As an intermittent worship leader and a reader of the Bible, I was excited by the NIV Worship Together Bible. It promised to link song and reflection together with Bible reading. Included in this Bible is:
- The text of the NIV (2011 edition)
- Lyrics to the ‘top 50’ worship songs
- song notes and reflections from the songwriters (and a short devotional reflection)
- Simple chords for 20 popular worship songs
- A forward by Matt Maher (composer of Your Grace is Enough)
- An index of the songs by scripture reference
These features enable readers to connect their favorite worship songs to their Bible reading, making this a resource which promises to enliven worship and enrich your personal devotional life.
I like the NIV so I am predisposed to like this Bible. I have spent less time with the 2011 version than I have the 1984 version or the TNIV, but generally like what I have seen from the 2011 NIV. The gender inclusive language in this edition is curtailed when it conflicts with biblical idioms and prophetic references to Jesus, so it corrects places where the TNIV went overboard.
However I found myself underwhelmed by the devotional articles on worship. Certainly I learned some things from them. Notably, I learned that one of my favorite hymns, How Great Though Art, has its origins in the Swedish revival that birthed mmy current denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church. On the other hand, the worship songs included in this book are the most popular ones, not necessarily the best ones. Some of the worship songs included (I won’t share which ones in case they’re your favorite) I find vapid and shallow. The song stories and reflections on these songs do not run very deep (how could they?). Other songs have interesting stories which enrich my appreciation of them and are personally instructive. However there is an unevenness in these articles.
Also I found the ‘worship’ articles lacked any cohesive unifying theme. They didn’t seem to be correlated at all. While an index gives you the scripture references for each song, when you look at the articles, they do not tell you where to find the next devotional article. This doesn’t strike me as very user-friendly. Certainly I can go to the index and make my own devotional reading plan, but I think that Zondervan should have put a ‘next lyrics and ‘behind the song’ article is on page___’ at the end of each article. It would have made it easier to navigate (I’ve seen other devotional Bible’s do this).
My major issue with the Bible is that I had hoped their would be more of a conscious effort to impart a theology of worship in the text. A single article by John J Thompson entitled “Songs as Worship” stands between Revelation and the Table of Weights and Measures. There is nothing wrong with this article. Thompson says some good things, but I wish that the complementary articles went deeper into a biblical theology of worship.
So I give this a middle of the road review: just ★★★½. However I did actually like the inclusion of lyrics and chords of worship songs. It made me think this is the perfect Bible to take camping with your guitar, so when you need to pull out chords for a worship song to have that epic quiet time in nature, you can actually do it with out bringing along a song sheet binder. I do feel like many of their song choices will be dated in a couple of year, so I wonder about the longevity of this Bible, but I think that guitar players and worship music lovers will probably appreciate having this resource.
Thank you to Zondervan for providing me a copy of this Bible in exchange for my honest review.