Book Review: “An Hour on Sunday” (Jun-Jul 2004)

By Matt Dabbs

by New Wineskins Staff / Daniel Tomlinson
June – July, 2004

An Hour on Sunday: Creating Moments of Transformation and Wonder
Nancy Beach

Zondervan, 2004
ISBN 0-310-25296-2/288
Hardcover 288 pages
$24.99

Jesus was always relevant to his culture and audience, illustrating his message in ways his listeners could relate to. In An Hour on Sunday (Zondervan, June 2004), author Nancy Beach calls on us to do no less. Her inspiring passion is to help people experience God through the use of the arts and relevant teaching. In this refreshing unique call for action, she provides a foundational directive for everyone from teens to senior citizens, and church staff to volunteers, to discern what is required for Sunday mornings so they can connect with people and personally engage them with God.

“The hour can simply be sixty minutes for attendees to survive, a time for minds to wander aimlessly and hearts to go untouched. Or, just maybe, the hour on Sunday can be a time of wonder, a time of transformation, perhaps even a time of awe,” Beach says. “Sadly, very few churchgoers – and certainly not those who are not (Christians) – would use words like awe to describe the hour in church on Sunday. Few folks expect to be moved or encouraged or transofrmed in significant ways because of that hour on Sunday.”

After the stress of another over-worked, over-scheduled week, many people would rather sleep in, read the paper, watch sports or spend the day at home. Many people just assume that a churche service just won’t be worth their time. And yet, people are lonely, disconnected and longing to fill a void they don’t fully understand.

Beach writes from experience of designing worship experiences that reach seekers of Christ. In “Getting Ready for Sundays,” Beach describes the intentionality, leadership, community, evaluation, and Spirit-led lives needed to enable ministry and arts teams to build effective services in sustainable and life-giving ways.

In part two of this review, Daniel J. Tomlinson looks closer at intentionality, community, and excellence in light of Beach’s book.


by Daniel J. Tomlinson

The title of Nancy Beach’s debut book, An Hour On Sunday, suggests her belief that dynamic spiritual change can happen in a Sunday morning worship hour. Church ministries, she says, depend upon the teaching and enthusiasm the Sunday morning worship hour can create. “When Sunday mornings inspire, envision, and equip those who attend, a buzz of excitement is generated that feeds all the sub-ministries and events,” Beach says.

Artists who read this book will learn about “the wonder of Sundays, intentionality, leadership, community, evaluation, well-ordered hearts and lives, excellence and creativity.” Christian churches have lost the wonder and awe found in passionate worship. Yawns seem to be the more typical response to worship. Believers and seekers alike are bored with the way many churches “do church.” Part of the problem, according to Beach, is that leaders lack intention. Who are we trying to reach, and are we trying to reach them in authentic, appropriate ways? Do we evaluate our work, or do we just do what we have always done? Are we, as leaders and artists, maintaining well-ordered hearts and lives, so that God can work through us to create excellence?

Excellence, however, can be a touchy subject. I recently commented about worship excellence in a Sunday class and left one person thinking I was saying we ought to have an advance degree in religion to lead. I was not saying that at all—rather, my comment was closer to Beach’s idea in that we must not accept mediocrity. God expects us to plan and prepare. There should not be an “obsessive pursuit of perfectionism,” but we cannot expect to prepare and rehearse a worship service right before we lead others in worship. Worship is a serious time of reflection and meditation, and it should not be taken lightly, but it should not rob its leader-participants of experiencing God either.

Beach stresses the importance of community. The artist temperament can contribute to moral challenges that others may not face. Perfectionism can rob an artist in the church of a big picture perspective that can lead to tunnel vision about their own art, rather than focusing on worship. The fallout can worsen and cascade into family and community ruin. For example, long rehearsal hours, intense performance times, and the passionate nature of acting can bring unsuspecting men and women into adulterous affairs. It is vitally important that artist leaders hold their volunteers accountable in small groups that meet, apart from rehearsing their respective art. Beach says there have been several times during her thirty-year ministry that she wishes she had been more observant and willing to lovingly confront her artists. Families might have been saved from divorce, and people might have been saved from leaving the church.

Beach concludes that artists must seek to be transformed first, then offer transformational teaching. Beach preached a Mother’s Day sermon that opened in her mind’s eye the connection between church artists and teaching pastors. “More than ever before, I long for people who attend church to drive away saying, “That message impacted me.” Transformational teaching is the foundation of any powerful hour on Sunday,” Beach wrote.

That One Hour on Sunday becomes perhaps even more significant than a blockbuster movie, and the value of transformational teaching deeply embedded in the mind of a seeker can indeed change a life eternally.

Daniel Tomlinson lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Carey, and they are expecting their first child Chloe Abigail in November.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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