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Mark D. Roberts

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One of the great Christian leaders of our generation has died. Robert E. Webber went to be with the Lord last Friday, April 26, 2007, after a long struggle with cancer.
I won’t overview Webber’s life here. If you’re interested, check out this post on the Christianity Today website. During his long tenure on the faculty of Wheaton College and Northern Seminary, Webber was a major influence upon and inspiration for thousands of students. Webber had much to offer about Christian spirituality and leadership, but undoubtedly his greatest contribution was in the area of worship.
In 1985 Webber published Worship is a Verb. This was one of the very first books I read on worship as a new pastor, and it profoundly shaped my thinking. Webber helped me to see that worship isn’t a church thing or an event so much as an active response to God. It’s something we do for God, even as God is acting among us.
Since the publication of Worship is a Verb, Webber wrote extensively on worship. Among his greatest contributions were:

1. Inspiring and teaching the traditional, denominational church to experience worship renewal.
2. Helping cutting-edge and contemporary worship leaders discover the amazing resources for worship from “ancient” Christian experience and tradition.
3. Editing The Complete Library of Christian Worship, an 8-volume masterpiece. I consider this to be, by far, the greatest written resource for worship leaders (apart from the Bible itself). (You can get a software version of this series as a part of the Logos Bible software package. If you use Logos, I highly recommend it.)
4. Perhaps most importantly, Webber helped bring an end to the so-called “worship wars” the plagued the church in the 80’s and 90’s. Webber’s vision of worship that includes both ancient and future elements has impacted thousands of churches and millions of worshipers.

Though both Bob Webber and I served together on the editorial board of Worship Leader magazine, I had the chance to meet him only once. In that meeting I was impressed with his humility and his excitement for God and the church.
In recent years Webber commented on a wide range of issues through his various writings. You can find accessible bits of his wisdom from the online newsletter associated with his Ancient Future Worship website.
In recent years, Webber as the pioneer of a provocative document called A Call to An Ancient Evangelical Future. Like so much of his work, this call reflects a commitment both to the past and to the future of the church. This Call is especially clear on the significance of the larger biblical narrative for today’s church and world. I’m thinking that I might examine the Call in greater depth down the blogging road a piece.
For now, I want to offer thanks to God for Bob Webber, a man after God’s own heart. I also lift up prayers for his family, colleauges, students, and friends. He will be greatly missed. Like I said in this title of this post: our loss . . . heaven’s gain.

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