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Book Review: Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin

I now have two books which carry the author's signature inside the front cover. The first in John Stott's "The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor." The second is "Worship Matters" by Bob Kauflin. He is the Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries. I'd probably get more pew-cred for that if Bob was better known in the UK. Never mind. At least Matt Redman knows who he is.

The teaching about worship began as I opened the book. Inside Bob had written: "Geoff - I pray this book encourages you as you seek to magnify God's glory in Christ. Bob Kauflin. Ps 145:1-3" (I was going to comment on his handwriting, but it sounded rude and ungracious).

My first thought as I read this? Bob Kauflin knows my name! He wrote my name in his book! How cool is that?!

My first lesson? My heart is an idol factory that instinctively worships all the wrong things: in that moment I was more happy that Bob Kauflin had written my name in the front cover of a paperback book than that the Eternal God had inscribed my name on the palms of his hands.

Although Bob makes it clear that worship is not just a technical term for singing spiritual songs on Sundays, this is a book about leading Christians to express their adoration of and devotion to God through song - and there are times when 'worship' is used as short-hand for this.

Structure

The book is divided into four sections, entitled The Leader, The Task, Healthy Tensions and Right Relationships.

The first section addresses the topic of being a lead worshipper, through godly devotion, healthy doctrine, musical dedication and personal example. The emphasis is (helpfully) on firstly being a whole-hearted worshipper. It is from this foundation that we are to lead others.

This is a section that is universally relevant to any worshipper (bar chapter 4 - tempting as it might be, we can't expect every member of a congregation to take singing lessons).

The second section is an exposition of Bob's definition of a worship leader:

A faithful worship leader
magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ
through the power of the Holy Spirit
by skilfully combing 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.

It is a practical and humble explanation of the task a lead worshipper faces, littered with personal anecdotes and examples.

Whether you lead or follow, this section will give you a deeper understanding of what you are attempting to do. Knowing better why we sing and what we are attempting to do will benefit us as we sing.

The third section outlines the tensions we face - between addressing the head and engaging the heart, between encouraging believers and helping unbelievers, between the gathered event and the rest of the week etc.

The final section is about maintaining good relationships with your fellow musicians, church leaders and church members. Again, this section is replete with much sound, biblical and practical advice that is generally applicable to any relationship within the church.

The Good

Pretty much all of it. It is obviously the product of much wisdom and experience - and there is a helpful emphasis on music as our servant. In a time when the Christian music industry is big business - and there are even Christian bands so good that non-Christians don't mind listening to them(!) - it is helpful to be reminded that music is a means, a tool, and not an end.

It is biblical. Bob is far more concerned with what the bible has to say than his own opinions.

It is balanced. Bob clearly differentiates between what scripture demands and what he has found helpful/is suggesting.

It is practical. The theology is rich and lean - it runs the length of the book like a keel, giving it depth, keeping it on course and directed towards the goal: encouraging and equipping us to lead others to encounter the greatness of God in Christ as we praise him.

The Not So Good

Given the differences in circumstances (small church vs large church, little skill vs prodigious talent etc) there are aspects of this book that don't fit. Hopefully at some future point they will.

There are tensions in a small church that aren't felt in the same way in a congregation of the size that Bob is used to. He suggests that it is inappropriate to allow non-Christians to play - which makes sense if you are placing a small team in front of a large congregation and saying: follow while these guys lead. This doesn't fit so well with a small church situation where the pastor/preacher "leads" - the music team just play. Is it really worse to let a non-Christian seeker use their talent for the churches than to use MIDI files on a keyboard?

According to statistics quoted in the Christianity explored course, it takes an average of 18months for someone to go from hearing the gospel to actually becoming a Christian. Allowing a church hanger on or a rebellious teenager to take part in the music group can be a useful tool for maintaining relationships and continuing to share the gospel with someone - without ever giving someone the mistaken impression that they're a Christian when they're not. Likewise, in a small church where everyone knows everyone else personally, there is little danger of non-Christians (who have been welcomed as guests in the music group) being mistaken for pastor-approved role models.

On balance...

Buy it. Read it. Share it with your musicians and with your pastor. If you are a Christian and use any musical expression to give voice to your worship of God, you will benefit from this book.