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Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God

by Bob Kauflin, Paul BalocheBob Kauflin
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Combining biblical foundations with real-world application, Kauflin guides worship leaders and pastors to root their corporate worship in unchanging scriptural principles rather than divisive trends.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781581348248
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 03/31/2008
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 190,707
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Bob Kauflin is a pastor, songwriter, worship leader, and author with over thirty-five years experience. After pastoring for twelve years, he became director of Sovereign Grace Music in 1997. He teaches on congregational worship through WorshipGod conferences, seminars, and his blog, He is currently an elder at Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He and his wife, Julie, have six children and an ever-growing number of grandchildren.

Read an Excerpt



It was my dream job. I'd just become Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries. After pastoring for twelve years, I was now studying worship and training worship leaders full-time.

I was leading worship at a conference and should have been exhilarated. After praying with the worship team I headed up the stairs to start the meeting. The room was overflowing, the atmosphere electric. Every heart was ready to praise God.

Well, almost. From the outside I'm sure no one could tell what I was thinking. That was a good thing.

As I made my way to the stage, I suddenly found myself battling doubts.

What difference will this make tonight? Will it have any eternal value? People will sing, raise their hands, get excited ... and go home. And I'll do this over and over and over again. For the rest of my life.

Suddenly it all seemed empty. Dry. Pointless.

Ever been there? Have you found yourself wondering where your joy went or if what you do really matters?

A friend of mine confided that one of his greatest struggles in leading worship is fighting the feeling that he has to "get up and do it again" for the two-hundredth time. He has to resist going through the motions and simply "mailing it in."

I don't think he's alone.


Don't get me wrong. I think leading God's people in worship is one of the most fulfilling, enjoyable, exciting, sobering, life-changing jobs on the planet. We're helping people connect with the purpose for which they were created — to glorify the living God. We're pointing their hearts toward the Sovereign One who is greater than their trials and kinder than they could ever imagine. We get to display the matchless Savior who died in our place, conquering sin, death, and hell in the process.

We watch in amazement as the Spirit of God transforms lives and gives people a fresh encounter with God's faithfulness, love, and power.

At times like these we think, I can't believe I get to do this. (And if you're on a church staff, you might add, "I can't believe I get paid to do this.") But then come the times we'd be happy to pay someone else to do this.

• You lead vocalist is sick, your bass player's out of town, and your keyboardist slept in. And no one called to find a sub.

• A small but infulental group in the church just informed the pastor they don't like the songs you've been teaching.

• After two years in your new church, you still don't have a drummer who can keep steady time.

• Your best singer just told you she's not coming to this week's rehearsal unless she gets to sing the solo.

• For the fifth week in a row, your pastor e-mailed to say the music went too long and you talked too much. Moments like these make you think that leading worship would be a joy if it didn't involve working with others.

But just as often we struggle with our own hearts:

• No one seems to appreciate or even notice that on top of a full-time job you put in at least ten hours each week for the worship team.

• The last time you taugh a new song was eight months ago, and CDs are piled on your desk that you still haven't listened to.

• You put off confronting a guirarist whose critical and proud attitude is affecting the whole team.

• You can't remember the last time you prayed more than five minutes, and you feel like a hypocrite as you lead on Sundays.

• You never have enough hours to plan, prepare, study, practice, or work with the music team. Which makes you wonder what in the world you're doing with your time.

And yet ...

Despite these and other difficulties, you believe the joys of leading worship far outweigh the challenges. You wouldn't think of giving it up.

You just want to do it better. More effectively. More skillfully. More faithfully.

I'm guessing that's why you picked up this book. I hope so because that's why I wrote it.

But I have to confess something.

I didn't write this book simply to help you be a better worship leader. There's more at stake here.

After thirty years of leading worship, I've realized that worship isn't just an opportunity to use my musical gifts. It's more than a heightened emotional experience or a way to make a living. It's way more than what we do on Sunday morning.

Worship is about what we love. What we live for.

It's about who we are before God.

This book is filled with practical ideas for leading worship. But we don't start there. These initial chapters are about the way we think and live. I want to challenge, encourage, and inspire you to live your life for the glory and praise of Jesus Christ. Holding nothing back. Giving no ground. It's the only kind of life that makes sense for someone who leads worship.

But first, a little background.


My first experience of music in a church context came as a Catholic, when I played the organ for Masses, weddings, and funerals. There wasn't much "leadership" involved. I just played what I was told. When I could, I'd sneak in "sacred" versions of Beatles tunes, college fight songs, or nursery rhymes to make it interesting.

In the early seventies, I majored in piano at Temple University in Philadelphia. I became a Christian during my first year and started visiting a Baptist church on campus. When my friends and I noticed we were the only people in the church under sixty, we tried starting our own church in the dorms. That lasted two meetings.

Then someone invited us to a charismatic church in Center City Philadelphia. We heard the meetings were pretty lively, especially when they broke into line dancing around the pews. I helped with the worship team there and eventually was asked to lead, to use the term generously.

Between my junior and senior years at Temple, I came across a small, humble group of Christians in rural Pennsylvania who claimed Scripture as their only doctrine. The women wore head coverings, the men had beards, and they sang without instruments.

My worship world was diversifying.

After getting married and graduating from college in 1976, my wife, Julie, and I spent eight years with the Christian music group GLAD. We traveled across the U.S. learning what worship meant to Baptists, Assemblies of God, Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and a host of nondenominational churches.

Some churches followed centuries-old liturgies. Others were "Spirit-filled" and looked for God to show up in prophetic words, tongues, or some other spontaneous event.

In too many churches we detected a disconnect between the God they worshiped on Sundays and the one they seemed to follow during the week.

I continued to lead worship in my local church when we weren't traveling. But in 1984 I said goodbye to life on the road. I thought I might be called to be a pastor.

The following year I joined the staff of a church related to Sovereign Grace Ministries, led by C. J. Mahaney. I led the worship team there for six years, then helped plant what's now Crossway Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. I experienced firsthand the challenges and joys of overseeing a worship team in a new church.

In 1997 C. J. invited me to Covenant Life Church, a congregation of 3,000-plus members near Washington, D.C., to serve in my present role.

As you might guess, leading worship in a large congregation is different from a church plant. More people to organize, more songs to learn, more meetings to work around, more equipment to deal with, and more potential problems.

But the important things haven't changed.

This book is about the important things.


Maybe you're just getting started as a worship leader or think God wants you to be one. Perhaps you've been in music ministry for decades and are feeling a little weary. You might be part of a music team or a worship planning committee. Maybe you're a pastor and want to understand more clearly what worship is supposed to look like in your church. Or it could be you're the kind of person who wants to get your hands on anything that feeds your love for God.

Whatever your situation, I want to help you avoid going through what I described at the beginning of this chapter — when I stepped up to lead worship, and it all seemed empty, dry, and pointless. It isn't.

But the Lord graciously reminded me, "That's exactly what it would be like without me — pointless."

Worship matters. It matters to God because he is the one ultimately worthy of all worship. It matters to us because worshiping God is the reason for which we were created. And it matters to every worship leader, because we have no greater privilege than leading others to encounter the greatness of God. That's why it's so important to think carefully about what we do and why we do it.

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. I'm glad you've joined me.

And if you don't feel adequate for the task ... you're in the perfect place for God to use you.



What's the greatest challenge you face as a worship leader? You might think it's deciding which songs to sing, getting along with your pastor, receiving feedback from church members, or leading a team of unorganized, independent musicians.

Nope. Your greatest challenge is what you yourself bring to the plat-form each and every Sunday.

Your heart.

For years we've read about or experienced firsthand the "worship wars" — conflicts over music styles, song selections, and drums. But far too little has been said about the worship wars going on inside us. And they're much more significant.

Each of us has a battle raging within us over what we love most — God or something else.

Whenever we love and serve anything in place of God, we're engaging in idolatry. We love our idols because we think they'll provide the joy that comes from God alone. We think having them will truly satisfy us. We think they're worthy of our worship.

Of course, we're wrong.

Throughout Scripture, idolatry is the greatest snare the people of God encounter. God condemns idolatry repeatedly in his Word. He hates it when we pursue, serve, or are emotionally drawn to other gods, which are not really gods at all. Idols enslave us and put us to shame (Isaiah 45:16; Psalm 106:36). The apostle John warned his readers and us, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21). Idols are powerless to help us and end up making us into their own image (Psalm 115:8). Like David, we should hate idols and those who pay regard to them (Psalm 31:6). Too often, though, we ourselves are the idolaters.

When some of us hear the word idolatry, we picture primitive tribesmen bowing down to statues of wood, metal, or stone. Or we think of countries like India where Hindu temples dot the landscape. When I went to train pastors in India years ago, I met many men who had grown up worshiping idols as a daily ritual.

But idol worship is a daily ritual in America, too. Only it's more subtle and therefore more dangerous.

Idols are all around us. Can you spot them? They come in different forms. Material comforts. Financial security. Sensual pleasures. Musicians have their own special idols. New gear. Electronic gadgets. Hip clothes. The most powerful idols are the ones we can't even see. Things like reputation, power, and control.

As Christians we're sometimes like the people described in 2 Kings 17:33: "they feared the LORD but also served their own gods." We fear the Lord externally, doing all the right things on Sunday morning — singing, strumming a guitar, lifting our hands — yet actively serve false gods through-out the week. We profess to love the true God but actually love false idols. It's a condition that God, in his mercy, is committed to changing.

That's a lesson I learned the hard way.


I spent most of my early years seeking my own glory. Popularity, music, and academic excellence were my idols of choice, and I spent most of my teen-age years pursuing them. When God saved me at seventeen, my sins were completely forgiven. But I had deep-rooted sin patterns that weren't going to die easily.

After becoming a pastor, I assumed my job was to serve others with my superior wisdom and discernment. My pride was exposed a few times, and patient friends tried to help me see what was going on in my heart. But I was a slow learner.

When we moved to North Carolina to help start a church, my cravings for admiration and control were constantly challenged. Some people didn't like the way we were leading the church and left. A few disgruntled parents expressed disagreement with our parent-driven youth ministry. Newcomers recommended ways the church could serve them better. A counseling situation turned ugly when a man caught in immorality claimed that I lacked compassion and had gotten angry at him.

No one knew it at the time, but God was using these situations and others to expose the long-standing sins of idolatry in my heart. I wanted everyone around me to share my high opinion of myself. My life was one extended attempt to draw attention to my gifts, my abilities, and my efforts. But it wasn't working. I wasn't getting the praise I craved, and that was affecting my soul. I increasingly struggled with feelings of anxiety, fear, and confusion. I felt like my life was about to fall apart.

One January evening in 1994 it did.

A family in the church had invited Julie and me over for dinner. In between bites, as we were engaging in small talk, I lost my grip on reality. I couldn't tell you how it happened, but in an instant I felt completely disconnected from both my past and my future. Resisting the sudden urge to jump up from the table and scream, I excused myself, went into the bathroom, and shut the door behind me.

God, what in the world is happening to me? Where are you? Who am I?

No answers came as questions raced through my mind at warp speed.

That night I began a sanctifying journey that would last nearly three years. God wanted to teach me a few things about what I loved and who I worshiped.


Over the next three months I experienced a variety of symptoms. Hollowness and tightness in my chest. Buzzing in my face. Daily thoughts of death. Itching on my arms. Panic attacks. Sleeplessness. Shortness of breath.

I woke up each morning to this thought: Your life is completely hope-less. And things went downhill from there.

I chose not to go to a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I'm certain they would have classified me as someone having a breakdown. I made an appointment for a complete physical with our family doctor, who said I was fine. At least that's what the tests showed.

But the tests couldn't measure what was taking place in my heart. I was battling God for his glory — and losing.

About a year after these symptoms appeared, Julie and I attended a leadership conference and shared a meal with our good friends Gary and Betsy Ricucci. I knew Gary was a wise and gracious pastor. I also knew I needed help. Desperately. Early in our conversation I confessed, "Gary, I don't know what to do. I feel hopeless all the time. Completely hopeless."

I expected Gary to say something like, "You'll be okay, Bob. God is faithful. He's working all things for your good." Instead he looked at me with compassion and stated, "I don't think you're hopeless enough."

I'm not sure what the look on my face said at that moment, but inside I was picking myself up off the floor.

Gary smiled. "If you were really hopeless, you'd stop trusting in yourself and what you can do and start trusting in what Jesus accomplished for you at the cross."

The words drifted into my head like morning fog over a field — there was a discernible shape, but I couldn't quite get my arms around it.

As I considered Gary's response in the coming weeks, the fog began to lift. I started seeing a reality that dominated my life — the reality of my sinful cravings. My problems — emotional, physical, and otherwise — stemmed from battles within my heart of which I'd been largely unaware. Yes, I wanted God to be exalted through my life, but another agenda was ruling my heart. I wanted people to approve of me, admire me, applaud me.

To be honest, I wanted people to adore me. I had an incessant passion to steal God's glory. I was a lover of myself rather than a lover of God (2 Timothy 3:2, 4). And it was killing me. The unresolved conflict in my heart spilled over into my mind and body and led to that fateful January night in 1994.


So what happened to me? Many would call it a nervous breakdown. I've learned that it was far simpler than that. And far more serious.

I was experiencing the consequences of my pride. A sin breakdown, if you will. God in his kindness was mercifully humbling me and showing me what life would be like without him.


Excerpted from "Worship Matters"
by .
Copyright © 2008 Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Paul Baloche,
Part One: The Leader,
1 The Important Things,
2 My Heart: What Do I Love?,
3 My Mind: What Do I Believe?,
4 My Hands: What Do I Practice?,
5 My Life: What Do I Model?,
Part Two: The Task,
6 So What Does a Worship Leader Do?,
7 A Faithful Worship Leader ...,
8 ... Magnifies the Greatness of God ...,
9 ... In Jesus Christ ...,
10 ... Through the Power of the Holy Spirit ...,
11 ... Skillfully Combining God's Word ...,
12 ... With Music ... (Part One: What Kind?),
13 ... With Music ... (Part Two: Planning Sunday's Songs),
14 ... Thereby Motivating the Gathered Church ...,
15 ... To Proclaim the Gospel ...,
16 ... To Cherish God's Presence ...,
17 ... And to Live for God's Glory,
Part Three: Healthy Tensions,
18 Guiding Principles,
19 Transcendent and Immanent,
20 Head and Heart,
21 Internal and External,
22 Vertical and Horizontal,
23 Planned and Spontaneous,
24 Rooted and Relevant,
25 Skilled and Authentic,
26 For the Church and for Unbelievers,
27 Event and Everyday,
Part Four: Right Relationships,
28 Always People,
29 Your Church,
30 Your Team,
31 Your Pastor,
32 Some Thoughts for Pastors,
A Brief Annotated Bibliography,
Special Thanks,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Bob loves God, values theology, and cares about people. This mix is found throughout this wonderful and helpful book. Worship Matters will inspire you as a worshiper and spur you on as a leader of worship."
Matt Redman, recording artist; songwriter; worship leader, Brighton

"Bob Kauflin is teaching a new generation to take corporate worship seriously in a fashion that is simultaneously biblically faithful and addressing today's culture."
D. A. Carson, Emeritus Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Cofounder, The Gospel Coalition

"This book is thoroughly biblical, comprehensive, balanced, clear, and engaging. Worship leaders must read it, and it will be a great help to anyone interested in finding out what biblical worship is about and how to worship from the heart."
John M. Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy Emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary

"Bob's approach is humble, yet authoritative; comprehensive, yet inspirational. And if you take his gentle but clear teaching onboard, it will help make you fully equipped in mind, heart, and spirit to lead others in worship. I wholeheartedly recommend it."
Stuart Townend, Christian songwriter

"An outstanding book both for those who lead worship and also for every Christian who wants to worship God more fully. The book is biblical, practical, interesting, wise, and thorough in its treatment of the topic. The next time I teach on worship, I plan to make this the required text."
Wayne Grudem, Distinguished Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary; author, Christian Ethics

"Humility. Self-deprecating humor. Practical wisdom. And not just for music leaders. What a refreshing read! I've gained from Bob Kauflin, and if you read this, you will too."
Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; President, 9Marks

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