Tribute to Bob Webber
I missed the anniversary of Bob Webber's death by a few days. It was Wednesday, April 27. For some reason, I was confused and thought it was today. Truth is, I thought about Bob throughout the day on Wednesday.
Though I was only a student at his school in Florida for a few years and I never had the privilege of interacting with him at any length in person, he always acted like he was genuinely interested in me and what I was doing. He was both brilliant and accessible. His humor was delightful. He was taken from us far too early. I miss him very much.
Bob built a school of prophets in Orange Park, Florida that continues to thrive even after his passing. It is the Robert E Webber Institute for Worship Studies. Student and graduates (of which I am one) have cultivated a fire in the belly for worship renewal. Worship renewal, like any prophetic ministry, is both richly rewarding and deeply discouraging. I have and continue to experience both. There are times, like the prophet Jeremiah, when I want to refuse my calling and say, "why me, God? Isn't there anyone else?" There are other times, like Good Friday, when I was able to craft a service based on traditional liturgical models that really “hit the mark” and had a profound impact on people.
IWS students and alumni often speak of being "ruined" by Bob and our journey through his school. It is true. I can’t be content with the status quo of evangelical worship that is all too often permeated with narcissism and cultural accommodation. My heat beats for the glory of God and his Church. This, of course, is not an easy road to travel. My challenges to conventional evangelical thinking and practice are not always understood or received. Most of that is probably my fault. I’m learning the graces of timing and patience. But I’m also learning how to stand my ground and to not take opposition personally.
In the spirit of Bob Webber, (who enjoyed being provocative just to get people thinking) I would ask him to pray for us. I know evangelicals don’t have saints pray for them like the Catholic Church does; we have direct access to God. But I’m convinced Bob is part of the “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12:1 and I know he’s cheering us on. So Bob, three days after the anniversary of your home-going, please pray for us. You’re the one who got us into this in the first place.
And oh, I miss you. We all do.