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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"True Worshipers" (Bob Kauflin)

TITLE: True Worshipers: Seeking What Matters to God
AUTHOR: Bob Kauflin
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015 (176 pages).

If you attend a Church regularly, you will be familiar with the overall pattern of a Sunday Church service. There is a welcome or a call to worship. Then there is the singing, sometimes called worship, other times called singspiration. This is followed by a congregational prayer, announcements, or presentations before the sermon. The benediction or the closing song occur at the end of the service. For people who think worship is just about going to Church, or singing songs, or performing rituals and acts of religious devotions, think again. Worship is more than all of that combined. According to author Bob Kauflin, worship is about seeking after God and what matters to God. We worship God because God is worthy of our worship.

Kauflin is worship leader and Church planter, who desires to play a role in equipping leaders in the worship arena. He has previously served with a contemporary Christian band called GLAD before leaving to join the Sovereign Grace Ministries. He is songwriter, speaker, and also a worshiper. In this book, he shares from his heart his experience and heart for leading people into deeper and more meaningful worship. He traces back to his early years and observes how worship has become "a movement, a phenomenon, and in many places, an industry." The trouble is, worship is much more than that. Our chief end in life is worshiping God. He lists down some of the problems with modern day worship:
  • How do we worship when our daily experiences do not reflect God's goodness?
  • What do we do when our Sunday worship does not seem to bring life?
  • What happens when there are conflicts over worship styles despite everyone saying they honour God?
  • Why is it that worship does not seem to be relevant to our daily lives?

Kauflin deals with these questions sensitively. He notes that while worship is ultimately about God, it is not solely about God. Worship is like what Jesus says to the Samaritan woman at the well, the true worship is in Spirit and in Truth. He lists down nine ways in which we can return to our calling to be true worshipers of God. First, in God's eyes, we matter. Worship is an integral part of our faith. Second, we begin with what God has given, and what we received from Him. That means we recognize that God is in the beginning and without God, there is no worship in the first place. On our own, we cannot worship. The gospel is about receiving that free gift and worship is our response to such grace. Worship is both Word and emotions. It flows from the Word and the Spirit enables us. True worshipers always remember that they are receivers first. Third, true worshipers exalt God up high.  Kauflin warns us that the wrong directional worship is idolatry. That is why we need to learn to lift up God alone up high. Exalting means more than just lifting up our hands or raising our voices. It is a response of deep affection in our hearts, highest attributes in our minds, and soulful worship of love. This includes our acts of worship that exalts God in our works. Fourth, worship is about togetherness. We worship God not just with our whole beings but together united as a community. When we come together, we celebrate the gospel and the receiving of God's grace together. Fifth, worshipers honour God by edifying one another. All things done in churches need to be done in a manner that build people up. Sixth, true worshipers sing. It is very common to see people in church just refusing to join in the chorus or to open their mouths to sing, for whatever reasons. Some blame it on the worship leader's choice of songs. Others refuse to sing when they do not like the songs. Kauflin gives several reasons why we ought to sing, regardless of how we feel. Singing is obeying God. God sings, and so must we. Singing comes out of a knowledge of Scripture. That is powerful. Singing lets the Spirit express His work in us. Singing helps us remember God's Word, makes us teachable, engages our emotions, encourages us to worship not only with our mouths but with our whole bodies. Most importantly, singing together is a great expression of unity. Seventh, true worshipers persevere in singing together. When we hear people around us sing, we are usually encouraged to do the same. Likewise, if people around us do not sing, we may start to question ourselves: "Why bother to sing?" One issue that Kauflin deals with is about people who do not feel like the words represent what they feel. It all boils to  our understanding of grace. We sing songs of worship not because we feel like it or we deserve it. We sing because we are recipients of God's grace. We sing because we have been forgiven. We sing primarily out of a heart of confidence in God rather than pride in our own abilities. Even songs that are theologically shallow can be useful, especially when we can impart theological truths wherever appropriate. Perhaps, the song is itself an opportunity for us to fill in the gaps? Eighth, true worshipers encounter God. This has less to do with experiencing God every time and more to do with expecting God every time. Ninth, true worshipers anticipate God's great working in our lives both present and future. We learn to boast in the Lord. We learn to trust God more. We learn that even when we do not understand our present world, the time will come when God reveals all things.

I appreciate Kauflin's three points of advice, that we ought to have the attitudes of: 1) Desperate dependence; 2) Eager Expectation; and 3) Humble Responsiveness. Desperate dependence is a result of recognizing without God we can do nothing. We remind ourselves that it all begins and ends with God. What role we play completely depends on God. In Eager Expectation, we come to worship to expect the encounter with God. There is something mysterious and exciting about it, that God can choose to appear or to let us wait it out. The Word of God is often the main channel of God speaking to us. We need to be like the piano string, to respond when the Spirit strikes out heart strings. Finally, Humble Responsiveness is an act of obedience. We respond to what has already been revealed instead of waiting passively for questions that God have chosen to delay answering.

This book on worship is a hearty exhortation for us to let worship be the key purpose as we gather as a community. Worship is more than singing songs. It is about God, and whatever we do, we do so with God's glory in mind. For worship leaders, this song affirms their ministry and the importance of helping worshipers understand that the songs are a means to an end, and not an end in themselves. For pastors and preachers, worship is very much both the singing and the preaching. Incorporate worship songs into the sermons. Utilize the verses and choruses where appropriate to let the whole service be integrated as one. For lay persons, this book may very well inject life into a lifeless and mundane act of singing and celebrating. I like Kauflin's conclusion:

"True worshipers hold fast to the hope that one day we will do nothing but boast in the Lord."

Worship is exciting, as long as we come with desperate desires of God, expectant hearts in God, and humble obedience for God. Amen.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Crossway Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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