Except for the evolution of its music, the history of the emergence of “praise and worship” or “contemporary worship” has been little told. While acknowledging the importance of musical developments, Dr. Lester Ruth suggests that the history of the non-musical elements is just as interesting and just as important.

Based on his books Worshiping with the Anaheim Vineyard: The Emergence of Contemporary Worship (co-authored with Vineyard musicians Andy Park and Cindy Rethmeier; Eerdmans, 2017) and Lovin’ On Jesus: A Concise History of Contemporary Worship (co-authored with Swee Hong Lim; Abingdon, 2017), Dr. Ruth’s June 2017 seminar at IWS, When the Music Fades (or Not): Exploring the Historical Origins and Development of Contemporary Worship, explored important musical and non-musical topics and issues in contemporary worship’s history, and concluded with a pastoral and historical assessment of where contemporary worship stands as it enters middle age.

Audio and video resources from the seminar are available below.

Media presentations (outlines and notes) and links used during the seminar are available here.


The Origins of Contemporary Worship: The Multiple Headwaters and the Myriad Channels of a New Liturgical Reality [Download, 48:44]


What’s in a Name? What the History of the Term “Contemporary Worship” Tells Us [Download, 43:22]


The Split Between Theology and Methodology (Style)


Escaping the Thee’s and Thou’s: Language as the First Domino to Fall In the March to Contemporaneity in Worship [Download, 43:10]


The Anaheim Vineyard Congregation as a Case Study: Part 1 [Download, 59:56]


The Anaheim Vineyard Congregation as a Case Study: Part 2 [Download, 34:52]


The Role of Psalm 22:3 in the Making of Music as the New Sacrament [Download, 43:33]


The Impact of the International Worship Symposium (Interview with Dr. Jim Hart)  [Download, 13:42]


The Recovery of Sacramentality in Worship


How Has Contemporary Worship Changed Over the Decades? Analyzing Top 25 Worship Songs [Download, 36:56]


No Plug, No Play, No Worship: The Role of Technology in Contemporary Worship [Download, 66:43]


Reflecting on the Strengths and Weaknesses of Contemporary Worship in Light of 2,000 Years of Christian Worship


Mistaking Eyeglasses for the Eye Chart (2017 Commencement Sermon)

Lester Ruth reflected on his time back on the IWS campus for this seminar:

Dr. Lester RuthThere is an indelible quality to the character of IWS. As it was in the beginning so has it remained: a remarkable combination of God-honoring worship, spirit-enriching fellowship, and mind-expanding learning. I treasure the opportunity to have taught there for 14 ½ years and I valued the chance to return for a recent worship seminar. It was a privilege to be able to share two days with those who have lived and helped make the history of contemporary worship, some in national roles and some in faithful service in churches little known outside of God’s awareness of the same.


Link to Lester Ruth Seminar Event Photo Gallery

About the author

Alumni Director, Practicum Professor, and DWS graduate.