Transforming Worship: Planning and Leading Sunday Services as If Spiritual Formation Mattered, By Rory Jon Noland alt

Transforming Worship

Planning and Leading Sunday Services as If Spiritual Formation Mattered

Transforming Resources

by Rory Jon Noland
Foreword by Ruth Haley Barton

Transforming Worship
  • Length: 216 pages
  • Published: July 20, 2021
  • Imprint: IVP Formatio
  • Item Code: 4173
  • ISBN: 9780830841738

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Spiritual formation is the key to the survival of our faith.

There is an urgent need today for church services that are substantive and purposeful. Stigmatized by scandal, the church in North America and throughout Europe has been branded as useless and irrelevant. To stem the tide of nominal Christianity, we need to get serious about making disciples who can make other disciples.

Rory Noland is a worship leader who has led in contexts ranging from megachurches to small retreat settings such as the Transforming Center with Ruth Haley Barton. Combining discipleship and worship—what Noland calls transforming worship—he offers a vision for worship as spiritual formation. We need to reclaim our worship services as a formative space, and through that we will become the light of Christ in a dark world.

"In Transforming Worship, Rory Noland makes an excellent case for reenvisioning corporate worship as a spiritual practice that will actually transform and restore people's souls. His reenvisioning of worship is historically grounded, deeply thoughtful, and spiritually challenging. I wish that every worship leader in the world would read this vital book!"

Manuel Luz, author of Honest Worship and Imagine That: Discovering Your Unique Role as a Christian Artist

"Rory Noland skillfully invites us beyond entertaining worship or informative worship into what he calls 'transforming worship.' But he's not merely arguing for a new style or brand. Instead, Rory brings his vast knowledge of church history together with forty-plus years of church ministry experience to invite us into a robust biblical worship that transforms us from the inside out. You will learn from the wisdom of many different Christian streams, and more importantly, discover practical ways to integrate them in your particular context. I truly believe that the church of the future will live at the intersections of multiple Christian traditions rather than choosing one against all others. Rory's book Transforming Worship offers a biblical and historical road map for this constructive, generative journey that forms us into Christlikeness for the sake of the world."

Aaron Niequist, liturgist and author of The Eternal Current

"Spiritual depth and maturity are critical for fruitfulness and longevity in worship ministry. If you want to move from just leading songs to really pastoring your congregation in spiritually transforming worship, this book is a great place to start."

Matt McCoy, founder of

"About one hour a week. That is the time we get to make a discipleship impression on many (not all) people every seven days. Reading and discussing this book with your ministry team will cause you to reexamine the focus of your ministry to make this time invaluable. Whether you have been a part of ministry for a short time or are seasoned, filtering your ministry philosophy and your service elements through Rory's thoughts can transform not only the corporate worship you are a part of but your personal worship as well. Rory's gift for sharing his heart for worship ministry is beautiful and challenging once again through this book."

Darcy Ruscitti, executive director of central ministries at The Compass Church, Naperville, Illinois

"Having read many of Rory Noland's books on worship, I am convinced Transforming Worship is his most prolific writing to date. It is scholarly, in that he uses an abundance of authors, theologians, and experts on the subject matter; biblical, in his use of Scripture to validate his thoughts; spiritual, by supporting the overall essentials of the Christian faith; and practical, providing examples and suggestions for developing normative worship. Evangelical churches in America are in desperate need of a worship revival. Rory has outlined every fundamental aspect necessary to accomplish spiritual renewal through a transforming heart of worship."

Terry Williams, president of Priority Worship Ministries

"Transforming Worship is another excellent resource from Rory Noland. In a historically young field, Rory has pioneered the importance of the heart's relationship with Jesus in worship and how worship leaders should guide those around them. If you're like me, you crave new tools for growth and development—you will find those tools here. From the beginning of this book all the way to the end, we are given Christ-centered and focused training on a biblical understanding of living out a lifestyle of worship. I highly recommend reading Transforming Worship and look forward to sharing it with my teams and leaders!"

David M. Julian, worship pastor at Grace Community Church in Willow Street, Pennsylvania, and the director of the Atoma Worship Conference

"Rory Noland has studied worship and spiritual formation from the trenches of ministry for decades. Drawing from culture, Scripture, and scholarship, he balances practical ministry observations with academic rigor and wisely returns us to the foundational components of Christian worship. These insights help us apply practices that endure beyond worship trends and societal shifts. Transforming Worship is a great book to help any worship leader or pastor in planning worship services and nurturing a worship culture."

John Chilcote, worship professor at Cedarville University

"Rory Noland has given Christian worshipers a beautiful gift in helping us to perceive corporate worship as the vital avenue for spiritual transformation. True worship has always been formative; at issue is the degree to which we perceive the liturgy's work within us as a discipling force. This book calls for worship leaders to plan and lead worship in ways that shape worship services to fulfill their formational potential. Noland's many years of both theological reflection on worship and practical experience unite, offering the reader biblical insights and practical implementation."

Constance M. Cherry, professor emeritus of worship and pastoral ministry, Indiana Wesleyan University

"Reading Transforming Worship is like enjoying coffee and conversation with a trusted mentor. I can't think of a more reliable guide to the current worship scene than Rory Noland. His experience and insight give shape and texture to his observations and—more importantly—to his thoughtful recommendations for worship services that make time and space in which the triune God can engage and transform us. At a time when some Christian influencers are questioning the need for weekly services, Noland responds with a powerful vision of corporate worship as a gathering of ordinary people encountering an extraordinary God. He brings a generous appreciation of the variety of worship traditions as well as focus and clarity to designing and leading worship services that bring together evangelism and formation rather than forcing them apart. A must-read for pastors and worship leaders who genuinely desire to lead their people—seekers and believers—to the throne of grace."

Robb Redman, professor and director of ministry programs, South College

"Rory is a shepherd, a spiritual father to worship leaders, and my friend. I have witnessed firsthand the unquenchable mission he has to anchor our roots into the Word, respect the rich heritage of God's worshiping people, but without compromising or limiting the unspeakable joy of true spiritual transformation. In plain language, Rory provides for leaders, pastors, and worshipers both a mechanic's manual and a schematic for the vehicle, the road map, and the destination of Christ-centered worship planning—because spiritual formation does matter."

Andi Rozier, Vertical Worship, worship pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel

"Many churches in America get stuck week to week just doing church. Worship services lack passion and purpose, and as a result we are creating consumer-Christian converts instead of fully formed followers of Christ. In this book, Dr. Rory Noland has cleverly taken what would be four years of higher education and made it accessible for every worshiper. From years of practice, experience, and research, Rory has made an excellent modern-day guide to transformative worship experiences. In the hands of the right people, this book could revive our weekly gatherings and be a catalyst for the fulfillment of the Great Commission."

Matthew Thompson, associate professor of worship arts at Hope International University

"For years Rory Noland has mentored thousands of us. If unity plus diversity equals university, then in this new work he takes us to school! Through Transforming Worship we find a new depth of sacred understanding about worship together. Echoes of the New Testament church accompanied by the generative examples from the first centuries of Christian worship ring in the reader's ears as we are simultaneously challenged and inspired to rethink the way we conceive of, craft, and carry out the sacred responsibilities of being a worship leader for today's church. If you're looking to be stretched, this is the book for you. If you're hoping to find your worship gatherings renewed, this book is for you. And if you're needing a reminder of the possibilities available to the modern worship leader, this book is essential."

Rod Ellis, worship pastor at Woodburn Baptist Church

Read an Excerpt


Foreword by Ruth Haley Barton
Introduction: What Is Transforming Worship?

Part 1: Biblical, Historical, and Theological Foundations of Transforming Worship
1. It All Started at Sinai
2. Updating the Ancient Formula for Sunday Services
3. How to Edify Believers and Evangelize Unbelievers
4. Reclaiming Sunday Morning as the Church's Primary, Formative Event
5. Recovering a Sense of the Sacred in Modern Worship

Part 2: Distinctive Elements of Transforming Worship
6. Let Us Pray!
7. Engaging the Preached and Unpreached Word of God
8. Corporate Confession: The Gift of an Unfettered Conscience
9. Lord's Supper as Spiritual Nourishment
10. Living in Your Baptism

Epilogue: We Get To Do This!
Appendix 1: Responsive Scripture Reading
Appendix 2: Reader's Theater Scripture Reading
Appendix 3: Corporate Prayer of Confession
Appendix 4: Checklist for Transforming Worship


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Author photo of Rory Noland

Rory Noland is the director of Heart of the Artist Ministries. He holds a doctorate in worship studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute. Rory has served at Willow Creek Community Church and Harvest Bible Chapel. A published songwriter, he has authored five books, including The Heart of the Artist.