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The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God's Call to Justice Paperback – October 31, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (October 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830834141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830834143
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[A] timely and much appreciated attempt to recall for privileged North American Christians the intimate connection between worship and issues of justice." (The Presbyterian Outlook, October 6, 2008)

"Labberton's book is bracing reading that deserves thoughtful meditation and discussion among pastors, lay leaders, and those who occupy the pews--especially in places where those pews have become all too comfortable." (The Clergy Journal, November/December 2007)

"May the Lord use The Dangerous Act of Worship to help call a Western, often self-indulgent church beyond its commitments to just the 'arts' (contemporary, emergent, etc.) and awaken it to its true calling--being a prophetic voice and compassionate model of life transformed by and lived 'into' the gospel of a resurrected Lord." (Dr. Pete Sanchez Jr., director of worship studies, Integrity Worship Institute, and assistant professor of church music and worship renewal, University of Mobile)

"Few topics arouse such emotion and passion in the church as the place of justice and worship. Mark dares to bring them together, and does it masterfully. Neither a critic of the church--standing aloof and pointing a finger--nor a comforter--standing alongside and holding in an embrace--rather Mark is a prophetic pastor. He compassionately discloses the will and the way of God and invites us to walk together in the way of God's kingdom. This book is discomforting. And well it should be. Mark restores our vision of God's ancient call to the church to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. The book opens the windows so God's Spirit can blow fresh joy and power into our lives. Rather than worship being a weekly separation from the world, Mark leads us into worship as a daily, transforming engagement with it." (Tim Dearborn, Associate Director, Christian Commitments/Faith and Development, World Vision International)

"The Dangerous Act of Worship is extraordinary because it is so concretely helpful. It offers American church leaders a way out from the disappointments of dead-end worship, and does so with tangible stories and examples that are inspiring, convicting, clear and practical. Every so often, a book comes along that, for the brave of heart, actually has the potential to transform a leader's whole mindset about what they are doing and leading. This is such a book." (Gary A. Haugen, President, International Justice Mission, and author of Good News About Injustice)

"Mark Labberton makes me uncomfortable in the best possible way: uncomfortable with my small life, my small dreams and my small God. And yet in the midst of that holy discomfort he awakens hope that it is possible to wake up to the real life, and the real worship, that we were created for." (Andy Crouch, contributing editor, Christianity Today, and editorial director, The Christian Vision Project)

"This prophetic, passionate and thoroughly biblical exploration of the connection between genuine worship and God's call to justice breaks new ground in a much-needed wake-up call for the American church. With insightful critique and practical examples, it encourages Christians to move beyond the often stale and sterile debates of the worship wars to the rediscovery of world- and life-changing God-centered worship. I highly recommend it." (The Rev. Dr. Roberta Hestenes, Teaching Pastor, Community Presbyterian Church, Danville, California, and former Minister-at-Large for World Vision)

"This is not just another book on worship. Or justice. It's an urgent call to wake up to the discovery that everything is lost unless we pull worship and justice together." (M. Craig Barnes, Professor of Pastoral Ministry, Pittsburgh Seminary, author of Yearning and When God Interrupts)

"In The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God's Call to Justice, Mark Labberton gives a compelling argument on the connection between worshiper and justice. Mark packs in lots of living examples of worshipers who are doing justice in the world. The church in North America desperately needs to catch Mark's (and God's) passion for giving away the mercy that we have so richly received to the marginalized people of our world, both near and far." (Andy Park, worship leader, songwriter and author of To Know You More)

"For those of us who are unsettled by popular worship, narrowly defined, Mark Labberton calls us to wake up and see that worship can never be understood narrowly. It must be part of the fabric of our faith, woven into larger issues like justice and the poor. Though he does not give in to the temptation of entering into the debate over secondary issues of style and personal preference, Mark's words provide the biblical background that will place them finally into proper focus." (Michael Card, musician, songwriter and author of Scribbling in the Sand)

"We need this book! Mark Labberton offers profound insights and guidance to all of us who care deeply--or at least who ought to care deeply--about promoting justice in a suffering world. He is right: integrating worship and justice is a dangerous thing. But given the character of the God whom we worship it is also the only safe course of action." (Richard J. Mouw, President and Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary)

"A ringing, prophetic call for biblical worship that revolutionizes how we live in the world." (Ronald J. Sider, author of Fixing The Moral Deficit)

"Why do churches fight over the small stuff and miss the big issues of justice and mercy? In this book not only does Mark Labberton help us to ask that question, but also he poses it more thoroughly and challenges us to find the resources to do something about the problem. This book is essential for awakening churches from their 'yet more excellent sleep' to their role in living the gospel that they proclaim and thereby in changing the state of the world." (Marva Dawn, author of Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent Culture, and teaching fellow in spiritual theology, Regent College, Vancouver)

"Mark Labberton writes with the voice of a prophet and the heart of a pastor. His call for justice forges links between corporate worship on Sunday and personal worship in all of life. His call to genuine gospel rest in the context of a book arising from a holy restlessness sets this book apart from many books on justice. The result is a book that calls us to obedient service not on the basis of fear or guilt, but rather deep gratitude for God's abundant grace." (John D. Witvliet, Director, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship)

"Dangerous indeed! Not only is true worship dangerous, as Mark Labberton suggests, but this book is dangerous. It shakes us from our lethargy. It calls us to a radical reconsideration of our life of discipleship. It pushes us across our global and theological boundaries. This is one of the most challenging books I have read in years." (Stephen A. Hayner, Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth, Columbia Theological Seminary)

"An important book. Mark Labberton offers a scalding reminder that worship is not about our well-being but the world's. I can't imagine any worship leader, or any worshiper, seeing worship in the same way after reading this book." (Tim Stafford, senior writer, Christianity Today, author, Surprised by Jesus)

About the Author

Mark Labberton is president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He previously served as Lloyd John Ogilvie chair for preaching and director of the Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute for Preaching. Labberton came to Fuller after sixteen years as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California. He has served as chair of John Stott Ministries (now Langham Partnership) and co-chair of the John Stott Ministries Global Initiative Fund. Today he continues to contribute to the mission of the global church as a senior fellow of International Justice Mission. He is the author of The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor and The Dangerous Act of Worship.

John Ortberg is teaching pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and author of many books, including God Is Closer Than You Think.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I was floored by this book.
Questions for reflection at the end of each chapter provide a helpful stimulus for book club discussion.
D. Chiang
Love of God naturally leads to love of neighbor.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By D. Chiang on February 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What is the connection between religious faith and worship? The author defines worship not in the limited context of a weekly meeting, but as the continuous practice of how people live in response to their beliefs. While differences of opinion on theology, church culture and political positions seem important (especially in grabbing the attention of news media), Labberton indicts many churches for neglecting the more important call to love the poor and the oppressed. He attempts not to take political or moral positions, but simply points out how multiple passages in the Bible call for outward-focused compassion. With numerous anecdotes about Christians who seek to love their neighbors at home and afar, Labberton provides some inspiration for strengthening the connection between faith and worship.

This book presents a Christian perspective on the issue of global justice, though it should also appeal to people of all faiths who strive to "make a difference" in the world. Labberton is mindful of postcolonial critiques of historical missions and proposes a different framework for motivating charity. Questions for reflection at the end of each chapter provide a helpful stimulus for book club discussion. This treatise is meant not only to provide food for thought, but also to spur the reader to action.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Miller on September 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The strength of Labberton's book is that he touches on the great omission of the American church: that we happily worship God while ignoring the things that God most wants us to do. Perhaps the most representative anecdote in the book is an incident in which Labberton watched a worship lead so ecstatic about his own experience of worship that he ignored the fact that he kept stepping on the toes of everyone standing near him. American Christians of all genres seem to be enjoying their experiences of worship, even fighting about worship styles, while ignoring the toes that are being stepped on.

In this, then, Labberton joins a chorus of modern voices critiquing the movements of church growth and innovation. David Fitch and the emergent groupies criticize them for missing substance. Labberton is doing something similar but not the same, criticizing them for missing the call to justice. What's particularly appealing about this is that Labberton is the Pastor of a dyed-in-the-wool evangelical church, the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. This is a church that has historically gathered around biblical preaching and evangelical values. Labberton is further confirming the movement of the evangelical churches into the heretofore taboo world of social justice, a movement pioneered by Ron Sider, Tony Campolo, Gary Haugen and the like.

The strongest chapters are 3 and 4, the "false and true dangers" of worship, the substance of his critique. What is NOT a risk of worship is that it isn't sufficiently entertaining, relevant, or pleasing. What is dangerous is that it puts us in touch with a restless God who is not afraid to rattle us.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mitali Perkins on November 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Want church growth? Interested in luring in hordes of big givers with the right kind of hip music, catchy sermons, comfy pews, hearty handshakes, and big grins? Then don't read this book.

Like the prophets of old whose hearts burned with love for God and love for God's people, Mark Labberton issues a passionate invitation to enter into life-changing worship. He's talking about "proskuneo," a kiss towards God that thrills God heart, the loosening of chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, sharing our food with the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for our own flesh and blood (Isaiah 58:6-7).

Labberton's rich cross-cultural experiences and relationships with the oppressed and suffering are evident throughout, so beware: this isn't a Hallmark Card read to make you feel fuzzy about being a North American Christian. But if you want to step outside the comfort zone in worship and see a bit more clearly, buy this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Truth Seeker on September 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This books answers that question..."In order to give what you have away."

Let this book reorder your worship...the way Jesus says to do it! It's well worth the read. A favorite excerpt: "For all our apparent passion about God, in the end much of our worship seems to be mostly about us. We presume we can worship in a way that will find God but lose track of our neighbor."

This book feels like a cold splash of water on your face in the morning...let us wake up to God's call to justice!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on April 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God's Call to Justice surveys church practices and how smaller battles often supercede larger issues of justice and mercy within church circles. THE DANGEROUS ACT OF WORSHIP is for any church leader or minister who wants to make a difference in the world: chapters outline differences between false and real dangers, consider the church's role in social issues, and come from a working pastor's experience.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bryce Anderson on November 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is messing me up! - in a good way. It is a book you cant put down and go about business as usual. This is a must read. I bought one for a friend having only read the first 2 or 3 chapters!!!
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