Friday, April 25, 2008

Review: Worship Matters (Bob Kauflin) [part 1]

For years there has been need for a good book on the deeply controversial area of worship. Many volumes have been attempted but few have hit the key issues in a way that is accessible enough for pastors, worship leaders and members of the local church. Anyone who has read Bob Kauflin's Worship Matter's blog and listened to the CD's he's overseen will have had high expectations. This book, which carries the same name as his blog does not disappoint. I'm only about half way through the book so it's a bit odd to be reviewing it now, but I'm so enjoying it that I wanted to draw attention to it - and particularly highlight two chapters that are truly unmissable for all.

Bob's concern for God's gospel and the hearts of God's people is evident in this book. This is a book that takes the convictions and passions of a book like CJ Mahaney's Living the Cross-Centered Life and applies it to all the things that matter to those involved in 'worship'. This book is being scrawled all over as I try to take note of key arguments, phrases and points. This book is showing me what it looks like to start applying the gospel to my life.

So, some comments on two of the chapters:

Chapter 3. "My Mind: What Do I believe?"
Bob provides an engaging defence of why the content of our worship matters, getting to the heart of the matter that we will either worship The Jesus or one of our own imagination. This is done well, engaging common objections and so serving those involved in worship by drawing them into the study of doctrine.

I resonate strongly with this chapter because being involved in leading worship at our Christian Union was the trigger to starting me studying seriously. The chapter serves worship leaders but is as a good a defence of the importance of doctrine, in brief, that I have read anywhere.
"When we're dodgy about our theology, we're really saying we want our own Jesus. But our worship isn't based on people's personal opinins, ideas or best guesses about Jesus... Docrtine and theology... inform our minds to win our hearts so we can love our God more accurately and passionately" p31-32
Chapter 9. "In Jesus Christ"
This chapter resounds with the name of Jesus, whose honour Kauflin identifies as the unflinching theme of the scriptures. In the second part of the book Kauflin stretches out a definition of the task of the worship leader - and being centred upon Jesus is a key aspect of that.
"The gospel is not merely one of many possible themes we can touch on as we come to worship God. It is the central and foundational theme. All our worship originates and is brought into focus at the cross of Jesus Christ.... The cross stands for all that was accomplished through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. It focusses on his substitutionary death and Calvary but includes everything that gave meaning to that act..." p72
Consequently this gospel must be the thread that runs through our songs, for our worship is not about "the excellence of our offerings... but the excellence of Christ" (p75). It is the blood of Jesus that our worship is about. And this explains the way Kauflin writes new songs and edits old songs. Making the cross explicit - such as in his recent rework of O The Deep Deep Love of Jesus. Deliberately identifying aspects of songs that are particularly clear (such as the verse on sin in 'When peace like a river attendeth my soul (It is well)'. But as Kauflin notes that doesn't mean we can't use less explicit songs, like Amazing Grace, but that we may want to place them alongside songs that say things clearer.

Reading this chapter fleshes out what gospel-centricity should look like when God's people meet - not just in our songs, but our preaching and all other things.
"Biblically speaking, no worship leader, pastor, band, or song will ever bring us close to God. We can't shout, doubt, or prophesy our way into God's presence. Worship itself cannot lead us into God's presence. Only Jesus himself can bring us into God's presence, and he has done it through a single sacrifice that will never be repeated - only joyfully trust in"
How good it would be for us to take note of what Kauflin writes here. To become those who are unashamed of singing about the glory of the gospel and whose meetings were so distinctly cross-exalting. It's good to sing of the love of God, but let us sing of the love of God in the cross of Jesus Christ. Likewise his wrath, justice, power, righteousness, glory etc.

I desperately hope this book get's a UK publisher, but until then $11 plus postage from SGM in the USA is probably the best way to get it.


  1. "as Kauflin notes that doesn't mean we can't use less explicit songs, like Amazing Grace, but that we may want to place them alongside songs that say things clearer."

    I hope I've understood this correctly, I think I have, but I'm ready to be put right if I haven't.

    I wanted to add a comment to say that this is just sensible, honest and biblical. It feels like a bit of a breath of fresh air, compared to much that has been communicated recently on this subject. I really like this. It provides a much needed, starting point. Let me push the point further, at some risk of being seen as Pelagian by Dan Hames.

    More experiential, more intimate, less explicit songs, that focus on the living out of truths of deeper doctrine, rather than just declaring them to each other like the ones that Tim Hughes etc writes, are exactly what we need side by side, lest we misunderstand what James meant by the word Gk. dikaioo.

  2. Ah Tom you're such a heretic sometimes! ;o)

    I don't know how un-explicit 'Amazing grace' is...! It doesn't mention Jesus, but I guess I'd say it was fairly content-rich.

    Do we need more intimate, 'less explicit' (more like 'Amazing Grace'), application-based songs to sing? Yes. Has Tim Hughes written some of the good ones? Yes.

    I don't think we're at cross purposes here at all. I certainly don't think that our songs should only be for the sake declaring doctrine to each other! But I do think that songs ought to be doctrinally strong (read: faithful) An intimate song of praise and love can and should still be doctrinally rich and careful.

  3. Sensible, honest and biblical. Yes.

    Let's not go ending posts with Greek words though, and if you want to catfight you can do it on your own blogs!

  4. It's just Gk. morologia Bish.