Book Review: Worship Matters
Books on worship are almost as numerous as worship CDs. Good books on worship are almost as rare as good worship CDs. Thankfully, Bob Kauflin’s new book Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God(Crossway, 2008) is not just a good book on worship; it’s great! Kauflin serves as the worship leader for Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland and the director of worship development for Sovereign Grace Ministries.
“Worship matters. It matters to God because he is the one ultimately worthy of all worship. It matters to us because worshiping God is the reason for which we were created. And it matters to every worship leader, because we have no greater privilege than leading others to encounter the greatness of God. That’s why it’s so important to think carefully about what we do and why we do it.” (19)
Whereas many books on worship emphasize skill and performance while other books stress the fervency and sincerity of the leader’s heart, Kauflin refuses to pit one against the other. He spends considerable time speaking to the skill and excellence of the leader, but he also reminds leaders that “the greatest challenge is what you yourself bring to the platform each and every Sunday: your heart” (21).
What I found most helpful in Worship Matters was the dual emphasis Kauflin places on worshipping with the head as well as the heart. He stresses the importance of knowing God through his Word. He critiques worship leaders for rarely reading theology books (29) and says:
“The better we know God through his Word, the more genuine our worship will be. In fact, the moment we veer from what is true about God we’re engaging in idolatry. Regardless of what we think or feel there is no authentic worship of God without a right knowledge of God.” (28)
But Kauflin does not advocate a mere head-knowledge of God. He insists that “mind and heart belong together. Strong passionate desires for God flow from and encourage the faithful, thoughtful study of God – his nature, character, and works” (32). Rarely do you find worship leaders who so easily bring together fervent emotion and a passion for theology.
Kauflin defines the worship leader this way:
“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 in to live for God’s glory.” (55)
He then spends most of the book unpacking each phrase of this definition. He devotes two chapters to music, helpfully teaching that “it’s the gospel that blends us together, not music” (105). He divides worship songs into four categories:
- “Don’t Use”
- “In Private”
- “Could Use”
- “Should Use”
Regarding the Regulative Principle that teaches us to only do in a worship service that which is explicitly commanded in Scripture, Kauflin offers three nuanced and balanced principles:
- Do what God clearly commands
- Don’t do what God clearly forbids.
- Use Scriptural wisdom for everything in else.
Perhaps the most helpful section of Worship Matters comes toward the end. Kauflin lists what he calls “healthy tensions” in worship. For example: “Transcendent and Immanent. Head and Heart. Planned and Spontaneous. Rooted and Relevant. Skilled and Authentic.” He shows how these tensions are good when they are properly balanced in pastoral wisdom and Scriptural teaching.
The last section of the book focuses on the worship leader’s relationships. Regarding the role of the pastor, Kauflin says,
“God has given the pastor, not the worship leader, the ultimate responsibility for the direction of the church. That includes the musical portions of the meeting. When we are at odds, Scripture is clear: I am the one who needs to submit.” (242)
Worship Matters is one of the best books on worship I have come across in recent years. Kauflin’s wisdom and passion shine through on every page. If you had to read just one book on worship this year, choose Worship Matters. You won’t be disappointed.