January 16, 2021

Recommendation: Mother Kirk by Douglas Wilson

mother-kirk.jpgI was going to attempt a response to Frank Turk’s statements on liturgy– it’s not even in the Psalms!- but instead I’ll just recommend the best book in print on how to do church: Douglas Wilson’s fantastic look at all things ecclesiastical, Mother Kirk.

On a five-star scale this book gets eight. It’s simply unsurpassed as a guide for pastors and laypersons who want to do reformation flavored church right from the ground up. It’s comprehensive, Biblical, engaging, humorous, humble, creative, inquisitive, irenic….I could go on. Acquire the book.

Wilson came to a church that was a Jesus-people Evangelical Free thing, and eventually came out with a reformed, liturgical, catholic, regulated church that we all know as Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. Along the way, his commitment to the Bible was firm, but he was teachable on everything, so the book chronicles a lot of great discoveries, Q & A’s and problem solving sessions while holding your interest and giving you help.

Frank can learn that liturgy is all over the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, that the Christian year is a good thing, and other important items for Arkansas Baptists. You can learn about regulated music, compassionate elders, reformed youth ministry, the pastor and his kids, Wilson’s odd views on Bible translations, why the “Amen” is loud at his church, why they Baptize in two forms, what’s the point of a lot of things you should do and not do, and so on.

It’s like a reality show in reformed ecclesiology from scratch, only much better. It’s full of good words on preaching, elders, writing prayers, teaching hymns, relating to other churches, not being an arrogant jerk and a lot more.

I keep two copies of this book around, because I want one at home and one at work. It’s better than all the good books I could mention. If you want to get out of stupid evangelical tricks and into something really exciting at your church, this is your book.

Note to Frank: Calling liturgists “theological luddites” is almost a confession of your desire to become Rick Warren’s spokesperson, defending PDL and all things innovative. Liturgy is 1) creative, 2) regulated 3) traditional AND innovative and 4) scriptural. Not all Liturgy is good all the time, and certainly not a lockstep Papal missal. No. No. No. Good psalms. Good lessons. Good calls to worship. Good corporate confessions. Good thematic prayers. The Apostles/Nicene Creeds. The Ten Cs. The Lord’s Prayer. A few things borrowed from other traditions. It’s more flea market than enforcement at the point of a gun. And there’s still plenty of explaining what the Bible says. Plenty. Look at good reformed churches that use modest liturgy. I’m a fan of Tenth Presby in Philly, Tates Creek Presby in Lexington, Ky and Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim.


  1. I haven’t read Turk, but I agree with the statement: there is no liturgy for Christian assemblies in Scripture. There are NO examples of or command to assemble for the purpose of worshipping.

    Duffer Dan
    Sparks, NV

  2. I haven’t read Turk, but I agree with the statement: there is no scriptural liturgy for a Christian assembly. There is neither command to nor example of Christians gathering for the PURPOSE of worship. That worship happens when Christians assemble is ONLY because NT worship consists of living the Christian life (Rom 12:1/Col 3:17).

  3. Duffer Dan,
    I want to ask, with all respect, are you serious? Please say no.


  4. So, is this book geared toward pastors and churches not already overly familiar with more “formal” liturgical worship, sort of making the case for reclaiming such things? Could, for instance, us “traditional mainline” types find value in this book as well, apart from perhaps re-affirmation of what we’re already trying to do?

  5. centuri0n says


    Without being combative, but in an effort to engage this topic ocnstructively, would you care to go 5 questions back-and-forth on this one?

    I’d offer the DebateBlog for a forum, but I know you have, in the past, sought to make this sort of thing more, um, cross-platform if you will. It would be a great springboard from the last exchange I had at D-Blog, which was on the Regulative Principle.

    The thesis I would propose it this:

    Is there a liturgy prescribed by Scripture for the NT Church?

    And to give you a leg-up in the discussion, my first question would be this:

    Would you please define the word “liturgy” for the scope of this debate?

    We could do ask-and-answer across our blogs if that would make this more agreeable. I think you’re flat-out wrong, but I also think this is a question which good people disagree on so I don’t think your opinion makes you a bad person. I’ll try to make sure my readers and my friends can keep that same clear head if you care to engage this directly.

  6. centuri0n says


    You have misunderstood me if you think I have said, “The Bible does not command us to gather together and worship”. Plainly, that is the command of the Scripture to us: be part of the church, and participate in joint/community worship.

    The question is this: what is “liturgy” and is it required? Michael says it is required, and many people would agree with him, but I’d be willing to bet that even if we didn;t ask Michael we couldn;t get all those people to agree on what “liturgy” means.

    There is no question that community worship is required by the NT. Please let’s not misunderstand Scripture for the sake of our own liberty.

  7. chrisstiles says

    I have to admit to being somewhat ambivalent towards both ‘sides’ of the argument here.

    On the pro-liturgical side (at least when it comes to evangelicals), descriptions of liturgical praxis in scripture do not seem prescriptive or complete enough to warrant some of the conclusions being drawn. Secondly, and linked to the previous point, it would seem that the extent to which OT liturgical traditions were living ones is ignored – intellectual assent that they were living is forthcoming, but is not so convincing when so many people in this camp seem to be united in their oppositions to *all* things contemporary.

    The anti-liturgical side at least has intellectual consistency on their side on that particular point. However, they sacrifice it when they start ignoring Jesus’ use/refocusing of existing Jewish practices onto himself (especially in John’s Gospel) coupled with the extent to which believers of Jewish extraction seem to continue to celebrate Jewish Feasts/participate in daily jewish religious practice.

    FWIW, I personally find some liturgy to be useful – and in it’s way a richer set of versions of the sorts worship practices I am comfortable with, but that’s an autobiographical point masquerading badly as a theological one. Besides, I come from a somewhat charismatic background – and charismatics generally have the most rigidly defined liturgy of all ;).

  8. http://bokertov.typepad.com/btb/images/charlie_brown_lucy_football.jpg

    I’ll pass on the debate. Not a hill on which I intend to spend any time. I really don’t care what any group of Christians decides to do in their worship. I do care what I do in mine or the worship I lead.

    Also…I don’t believe the NT requires liturgy. I believe the Bible models it. If a person can’t see liturgy in the worships sections of Revelation, no debate will shed any light on that.

    I don’t believe it is proscribed, prescribed or scribed. It’s modeled. It’s done. There’s an undeniable presence of liturgical form in New Testament worship where there is an awareness of the Old Testament forms.

    Or you can have the worship at Corinth. That’s fine too, but it’s the zoo and the nursery combined, which is pretty much what a lot of megachurches are becoming.

    This is a discussion about whether evangelicals will use Biblical resources for worship or continue using resources from a culture saturated with entertainment as an idol. That’s not a hard choice, Frank. No matter how much liturgy or what form…that’s not a hard choice.

    Oh…I also can tell when the anti-Catholic artillery is lining up, and I can see the gun barrels from yonder hillside.

    No thanks, but thanks.

  9. Jeff: the book isn’t written from the mainline perspective, but from the perspective of the evangelical discovery of the reformation heritage, but this is a book that’s just a pleasure to read, even when you disagree. Wilson is one of the best writers among reformed evangelicals. The footnotes in this book are priceless.

  10. While the NT writers certainly expected geographical gatherings (assemblies), the purpose seems to be for the purpose of performing some of the “one another” duties: exhortation, encouragement, edification. We NEVER find the noun/verb “worship” connected with these assemblies.

    A college classmate of mine wrote a series of articles on “The Christian Assembly” back in the early 70s that, IMNSHO, gives a fair/balanced view of NT gatherings. You can read it at:

    Again, I speak of the PURPOSE of NT assemblies. As I stated in my first comment, WORSHIP certainly happened, but only because WORSHIP defines the Christian’s entire life.


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