I recently took a class on the ministry of worship. One of the required books included Bob Kauflin’s Worship Matters. I highly recommend this book, and below includes a review I wrote that I hope will spark your interest to read it.
Book Review on Worship Matters
Bob Kauflin’s book, Worship Matters, aims to address common problems and misconceptions concerning the vocation of a worship leader. This book is a helpful resource in a theology of worship for both the scholar and the layman. A wide variety of worship topics are discussed as well as particular focus on the planning and preparatory methods for how to lead worship. Kauflin captivates his audience by presenting his wisdom and humility of over twenty years of experience in this field of ministry.
He introduces his purpose by recounting a depressing season in his own career of leading music in a church. He shares of how it all seemed “empty, dry, and pointless” (19). Through this trial, Kauflin learned that worship is a futile endeavor without God. It is within this setting that the author chooses his thesis in which he invites his readers to join him in a journey of discovering what matters in worship.
The book is divided into four parts, with the first section addressing the leader himself. Kauflin probes pointing questions regarding a leader’s heart, mind, hands, and life. In contrary to popular assumption, Kauflin addresses that a leader’s greatest challenge has little to do with the mechanics of music, but rather the internal struggles of a leader. He states, “Your greatest challenge is what you yourself bring to the platform each and every Sunday” (21). In a brief but thorough twenty-eight pages, Kauflin uses scripture to demonstrate what a worship leader looks like. He marks a distinction between the identity and actions of a leader.
The next section concerns the task of a worship leader. As it is the longest section of the book, Kauflin tackles a historical summary of the evolution of worship, an evaluation of the expectations of a worship leader, a discourse on the involvement of the trinity, a layout on song selection, and a emphasis on incorporating the gospel in worship. This section is informative for novice worship leaders as Kauflin examines the reasons designing a worship set. He clarifies, “What’s on my iPod isn’t always the best place to start when I’m picking songs for congregational worship. […] the best music enables people to genuinely and consistently magnify the greatness of the Savior in their hearts, minds, and wills” (106). He demonstrates that choosing songs should not center on one’s preference, but involves planning, scripture, and teamwork to illustrate the Gospel.
The third section focuses on healthy tensions in ministry of worship. He discusses several dichotomies and how to develop a fruitful balance between oppositions. Kauflin responds, “…there are several aspects of worship that we view, or at least practice, differently. Rather than just endlessly discussing disagreements, we try to learn what the other might have that we don’t” (156). A few of these differences include: deciding to use planned songs versus incorporating spontaneous songs; which attributes of God’s character to emphasize; whether to focus on doctrine or passion for God. Kauflin exhorts believers to overcome differences by focusing on scriptural virtues such as selflessness and humility. He references Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.” The gospel of Jesus Christ should join believers together and encourage them to seek God’s truth for how he must be worshipped.
The final section addresses the importance of resolving conflict with people in the church. A worship leader must be committed to genuinely caring for people, not just leading them. Kauflin also confronts the relationship between senior pastors and their worship leaders. He encourages an attitude of humility and service towards pastors. He states, “Whatever kind of pastor you serve with, God says he’s a gift to you. […] it’s our responsibility to support our pastor and not set our own agenda” (241). Pastors need prayer, uplifting words, and the flexibility to change the order of the music when necessary. The book concludes with a short letter to senior pastors helping to examine practical ways to prosper the relationship with his worship leader. He states, “One of my desires in writing this book, and specifically this chapter, was to speak to pastors about the role they play in leading worship in their church. It’s not secondary, and it’s not optional. It’s crucial” (258). In the final pages Kauflin raises an awareness of the value of worship and how pastors can profit from a right relationship with their worship leader.
One area of improvement concerns Kauflin’s failure to offer any instruction on gender roles in leading worship. He refers to the worship leader as a male throughout the book, though he does not specify whether men should obtain this vocation. There are passing references to female vocalists and musicians which demonstrate his affirmation of female participation. However, for such a prominent debate in worship ministry, it is surprising that Kauflin does not mention this topic or suggest another source to respond to the issue.
Kauflin also spends an extensive chapter discussing how to distinguish skilled musicians and vocalists from those less skilled. He encourages members of the praise team to sign a contract including a commitment to further one’s musicianship. The purpose of serving in a ministry should not to be used as a source for pride. As such, members should expect to step down if someone more skilled volunteers. He lists instructions for how to confront someone to leave the praise team if another musician is more skilled. However, he does not spend much time on relating how to ask a member to step down if another musician is more spiritually mature. Kauflin writes elsewhere that the spiritual qualifications of a musician are equally as important as a person’s musical abilities. He also stresses the importance of obtaining both skill and spiritual maturity as requirements for the praise team. It is a contrary point to require skill and spiritual maturity in a musician, but to only confront dismissal for the former.
These problems and omissions do not detract from the book. Whether or not a female should lead worship is not the primary aim of Kauflin’s thesis. He adequately fulfills the question of what matters in worship whether or not he addresses the topics of egalitarianism and complementarianism. Likewise, Kauflin faithfully responds to the necessity of spiritual maturity. He further includes a section on why non-Christians cannot be a member of a worship team. His lack of instructions on this topic do not distract from his thesis, but would be a helpful resource should he have included it.
Kauflin presents numerous topics which are agreeable for the Christian church. Though his book seems to be directed towards an audience of worship leaders, any Christian would benefit from his teachings. The final section on relationships offers wise counsel for managing relational conflict. A chronological list is also included as a godly approach to receiving compliments and criticism. It is hard to avoid reconciliation as Kauflin ends a chapter emphasizing the gospel. He comments, “We often look out on our congregation and see normal people, nothing special. But God sees his treasured possession. These are the people he purchased with the blood of his own Son (Acts 20:28). They’re precious in his sight. May they be precious in ours” (228). Worship Matters calls its readers to consider the gospel in the midst of dealing with people who are hard to accept. Kauflin uses the gospel to transform worship styles, relationships, and ultimately one’s whole life.
Kauflin also inspires his readers to learn more on the topic of worship. He demonstrates that man will never know everything about God. Thus worship of Him cannot be exhaustive. He uses his own humbling testimony to persuade readers of man’s need for worship of God. A stress on the goodness of the gospel illuminates the joy of worship. A study in doctrine and theology could be considered as a next step for those who wish to understand how to worship God better.
Worship Matters merits attention from worship leaders, pastors, and anyone who claims Christ as their Savior. It has invaluable instructional information for those in the vocation of worship ministry. There are helpful resources and tools to guide senior pastors in working with a worship leader. Believers will also enjoy reading about the meaning of worship and how it encompasses one’s full devotion in everyday life. The book’s importance reveals itself as Kauflin shares personal experiences of his own career as a worship leader to illuminate his knowledge and research in the discipline. No worship leader should try to begin a career without first reading the valuable lessons within this book. Kauflin clarifies the struggles, joys, expectations, and victories pursuing a journey of what matters in worship. Kauflin urges readers’ attention by saying, “Discovering what matters in worship is a journey I’ve been on for thirty years, and one I’ll be on for the rest of my life. […] And if you don’t feel adequate for the task…you’re in the perfect place for God to use you” (19).