The reading lists of church staffs often fall into stereotypical lines where books are chosen according to how well they help one “do” the ministry he or she oversees. Hence, teachers have a great affinity for theological books, administrators gravitate to leadership works, age-graded staff gobble up offerings which deal with things like family, students, or cultural issues they face, and so on and so forth. Based on this idea, the worship pastor (or whatever you call the person who oversees the Sunday service) is essentially the only person given to reading books on worship. If true, that would be a sad case. Indeed, as a pulpit pastor, I’ve probably read a dozen or so books devoted specifically to corporate worship and wanted to give you five reasons why, as the lead/pulpit/senior pastor, you should read a few as well.
- It will improve your communication about what corporate worship is to your congregants. Free your congregants from the ubiquitous error abounding in churches each Sunday that says worship equals music. Maybe the reason your church will be different is because a good book on worship finally helped you see that other elements such as the sermon, the offering, and the prayers are worship as well. It might lead you to stop calling your music leader the “worship pastor” or move you to continually help connect non-musical elements to the heart of corporate worship. It might lead you to do a lot of things you’re not currently doing or vice versa.
- It will give you deeper appreciation for the weekly task before your worship pastor. This assumes the worship pastor and his team are primarily responsible for putting together the weekend service. Indeed, after reading a good book or two on worship, you may realize you aren’t involved enough in the process of putting services together. Nevertheless, no matter the extent of your involvement, growing in the understanding worship should mature and deepen your respect for the task those teams face each week.
- It will drive you to better evaluation and accountability of those responsible for putting the worship service together. Reading books on worship help pastors develop and refine their own philosophies of worship. In other words, when we have a better idea of the “why” of worship, the “what” of worship follows. We get better clarity on what we want to see happen in the Sunday corporate experience. That means better questions, better metrics, better “Monday conversations” about yesterday’s worship service. It also will allow you and worship leader to finally speak from a common dictionary instead of continually trying to understand from where each other is coming from where battles of “Well, I think…” vs. “Well, I think…” is the woeful norm.
- It will tell your worship leader that worship isn’t only important to him or her, but to you too. It’s a small but weighty token to have your worship teams see that you are interested in what they are interested in. And why shouldn’t you be? It’s worship we’re talking about. Reading worship books is one small way to communicate that you both want the same thing – to honor God and lead people in such a way that they have the best opportunity to honor him via corporate worship each week. So, as the one who oversees the element of “Worship via Preaching,” you also want to hone your ideas about worship for the sake of the church.
- It will remind you, once again, that everything is ultimately about God and the worship of his glorious name. Reading a good book on worship is like hitting a reset button for your heart. It reminds us that God is great and everything we do should glorify him. This is always true. No exceptions. No limitations. This may be a needed reminder in a world where leading the church can clutter our view with meetings, strategies, programs, and the like. We exist for God. Period.
The truth is, I know many pastors who read books on all kinds of topics – theology, preaching, leadership…and worship. However, if you’re not one of them, let me encourage you to add a book or two on worship to your reading list this year. Consider reading it with your worship leaders and music teams. Better yet, add your elders and staff as well. I believe in doing so will bear more fruit than merely the five benefits I’ve highlighted.
Books to consider:
- Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin – We use this book for our music team training. You can read my review here and see why it’s still my favorite over the years. Kauflin drips wisdom that’s been hammered out over the years with a keen eye to theological/biblical clarity to boot. Such a great read. Get it. Read it.
- Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper – I just read this last week and am deeply grateful for Cosper’s contribution. The intentionality behind Sojourn Church’s worship services is clear (I’ve been before) and now they have a book to match. Mike can write as well as think – a great combo that hopefully will bless the Church for years to come. Anything you see Sojourn do (Daniel Montgomery, Mike Cosper, et al), pick it up.
- Christ-Centered Worship by Bryan Chapell – Chapell’s book on preaching is my favorite for young preachers trying to find out a rubric for gospel-centered preaching. His book on worship, in my opinion, is am historical, theological detailing of what Cosper does in a more general, accessible way. For someone from a relatively Free Church background, Chapell’s book caused me to pause and ask, “Why do I do what I do in the order of service?”
- Worship By The Book edited by D.A. Carson – Get it for both Kent Hughes and Timothy Keller’s contributions alone.
- With One Voice by Reggie Kidd – History, theology, song. A great trip through the Scriptures on what worship is.
- Worship Seeking Understanding by John Witvliet – Broadminded. Rooted in Scripture. Witvliet is a wonderful thinker.
- Engaging with God by David Peterson – Want a theology of worship? Read Peterson.