Book Recommendation from a Pastor
“Christ-Centered Worship” by Bryan Chappell
Recommendation by Pastor David Lee
My first real experience with Christian worship was the small, conservative Lutheran church connected with my elementary school. Its corporate worship practices were alien to me. A formal altar at the front of the sanctuary, stained glass windows lining the walls, pastors and deacons with flowing robes, service bulletins the thickness of small books, formal recitations and chants, multiple Scripture readings, a mysterious thing called a lectionary. It brought seven year-old me to tears of boredom.
Eventually as I moved into other Christian circles, I started to become familiar with corporate worship that more closely resembled what most of us have experienced in corporate worship: contemporary music, simplified order of service, a loose, an emphasis on flexibility and spontaneity. It could not have felt more opposite to what I had grown up with in that tiny Lutheran church. And a silent tension existed from that moment on: how do Christians worship so differently? Beyond preference and style, is one style right? How do I make sense of the vast variety of Christian worship?
An important step in relieving that tension came in Bryan Chappell’s, “Christ-Centered Worship.” Chappell is the Stated Clerk Pro Temper of the PCA (whatever that means) and was formerly the president of Covenant Theological Seminary. He writes the book to get to the heart of Christian worship. He writes, “Worship cannot simply be a matter of arbitrary choice, church tradition, personal preference or cultural appeal. There are foundational truths in the gospel of Christ’s redeeming work that do not change if the gospel is to remain the gospel. So, if our worship structures are to tell this story consistently, then there must be certain aspects of our worship that remain consistent” (85).
The heart of Chappell’s book is that Christian worship has taken on many different styles over the millennia, all Christians have striven to structure their services as a rehearsal and retelling of the Gospel. He covers various forms of the different Christian traditions from pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism to modern day Free Church worship, and he observes that while there are superficial differences, they all express a similar “gospel structure” consisting of eight basic components.
- Adoration (recognition of God’s greatness and grace)
- Confession (acknowledgement of our sin and need for grace)
- Assurance (affirmation of God’s provision of grace)
- Thanksgiving (expression of praise and thanks for God’s grace)
- Petition and Intercession (expression of dependence on God’s grace)
- Instruction (acquiring the knowledge to grow in grace)
- Communion/Fellowship (celebrating the grace of union with Christ and his people)
- Charge and Blessing (living for and in the light of God’s grace)
This was a huge paradigm shift for me. As the worship pastor at Lighthouse, I now saw that our service is more than just a welcome, a few warm up songs, squeezing in the offering somewhere, a sermon, some closing songs, and a bunch of announcements. Our services are a telling of the Gospel, a weekly rehearsal of the truths that define us. We are called to worship at the beginning of our service, we sing songs about the greatness of God, we confess our sins corporately, we receive assurance of forgiveness in Christ, we respond with thanksgiving through our offering, and we receive the Word as we desire in obedient response to our Savior, and we are sent out with the Lords’ blessing in a benediction. This is the rhythm of the Christian existence, not just in an hour and fifteen minute sermon, but in all of life.
If you want to better understand the Gospel-shaped worship services at Lighthouse (or any church for that matter), I highly recommend this book. And it will also show you the Gospel-shaped worship that should be taking place each day.
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