Book Review: “Worship Essentials” by Mike Harland


Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

How can a worship leader in today’s worship music landscape lead effectively and in a Christ-like manner? The past few decades have been characterized as the “worship wars,” as older styles of worship (think hymns, organs, and hymnals) and their proponents clashed with advocates of newer styles (think guitars, projectors, drums, and…*grimace* fog machines). Is there a set of core principles, convictions, and best practices that a worship leader can focus on in their pursuit to lead their teams and their churches in worshiping the Lord?

In “Worship Essentials,” Mike Harland argues that yes, there is.

With a mix of principles from Scripture, observations, and lessons learned over the past few decades of worship ministry experience, Harland contends that we can move past “worship wars” if we focus on telling the biblical story, ensuring our ultimate goal is producing mature disciples, engaging the church body effectively in our worship, and aspiring towards excellence and purpose.

As a minister of music myself, I found Harland’s advice and concerns to be encouraging, helpful, humble, and challenging. Harland exhorts the music leaders in a church to lead their teams well, partner with the preaching pastor in planning and leading the worship services (as worship is more than just the music we sing), focus on producing disciples in the pews, desegregate “traditional” and “contemporary” services, aim for excellence without distracting from God’s glory, and more!

After finishing the book, I was left with helpful theological, musical, practical, and spiritual applications. It’s by no means a perfect book—for instance, it was a tad too conversational in tone at points for me and it seemed like he repeated himself in a few different places unintentionally—but I was edified and would encourage anyone looking for resources to help them shepherd those whom God has entrusted to them to lead in this area to make their way through “Worship Essentials.”

4 stars out of 5


Mike Harland. Worship Essentials. B&H Publishing Group, 2018. 176 pp. Paperback. $16.99.

Thanks to B&H Bloggers for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

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