Typical book reviews have their place. Author bio, summary, critical interaction. Cool. Got it. But I like to see how books “work”: how can the ideas, arguments, and concepts of the book be applied to real life. This is especially true for me when I consider theological works. Does it have a tangible effect on the way I do ministry?
I have to say that Mike Cosper’s book, Rhythms of Grace, is probably the best book on worship I have ever read. Cosper also co-wrote a good book called Faithmapping with fellow-pastor Daniel Montgomery. But Rhythms of Grace is even better than Faithmapping (but get Faithmapping too, it’s worth it!).
Because Cosper sorts out many difficult questions about worship in an easily accessible (and biblical) way.
Worship One, Two, Three
The real pay-off chapter is called, “Worship One, Two, Three.” According to Cosper, there is one object and author of worship, two contexts for worship, and three audiences of worship (pp. 73-90).
Ultimately, God is the object and author of worship (This is a no-brainer, for worship of any other object and its idolatry). The two contexts of worship are Church Gathered and Church Scattered. The Bible shows the church gathering together for corporate worship (Hebrews 10:23-245), but also, the church “scatters” into the world where whole Christian life is to be done for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). The three audiences are God, the Church, and the World. God is the church’s audience. He is near and He hears. But we also sing and worship to each other during a worship service (Colossians 3:16). We teach and admonish one another with song! Finally, the watching world is also an audience for our worship. Just to go practical for a moment, let’s remember that our church services are public services. If we didn’t want unbelievers in our services, then why even advertise our service times? Just make it like a secret club with a secret password.
This framework helps cut through a lot of the confusion surrounding the worship debates in churches. For example, is worship to be done only a Sunday, or it is all of life? If it’s all of life, what’s the point of gathering? Is worship for believers only, or unbelievers as well? Remembering worship one, two, three can answer those is a biblical manner.
You’ll find that many of the heated battles of the worship wars erupt when these categories get confused. For instance, the well-intentioned seeker-sensitive movement seems to have lost sight of the church as an audience in worship (and a crucial one). Those who would rather lie in bed and watch The Masters on Sunday have lost sight of the call to gather with God’s church. Those who compartmentalize their ‘church’ life from their hellish ‘secular’ life forget that they are living sacrifices, and all of life is an act of worship” (86).
As a pastor—and I’m not even a worship leader!—how does this apply to my ministry?
1) One Object: As I collaborate with the other pastors and the worship leaders, am I making sure God is the object our worship in our services? This means working with the worship leaders to disciple them and train them in understanding what the Scriptures teach about worship.
2) Two Contexts: As pastor of community in my church, am I devoting time to developing both contexts for church worship: gathered and scattered? As I preach and teach the congregation, am I teaching them the importance of both corporate gatherings and living all of life for God’s glory? Am I fostering too much individualism or too much collectivism?
3) Three Audiences: Am I focusing on the gospel in my preaching and teaching? The gospel has the power to edify believers and evangelize unbelievers (thanks Tim Keller!). Am I making my teaching clear? To transcend the believers-only vs. seeker-sensitive worship debate, shouldn’t churches at least be focusing on making the gospel clear no matter who’s present? I think we assume too easily that people who have been coming to the church for a long time can clearly articulate or even understand what we’re talking about on Sunday mornings. Even in my short time as a vocational pastor, I have found that even long-time Christians can be confused by the church lingo we use. The Reformers spent a lot of time trying to get the Bible, and to communicate, in the vernacular (“common language”) of the people. Are we?
Buy, Borrow, or By-Pass: Buy, buy, buy this book. It’s really one of my favorite books I’ve read in a long time. Any Christian, from pastor to congregant, could benefit from this book. It’s super clear, biblically faithful, and intensely practical.