Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 04/22/2008 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. An exemplary handbook on worshiping and worship leading in the Church of Christ.
I can’t say enough about this book, and at the same time I can’t say too much. As I’ve attended and served in a Sovereign Grace Ministries church for the better part of the decade, I’ve had the benefit of Bob Kauflin’s teaching on worship filter down to me in my capacity of intermittent worship leader (and more importantly as a worshiper) in many ways: articles and columns, messages on mp3 and CD (the “Theological Foundations for Worship” and “Practical Foundations for Worship” series), and even by word of mouth from my own pastor and worship leader. Enough about me. Bob wrote the book – and contrary to reviewing practice, I cannot bring myself to refer to him as ‘Kauflin’ – and so to Bob we turn.
Bob’s heart for biblical, passionate worship pervades every page of this book. His writing is littered with Bible, especially the psalms, that manual of Old Testament worship. But this isn’t merely a devotional on a few aspects of worship. No, this is a handbook about how to pursue more biblical, more humble hearts in the midst of a task pregnant with tensions. Earlier in this review I said that I can’t say enough about this book; that’s because it accomplishes what it sets out to do in a biblical and humble manner. It practices what it preaches. I also said I can’t say too much about it; that’s because it is a wide-ranging and valuable lay-of-the-land guide with far too much content to convey in a mere review.
There are four main sections in the book:
1: The Leader
2: The Task
3: Healthy Tensions
4: Right Relationships
Following a foreword by über-worship leader Paul Baloche, Bob begins his discussion of worship by honing in on the worship leader’s heart, mind, and life. All of this flows out of a leader’s devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the second section Bob unpacks the following working definition of worship, constructed with aid from his good friend Jeff Purswell. The definition is not only written in verse form to effectively highlight each line, but because each subsequent chapter in this section explores a fragment of the definition.
Simply reiterating this definition arouses my soul in worship of God through Jesus Christ:
A faithful worship leader
magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ
through the power of the Holy Spirit
by skillfully combining God's Word with music,
thereby motivating the gathered church
to proclaim the gospel,
to cherish God's presence
and to live for God's glory
Section three wades into the most fraught of all church matters: reconciling seemingly opposing preconceptions of worship. Again, this review does not warrant an exposition of the book’s teaching on these areas. Suffice to say that Bob advocates the need to hold many, if not most, of these areas in healthy tension. Like J.I. Packer, he seems to dislike the term ‘balance,’ so misused for so many years.
Finally, the fourth section explores the common cause of the tension in the third section: people. More specifically, people with ideas rubbing up against people with different ideas. A pastor himself, Bob recognizes the tensions that can arise on both sides of the pastor-worship leader relationship, and provides many suggestions for an improved and thriving relationship.
This book is primarily intended for worship leaders, but is also directed at pastors – even unmusical ones. No matter which tradition you practice, liturgical or free-flow (to use Bob’s nomenclature), charismatic or somber, Bob’s wisdom will benefit. Worship team members will profit from every page, and pastors and worship leaders may consider employing the copyright fair use policy (within reason) to disseminate relevant pages among their congregations at key junctures in the process of building a worshiping community. Worship Matters should also probably become requisite reading for all worship studies programs in North America, and I daresay should displace some, if not most, of the current primary textbooks in those programs.
I’ve never seen a book on worship featuring such a mix of god-glorifying theology and biblically-sound methodology. I have a feeling this is Bob’s magnum opus, and every pastor, worship leader, and worship team member must invest in a copy, to read over and over and over. Because…worship does matter.