Lester Ruth

Research Professor of Christian Worship
052 Langford

Duke Divinity School
Box 90968
Durham, NC 27708-0968

Curriculum Vitae: 
PDF icon Ruth CV 2022.pdf

Ph.D. University of Notre Dame
M.A. University of Notre Dame
Th.M.  Candler School of Theology, Emory University
M.Div.  Asbury Theological Seminary
B.B.A. Stephen F. Austin State University

Lester Ruth is a historian of Christian worship with particular interests in the early church and the last 250 years, especially the history of contemporary praise and worship. He is passionate about enriching the worship life of current congregations, regardless of style. He believes that careful reflection on the worship of other Christians—whether past or present, whether Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox—can serve to enrich the church today.

Lately he has been bringing that approach to inspire contemporary songwriters, having grown concerned about the lack of a Trinitarian dimension in so much worship music.

Dr. Ruth is a member of the Charles Wesley Society and served as president until the spring of 2016. He recently co-authored Lovin’ On Jesus: A Concise History of Contemporary Worship with Dr. Swee Hong Lim. He and Dr. Lim are working on a larger history of this same liturgical phenomenon to be published in 2021. This upcoming book is tentatively entitled Presence and Purpose: The Parallel History of Praise & Worship and Contemporary Worship.

Public presentations by Dr. Ruth are available in the "Additional Information" section below. In addition, you can read more about Dr. Ruth on his website.

Selected Publications
  • Living Worship: A Multimedia Resource for Students and Leaders. (A 2-disc DVD teaching resource documenting the worship life of a congregation in Chicago.) Co-authored with James F. Caccamo and Todd E. Johnson. 2011.
  • “Go East, Young Songwriter, Go East: How Ancient Eastern Orthodox Writers can Help Us Write New Songs.” Worship Leader 20, 3 (May 2011) 32-3.
  • Walking Where Jesus Walked: Worship in Fourth-Century Jerusalem. Co-authored with John Witvliet and Carrie Steenwyk. 2010.
  • New Song According to Charles Wesley: Capturing Biblical Honesty in Songwriting.” Worship Leader 20, 3 (May, 2010):  42-3.
  • “Liturgical Revolutions.” In The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies. Edited by William J. Abraham and James E. Kirby. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Lex Amandi, Lex Orandi: The Trinity in the Most-Used Contemporary Christian Worship Songs.” In The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer. Edited by Bryan D. Spinks. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2008.
  • “How Great is Our God: The Trinity in Contemporary Christian Worship Music.” In The Message in the Music: Studying Contemporary Praise and Worship. Edited by Robert H. Woods, Jr. and Brian D. Walrath.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007.
  • Early Methodist Life and Spirituality: A Reader. 2005.
  • “A Rose By Any Other Name: Attempts at Classifying North American Protestant Worship.” In The Conviction of Things Not Seen: Currents in Protestant Christianity in the Twenty-First Century. Edited by Todd E. Johnson. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2002. Reprinted in American Theological Inquiry 2, 1 (2009): 85-104.
  • Creative Preaching on the Sacraments. Co-authored with Craig Satterlee. 2001.
  • A Little Heaven Below: Worship at Early Methodist Quarterly Meetings. 2000.
Recent Courses
  • Introduction to Christian Worship
  • History of Contemporary Worship
  • Teaching Worship
  • Planning Contemporary Worship
  • Songwriting and Theology