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Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice Hardcover – October 1, 2009
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From the Back Cover
"Christ-Centered Worship calls people to go beyond 'contemporary worship' without being polemical in spirit. It takes historic worship traditions very seriously but uses the gospel itself as the way to critique and design orders of worship. It is full, balanced, and extremely practical. This will now be the first book I give people--or turn to myself--on the practice of understanding, planning, and leading in corporate worship."
--Tim Keller, senior pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church; author of The Reason for God
"[This] book rich in theory and application provides a top resource for worship leaders, directors, pastors, or anyone involved in planning corporate worship. It connects us to worship history and helps us think more clearly about what exactly we communicate in the context of worship. Chapell gives us a template and vocabulary for thinking about, planning, and evaluating our worship."
--Andrea Hunter, Worship Leader
"So many books about worship unfortunately assume that the structure or pattern of worship is not important, failing to realize that some pattern is inevitable and that no pattern is neutral. This book is a wonderful exception. It radiates with gratitude for the gospel of Jesus. It promotes both confessional orthodoxy and vital piety. But it also probes how well-grounded patterns and structures can become wellsprings for faithful, sustainable, and vibrant worship renewal."
--John D. Witvliet, director, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary
"Chapell's superb book Christ-Centered Preaching has become one of the standard texts on preaching in evangelical seminaries. Church leaders now can welcome a parallel volume. . . . Chapell has pressed the church to re-think its approach to worship and reminded us that worship is not about us and our preferences--it is about Christ and His glory."
--Michael Duduit, Preaching
"Truly exceptional. . . . Alongside his brief survey of the history of liturgy, accompanied by some magnificent charts, Chapell provides worship resources for those who want to dip Sunday services more into the liturgical practices of the Church."
--Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed blog
About the Author
Bryan Chapell (PhD, Southern Illinois University) is senior pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, as well as president emeritus at Covenant Theological Seminary and distinguished professor of preaching at Knox Theological Seminary. He is a widely traveled speaker and the author of numerous books, including Christ-Centered Preaching and Christ-Centered Sermons.
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The second section continues by developing the practice of Christ-centered worship. The writer describes how "traditional" and "contemporary" churches (terms which the author expresses some distaste for) might carry out each of these elements in their worship. Chapell also includes a section on the communion which is quite insightful as well as a section on musical styles, which serves to reemphasize points made in the first section of the book. The book closes with a number of worship resources on the internet, which will be quite helpful to the music pastor or worship leader of any church.
The purpose of the book is best stated by the author himself: "My intention has not been to take sides in the traditional/contemporary worship debate or to try to mandate a liturgy for all churches. Rather my goal has been to encourage church leaders to identify their churches' specific calling as the basis for making decisions about worship approaches and resources that may be traditional, contemporary, or something even better." (154)
Christ-Centered Worship is just as revolutionary, if not more so, than Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. The book is also just as practical as the author's inspirational title Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength. The book serves as an academic, yet practical look at worship and liturgy. The writer's conclusions are able to be implemented in churches regardless of worship style and serve only to strengthen the substance of their worship. If truly implemented across the breadth of evangelical Christianity, what has been a major barrier to fellowship would fall and would actually become a bridge to fellowship. Truly the reader, regardless of worship background, baggage, and convictions will not be disappointed as Chapell's insights do not fail to instruct and guide the attentive reader to, as he states: "something better."
Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Worship is one of the best books on worship I have ever read. It now rests firmly in my top three (not sure what the other two are, but I'm giving myself some wiggle room). Some may not want to read the lengthy review which follows, so I'll start with overall bullet points that I hope will be helpful to people.
* Pastors, worship leaders, and worshipers who cherish a robust understanding and experience of the gospel should read this book.
* Evangelical worshipers interested in incorporating "liturgy" into their worship should start with this book.
* Evangelical worshipers not interested at all in liturgy should still read this book because it will wake them up to something profound about their worship practice.
* Liturgical worshipers interested in understanding the basis for their liturgy should start with this book.
* Liturgical worshipers who think they know all the what's and why's of their liturgy should still read this book, because I bet you'll be hit with at least one profound "aha" moment.
* The book is split into two parts, and the first part (pages 1-155) is the book's meat and potatoes.
* If you didn't get much out of Chapell's Christ-Centered Preaching (I'm one of those), don't count this book out. This book's "Christ-centeredness" has a whole new approach.
* The book is not angry and critical, but embracing and critical.
* The book's subtitle "Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice" is actually an excellent summary of the entire book.
* Though Chapell is the President of a major Reformed seminary, the book does not express worship from a necessarily Reformed angle. It is a book about and for Christian worship at large.
Christ-Centered Worship is unifying, ecumenical, and irenic in spirit as it straddles various worship traditions. But the remarkable thing is that it does so without going down the road of theological liberalism. Its ecumenism arrives not by compromising theological distinctives but by observing the core of every truly Christian worship expression--the gospel. Since the dawn of Tim Keller and like-minded gospel preachers, I have longed to see how such radical and biblical views of the gospel as the good news of God for everyone (non-Christians and Christians) informs Christian worship and practice. I have found it in this book. If you're familiar with Keller's teaching on the gospel, you will then know what I'm implying when I say that this book could easily be titled "Gospel-Centered Worship."
Now, I am no Bryan Chapell crony. In fact, I was hoping that his previous book, Christ-Centered Preaching would be along those same Keller-lines (i.e. preaching the gospel in every sermon). Some believe Chapell succeeded in that former work in doing so, but I found myself disappointed. If you're in that same boat about Christ-Centered Preaching, trust me, don't count out Christ-Centered Worship.
My final overall observation is a word of appreciation for how obviously hard Chapell was trying to be peaceable. I scoured footnotes, just waiting for him to take a jab at a tradition with which I knew he would not fully agree. I could not find a single place. Even in his penetrating remarks about contemporary worship, the usual traditionalist vitriol is utterly absent. In this sense Chapell walks the talk of the gospel. Peacableness, in general, is not all that refreshing in modern writing, as I think the "PC-ness" of modern culture has made our writing and argumentation too limp-wristed. But from a Reformed writer like Chapell, and writing on a topic such as worship, a peaceable spirit is extremely refreshing. Coming just off the heels of reading a 1997 article on worship by one Presbyterian ripping into another, dripping with arrogance and condescension, Chapell was a shocking contrast. Hey, Reformed folk can be nice! :)
Walk-Through and Comments
The book is split into two parts. Part 1, "Gospel Worship," is Chapell's building of his case. Part 2, "Gospel Worship Resources" is Chapell's helpful application of his case. It's easy to see that the 150 pages of Part 1 should be where one spends the bulk of their time, while viewing Part 2 as a resource to turn to at various later points. Because Part 1 comprises the main material, that's where I'll spend my time...
The rest of this review can be found at: