author calls upon church leaders to slay the passive-aggressive dragons in their churches, to resist the urge to lead “as Lords,” and instead, to lead as servants through a life of cruciform love.
This book is best suited for those who would like an in-depth look at cruciformity in worship, including those leading music in local churches. Also, this book will provide a challenge for pastors who may have previously based their selection of music leaders on the criteria of musical talent and style, rather than on their qualification as “artist-theologians.” Offering a final word of challenge in his last chapter, Frederick says, “The Church is meant to be a countercultural, cruciform ecclesia (assembly) of reconciled reconcilers who creatively reshape the world, restructure the narratives, and rewrite life in accordance with the cruciform love of God in Christ.”
STEVE JOHNSON is senior pastor of Nall Avenue Church of the Nazarene in Prairie Village, Kansas.