James Hart: Worship and Culture

This brief article is a somewhat condensed version of my presidential address from the January 2017 session of IWS. The purpose of the presidential address is to keep before the IWS community our God-given mission, and to explore various aspects of it. This session I explored some aspects of cultural reflections relative to the social teachings of the Church.

Dr. James HartI am sometimes asked, “Why does IWS focus its studies on just worship?” Answer: a primary key to reading the entire biblical narrative is this—God is calling his creation to right worship. God ultimately wants his people to worship him aright. Because he needs our praise? No! He has no need of our praise. But, WE need to worship because in that great act we become aligned and reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, the primary worshipper. Right worship leads to the rightly ordered or integrated life, the rightly ordered family, church, city, culture, even cosmos.

Bob Webber said, “Worship is the key to the renewal of the Church.” I have written this before, but it is worth repeating: In worship we have the great privilege of telling the world its true story, and bringing it to the right worship of the only God who is ultimately true, good and beautiful, reconciling us to him and each other. This is what IWS is about, and this is why the focus of IWS on right worship is at the very core of the Christian faith! . . .

Let us consider just one aspect of the intersection of worship and the Christian life: how the global church incarnates God’s desire to reconcile all things to himself through the primary means of worship and mission. I will focus on a few ways in which worship intersects with the Church’s social teachings, particularly related to militating against contemporary trends toward cultural accommodation and what I call cultural parochialism. [Continue reading. . .]

About the author

Dr. James R. Hart served as President of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies from 2007-2024. Dr. Hart was a member of the first IWS doctoral class, the Alpha class, and served as Dean of Students during his matriculation. After graduating from IWS, Dr. Webber appointed him as the Dean of Administration, and then Provost in 2006. In June of 2007, he was inaugurated as the second president of IWS. Dr. Hart holds a B.M. in Sacred Music from Oral Roberts University, an M.M. in Trumpet Performance from the University of Tulsa, and a D.W.S. from the Institute for Worship Studies. He was critical to the formation of IWS in Florida and has held administrative responsibilities since its inception in 1999. He is a professional trumpeter, choral director, and worship leader, and a published composer/arranger, songwriter, and author. He has been involved in worship leadership in various contexts around the globe for over 40 years and has taught in the areas of worship, theology, and music in various conferences, colleges, and seminaries. Dr. Hart and his wife, Carol, have three daughters and three grandchildren.