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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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Top Customer Reviews
One of the features that I found most helpful were the charts (there are nineteen of them altogether) that detail the liturgies of Rome, Luther, Calvin, Westminster (English Presbyterianism of the 1600's), and a contemporary liturgy suggested by Robert Rayburn. These charts have side-by-side columns that permit an easy comparison of the various parts of these five liturgical traditions. My only criticism of Chapell's choices is that he did not include the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox tradition or a liturgy of the early church.
In addition, in Part 2 ("Gospel Worship Resources"), "Christ-Centered Worship" includes numerous examples of calls to worship, affirmations of faith, benedictions and charges, and so forth. This material will prove invaluable for any pastor or worship leader who desires to construct dignified yet relevant weekly liturgies. It alone is worth the cost of the book. (There is also an appendix on worship resources on the internet. While I'm sure this is still useful, my guess is that in the four years since the publication of this book the material in this appendix has become somewhat dated.)
Chapter 20, "Christ-Centered Sermons," is a must-read for all pastors. This section puts in a nutshell what Chapell talks about in much greater detail in his earlier work, "Christ-Centered Preaching." Standing in the tradition of the late Edmund Clowney and others who emphasized the centrality of Christ in preaching, Chapell provides the justification for the centrality of Christ and briefly describes how to craft a sermon so that it maintains this focus.
Although by no means his intent (his tone being positive throughout), by describing the richness of the liturgical traditions of the church, Chapell's book provides a stinging indictment of much of what passes for worship today, particularly in so-called seeker-friendly churches. For a discussion more specifically devoted to "contemporary-style worship," one that includes a chapter on preaching, I would suggest [...]
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: