Meet Robert Webber
Acknowledged as one of the leading authorities on worship renewal, Dr. Robert Webber has extolled the idea of blended worship, a convergence of traditional and contemporary forms for the past two decades. He believes that by striking a balance between the pedagogical (didactic and biblical) and the participatory (emotional and dynamic) aspects of worship, Christians gain a more meaningful experience, based in a unique combination of mystery, awe, and relational intimacy.
Undoubtedly, his ecumenical educational background helped instill his passion for unity in the church. The son of a Baptist minister, Robert is a graduate of Bob Jones University, the Reformed Episcopal Seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary (Presbyterian) and Concordia Theological Seminary (Lutheran).
An experience while a student at Concordia further solidified his desire to embrace denominational differences at the altar. A group consisting of Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and evangelicals had been meeting regularly for prayer and praise over a two-year period. With graduation imminent for many members, it was decided to end their fellowship with a weekend retreat at a Catholic conference center. The retreat concluded with liturgy, during which the priest broke with Catholic tradition and served bread and wine to the non-Catholics. The issue of communion made them painfully aware of the barriers of denominationalism, and Robert Webber was forced to look at his own prejudices. "In that Catholic chapel, a new worship experience had bumped up against an old prejudice of mine, and a new attitude was born...I had been in dialogue with another worship tradition, and I was surely the richer for it." (Blended Worship, Robert Webber)
Since 1968, he has served as professor of historical theology and Christian thought at Wheaton College in Illinois. He also founded the Institute of Worship Studies. Located in Wheaton, IWS is the only institution in North America devoted specifically to worship education. The institute promotes renewal of worship and of God’s people in the local church (regardless of denomination), and provides training for pastors, music ministers, and lay people. IWS teaches three convictions of contemporary worship: 1) It must be grounded in Scripture, 2) It should utilize the rich treasures of worship throughout history, and 3) It should be committed to ministering to the needs of the contemporary worshipper.
Also a prolific writer, Dr. Webber has penned more than a dozen books. His books include Worship Old and New and Worship Is a Verb, and he also served as editor for The Complete Library of Christian Worship. He has three upcoming books, The Younger Evangelicals, Journey to Jesus, and Ancient-Future Evangelism. Additionally, he maintains a busy schedule of speaking and teaching through his Institute of Worship Studies. Since 1995, he has given his "Renew Your Worship" seminar more than 100 times.
"I have the conviction that worship is the key to the renewal of the church," states Dr. Robert Webber. "Ten years ago, when Christians moved into town they asked, ‘Where’s the best preaching?’ Today, when they come to town they say, ‘Where’s the best worship?’ " (Christianity Today)
Updated June 2003