Not long ago, most students came to IWS because they knew Bob Webber, had heard him speak, or read his books. Personal contact with Bob was memorable and often life-changing. Now, more than a decade after his death, most students come to IWS because of personal contact with our alumni, all of them influenced by the life and teaching of Bob Webber.
For those of you who didn’t have the privilege of meeting him, here are a few stories, tributes and links to introduce you to the personal side Bob Webber, the man who envisioned, founded and led IWS, and whose legacy continues in the lives of those he so profoundly influenced.
Jonathan Powers, D.W.S. (Chi 2013)
Jonathan is Assistant Professor of Worship Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.
No singular person in the American church did more work in the late twentieth century toward worship renewal than Robert Webber. His many writings, teachings, and presentations, have inspired many church leaders and “ruined” many lives. Bob was a man who was principled but not prescriptive when it came to worship, and I believe that quality allowed him to reach a broad audience. His principles were rooted in theology and practice—a perfect and unique blend of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. His message of worship renewal is a timeless one, and one that future generations need to hear. Furthermore, his contribution to the church of a dynamic worship theology should be recognized, which is why I am currently doing PhD work through the London School of Theology on “The Practical Worship Theology of Robert E. Webber.”
Bob Webber on prayer as he dealt with pancreatic cancer two months before his death.
Constance Cherry, D.Min. (IWS faculty)
I first met Bob in the late 1980s at one of the many weekend worship conferences he led around the country. He had a fire in his soul not just for worship renewal in general, but for evangelicals in particular to capture the essence of biblical worship. His fervor was contagious. I knew that I needed to be formed in Webber’s worship worldview, so I entered the doctoral program he created at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in the mid-90s. Over the years I came to know Bob as my teacher, director of my doctoral thesis, mentor, and friend. The one feature of our relationship that stands out the most is that of mentor. Countless times he initiated opportunities to shape not only my developing views on worship but to guide me professionally and to open so many doors—inviting me to teach at IWS, offering me speaking and writing opportunities when he could not accept them, linking me with people for collaboration, etc. In fact, he graciously mentored me to the end. One month before he died Bob phoned me to tell me that he had written a back cover endorsement for the book I was writing even before I had had any conversation with a potential publisher. He had read the first draft of several chapters of The Worship Architect. “Keep this blurb and use it,” he said; “It will help.” Needless to say I was speechless. As we concluded our conversation I said, “Well, I’ll see you in June.” Bob replied, “No, you won’t. We won’t see each other again in this life but I’ll meet you on the other side.” He was right. And I look forward to that day. Bob Webber loved God, loved the Church, and loved people—in that order; and he still inspires me to do the same.
Pres. Jim Hart’s eulogy at Bob’s Memorial Service. “Bob taught me how to dance with God.” [4:59 audio]
IWS remembers Bob Webber—Memorial Service quotes, photos and links.
Chris Brewer, D.W.S. (Nu 2008)
Chris is a well-known automotive writer and photographer. He currently serves as the director of public relations for The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Jacksonville, Florida.
I was once told that there are two kinds of people; the “here I am” folks and a “there you are” contingency. Robert Webber was the latter. Admittedly, Bob, his preferred name, was a celebrity. Case-in-point, his vast, continually growing bibliography and hectic speaking schedule along with a strong reputation as a theologian and striking good looks were enough to earn him the nickname of “Hollywood Bob” from his peers at Wheaton. When Bob entered a room, he owned it. Every eye and ear turned his way. College professors pulled out notebooks. Librarians swooned. Bob was special; make no mistake Robert Webber was a prophet. He spoke with authority and a quiet boldness that affected change. He was a gifted author whose words still resonant on the tongues of today’s leading pastors, professors and songwriters. However, the characteristics that I admired above all else were Bob’s fantastic wit, his often self-deprecating humor, and his ability to look into the life of a once thirty-year-old minister who was struggling to find his calling and pay the bills and see an accomplished expert who had something magnificent to offer the world.
Darrell Harris on Bob’s expanded view of worship [5:35 audio].