When John Calvin wrote “we should consider it the great end of our existence to be found numbered among the worshippers of God” I’m sure he wasn’t picturing an auditorium with the house lights down, the stage lights up, and a band that is working hard to ‘create an atmosphere’ where people feel drawn to worship. At a time when worship has become an industry, Bob Kauflin (pastor, songwriter, and the director of Sovereign Grace Music) presents this incredibly helpful book that connects our practices as the gathered community of God to the much bigger all-of-life reality of worship.
Kauflin spends a great deal of time turning and examining the multifaceted diamond that is Biblical worship, beginning with the reminder that it’s only through faith in the finished work of God in Christ that we have access to the One who is infinitely worthy of our worship. Kauflin unpacks what it means to be a worshipping community that first receives from God (chapter 2), then by way of response exalts God (chapter 3), not neglecting to gather as the community of the redeemed (chapter 4), edifying one another through intelligent engagement with scripture and application thereof (chapter 5), celebrating together and teaching one another through singing (chapters 6 & 7), and finally living as those who look forward to the joy of heaven where we will encounter forever the unveiled presence of our great God (chapter 8).
My favourite thread that works its way through True Worshipers is the balanced, mature understanding of congregational singing as a means of mutual instruction. Because his words are better than mine, I’m simply going to give Kauflin the platform to speak:
Many songs have been written by musicians who don’t know their Bibles very well, resulting in songs that lack gospel and theological clarity. (p.20)
God’s Word always directs and enriches our worship of God. But more than that, it’s foundational. We can’t worship God apart from his Word. It defines, directs, and inspires our worship. Scripture provides the doctrinal fuel for our emotional fire. (p. 41)
When we take time to worship God through his Word; reading and reflecting on him as the object of our worship, we’re expending energy towards having a real knowledge of the most glorious and valuable being in the universe. That knowledge enables us to love him more passionately, obey him more consistently, serve him more joyfully, and trust him more confidently. (p. 46)
[whether we realise it or not] There’s a vertical as well as a horizontal focus to our singing. Instruction is taking place right alongside praise. (p. 105)
In chapter three (True Worshipers Exalt), Kauflin discusses how humankind are beings that posses an innate drive for worship; we’re always worshipping something or someone. Worship directed to the wrong place is called idolatry. It’s looking to anything other than God for our ultimate satisfaction, comfort, security, or joy. Kauflin pointedly reminds us that “we never begin worship; we aim it” (p. 51). It’s a powerful and convicting truth to meditate on. In every moment our thoughts, love, faith, speech, gratefulness, actions, obedience, and praise are all telling of who or what we truly worship.
Finally, the Biblical picture that Kauflin paints of heaven helps us to get a glimpse of what worship should look like for us now. As the redeemed people of God, we live as those who have a sure and certain hope, and look forward to the coming age when we continually live in the unveiled presence of God. In that place – Kauflin reminds us – we’ll never not be worshipping God. Every word, action, and thought will be offered up in pure devotion to the saviour who has redeemed us for his glory.
True Worshipers is such an encouraging reminder of the beauty and richness of the gospel, and it will cause you to better articulate your love for God through thoughful praise but also to more fully express that love through grace-motivated serving, gospel-saturated love for others, Godly speech, and a deep desire to search the scriptures to better know this God who has revealed himself to us in its pages. Be ready to see worship like you’ve never seen it before.