Worship matters. So long as we agree on that point, we can also agree that it is necessary to have a good theology of worship. Why do we worship? How should we worship? Bob Kauflin answers these questions for us in Worship Matters. This book is written primarily for worship leaders–hence the subtitle “Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God”–but I think it is a great resource for anyone who wants to develop a more biblical understanding of worship. That being said, the book is geared toward worship leaders, so Kauflin does take special care to address issues pertinent to worship leaders and their role. This is no drawback from the book; in fact, for those of us who are not worship leaders, this should give us a greater love and appreciation for them as we see what they have to think about and accomplish every week.
One of the things I am most thankful for in this book is Kauflin’s candor. The book is divided into four major sections: “The Leader,” “The Task,” “Healthy Tensions,” and “Right Relationships.” In the first section especially, where he looks at what it is to be a worship leader, he is extremely forthcoming as to the kind of worship leader he used to be: prideful and self-glorifying. I found his honesty extremely helpful because he presented a concrete example of what pride looks like in thought and deed, and it caused me to introspect to determine if I had ever harbored such pride in a position of spiritual leadership. (I have.) But as both Kauflin and I will gratefully point out, the grace of Christ is sufficient to cover those sins, and to give us the strength to fight pride as we continue in leading other saints.
The second section of the book focuses on the theology of worship, both the why and the how. He uses a personal definition of worship to guide his study of it: “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” (55). This is a good a definition of worship as I have ever seen, and it is made even more so by the 100 pages of explanation Kauflin gives.
I think this section will be the heart of the book for readers who are not worship leaders, because it is here that Kauflin addresses the question, “How should we worship?” He does an excellent job of answering this question in the greater context, “Why should we worship?” Further, I commend Kauflin on his skilled treatment of a sensitive issue. In this section, he addresses the relative importances of music versus lyrics, and I think he puts forth solid biblical reasoning as for why we should not only prioritize the lyrics of our songs, but seek to make them as instructive as possible. In addressing how we ought to worship, Kauflin never comes across as didactic, only ever humble. He genuinely desires to worship in the way that most glorifies God. He recognizes that the answer will come through Scripture, and turns to that for guidance. His genuine desire to learn shows very clearly, and I am thankful to be taught by such a man.
One of the tensions presented from the very outset of the book is the relationship between truth and emotion. John 4:24 says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” We know that both truth and emotion must co-exist in worship for God to be pleased by it, but how should they be maintained together? (In short, the truth of who God is and what He has done should engage our emotions in worshipping Him.) Other major tensions are addressed in the third section, which is entirely devoted to them. As a side note, “Healthy Tensions” could be the theme of this book, since Worship Matters addresses so many things that we need to hold in balance: truth and emotion, passion and skill, and so on and so forth. (I could explain all the tensions, but then you wouldn’t buy the book!)
The last section on “right relationships” shows Kauflin’s priority in writing this book for worship leaders. This section in particular has a singular focus on how worship leaders should interact with the church, their team, and their pastor. That isn’t to say that the rest of the book is devoid of such counsel to worship leaders–the book really is geared toward worship leaders. It challenges them to ask themselves what place skill has in a worship team, what songs to pick on Sundays, how to use musical and spoken transitions effectively, how to talk about musicality with the team, and how to cultivate hearts of worship in oneself and in the congregation–among so many other things. Worship leaders, this book is written primarily for you, and I am unaware of any book that does such a good job of addressing you on this topic from Scripture. I recommend this book to you, as well as to anyone serving on a worship team.
Some closing remarks: Kauflin is a continualist, and will address the use of prophecy in worship sessions that he has led. Such practice is scripturally regulated, and mentions of it are few. It is something to be aware of, but should in no way be a deterrent from buying and learning from this book. Additionally, Kauflin runs a blog called Worship Matters, and it is an excellent resource for anyone serving in the area of musical worship. He is also the director for Sovereign Grace Music, whose albums I have reviewed several times before. The bottom line is this: worship matters to God, and so it should matter to us. Kauflin does an excellent job examining worship through the lens of Scripture, in a very honest and real and practical way. It was refreshing to read, and if you are interested in learning about worship, whether you serve in that area or not, I recommend this book to you.
(This book was provided free for review by Crossway, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)