Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What is Worship for anyway?

"Tim is a good friend, and someone who thinks carefully about what biblical worship is and should be. Although our church situations are different, we share the conviction that our job as worship leaders is to help people exalt Jesus Christ in their minds, hearts, and wills."

(-Bob Kauflin, from a August 7 post on his blog Worship Matters. Bob is commenting on an interview he gave to Tim Smith, worship leader of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. Bob is worship leader of Covenant Life Church in Gathersburg, MD and leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries worship resources - )

I first heard Bob Kauflin speak at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky during my last year as a student. Before hearing, I knew very little about him but must say that he has been quite important and helpful in guiding me to think about biblical worship. His blog is a fantastic resource for those who want to think biblically and practically about worship. In fact, his first book, Worship Matters just came out and is written to help churches consider both theological and practical matters of worship.

As I read this quote from Kauflin, I could not help but wonder; is this thought going through the mind of most congregational worship leaders (both paid and volunteer) as they prepare to lead God's people in worship? Heck, is it on my mind as a pastor?

My fear is that most people give way too much focus on secondary issues pertaining to worship. Style, while not unimportant, tends to get a tremendous amount of focus. Some people like older hymns and Bill Gaither anthems from the 70's, while others prefer more modern arrangements of both hymns and the newest praise song from Chris Tomlin. Some count on a dramatic solo or duet or choir anthem to "get them ready" for the preaching. Some believe that all congregational singing is the way to go and that solo performances simply allow too much ego into the worship of God's people. Again, these issue are not umimportant, but they seem to get the cart before the horse.

Other secondary issues--not unimportant--that have a great influence on a congregation's worship are unprepared singers and musicians, bad sound equipment, bad use of sound equipment, lack of someone to show up and use the sound equipment, etc.

Kauflin's comment reveals to us that there must be something more fundamental driving our worship. In other words, what values and principles are going to guide both our preparation for and participation in worship. As a weekly worship leader and helper to countless churches through instruction and song wriring, Bob Kauflin simply states his job is to help people exalt Jesus...this is where the preparation and participation begins. We gather to adore and love Jesus Christ.

I have known of circumstances where a particular singer wants to sing during church because family members are going to be present. It is good that family members get to hear someone they love singing. However, this can not be the primary motivation for the offering of talent within worship. The worship leader and anyone taking leadership within the time of worship must ask themselves: will this help people to exalt Jesus Christ? This obviously calls for some personal introspection on motive. This certainly can be a tenuous process. However, we do well when we pause and reflect of this calling to help people exalt Christ. We have to remind ourselves and pray, "God help the words I speak, the songs I choose and the preparation I give all be done to help your people lift you up because you are worthy of all praise."

Kauflin states the exaltation of Jesus needs to take place in three areas: mind, heart and will. I believe he is calling us to consider the following:

Mind - Worship leaders are called to lead the church to think rightly about Jesus Christ. This means our song selections and the words we speak in worship must be biblically informed. Just because it is in the hymn book does not mean it is biblically accurate. Just because it is new does not mean its teaching is correct. This principle guards us in being too hasty to use certain music. In fact, it serves as a grid to help us wisely choose. (Question for thought: Is Carrie Underwood's Jesus Take the Wheel appropriate for congregational worship? Why or Why not?)

Heart - Worship leaders are called to lead the church to love Jesus more. It is amazing to think that music is a tool that can help people experience greater affection for Christ. Yes, it is good when a worship leader leads us in a well executed arrangement of a song, but that is not the only goal. The music, used well and faithfully, helps us to sing and think to ourselves, "Jesus I want to love you more! I want to become more knowledgeable of and intimate with you!" This is where worship bleeds into Kauflin's last area...

Will - Thoughtful and biblically centered worship music can help cause us to believe, think and live differently. The point is not just an experience. It is an encounter with the living Christ in community worship that drives us to live differently with one another and privately.

Bob Kauflin arranged some of the songs on one of my favortie albums from college. Glad's Acappella Project begins with a stirring rendition of A Mighty Fortress is Our God by Martin Luther. The story goes that Luther originally took the tune, a popular bar song, and added these lyrics. The arrangement sung by Glad did much for me as a young Christian. It influencesd greatly how I came to think of the work of God through Christ on behalf of the church.

Yes, in the beginning, I thought it was powerful singing that was quite emotional. However, because the words are so Christ-honoring and biblically saturated, it helped me think rightly about Jesus. That song, along with a host of others on that album, helped me to exalt Christ in my mind, heart and will. To this day, I am thankful for the minsitry of Glad and that album. (Yes, I originally bought it on cassette but downloaded it from itunes two years ago!)

Kauflin's call gives the worship leader much to think on in leading God's people to worship. It should also cause those who participate in worship to think about how they are being formed and changed by what they sing.

(I would encourage you to listen to some of the talks Kauflin has given at Institue of Christian Worship at Southern Seminary, you can check it out at:

1 comment:

Bruce Pittman said...

Great thoughts on worship, my man. We can easily lose sight of the true audience when worshipping. And how do we keep saying this in such a way that we finally create an environment where a church truly worships? That's a huge challenge, but I think its key. I think A. Stanley is right when he talks about creating the right environments.