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Bob Kauflin - What Worship Is and Isn't

  • 2000 1 Apr
Bob Kauflin - What Worship Is and Isn't
Worship Matters
By Bob Kauflin of PDI Ministries

Editor's Note: I'd like to welcome our newest Musician's Issues columnist, Bob Kauflin of PDI Ministries and formerly of the group GLAD! I hope you enjoy Bob's focus on Worship Matters. - Scott A. Shuford, Producer, The Music Channel at

Over the past three months, I've had the privilege to attend or help lead worship conferences in New England, Nashville, and my home church in Maryland. I've met people of all ages, and from all denominations and walks of life. Each person has had an insatiable desire to learn about worship, not just in relation to his or her role as a musician, singer, or worship leader, but as a way of life.

Shortly after our own worship conference this past August, I was contacted by to see if I would be willing to write a regular column on worship for the site. I was surprised (well, shocked might be a better word), pleased, and slightly intimidated. Here's my problem: The more I read and hear on the subject of worship, the less qualified I feel to address it!

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, "True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (Jn 4:23, NIV). That seems simple enough, but how exactly do we do that? William Temple offers us these insightful words:

"Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose -- and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin."


With 2000 years of church history behind us, what can be said about worship that hasn't already been said? I'm not sure. We can read books on worship, watch videos, listen to worship CDs, and attend worship conferences throughout the world. We live in the information age, the Internet age, where most anything we want to know (and a great deal that we don't) is at our virtual fingertips. Don't know something about worship? Your search engine stands ready to assist you.

Nevertheless, questions and debates about worship remain. How does it take place? What does it look like? What does it sound like? Is it contemporary or traditional? Is it to be emotional? What about lifting hands, clapping, and other physical expressions? What are the crucial components of worship? When you leave a church meeting and return home, how do you know whether or not you have really worshipped? How does the worship that takes place during meetings relate to the worship that is supposed to characterize a Christian's daily life?

These questions are not trivial. Someone recently estimated at least one church a week divides over the issue of worship and worship styles. We need to know more about worship -- what it is, and what it isn't.

But in the end, worship isn't about what we know. It's about who we know. The Westminster Catechism states that our primary reason for existing is to know God and to enjoy him forever. John Calvin wrote that our life's greatest goal is to be numbered among the worshipers of God. You don't have to belong to any particular expression of the Body of Christ to embrace statements like these. Worship is about God and how we respond to him. Therefore, our beliefs and practices regarding worship must come from God himself. Worship, after all, is God's idea not ours.

"Worship is the supreme and only indispensable activity of the Christian Church. It alone will endure, like the love for God which it expresses, into heaven, when all other activities of the church will have passed away. It must therefore, even more strictly than any of the less essential doings of the Church, come under the criticism and control of the revelation on which the church is founded." -- David Peterson, quoting Nicholls, in Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship. (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1993, p. 15)

In the days to come I look forward to discussing with you the many facets of worshiping this God whom we were created to love, serve, and adore.

Before I close, I probably ought to share a little of my background. Raised a Catholic, when I was 19 years old I completely trusted in Jesus' atoning work on the Cross for me. Around that time, I was part of the contemporary Christian group GLAD (at least it was contemporary then...). I toured full-time with GLAD for eight years, but had a growing desire to help train and minister to others on a more consistent basis. So, in 1984 I left GLAD to serve in a local church.

God led me to a group of churches that are now associated under the name of PDI Ministries, led by C.J. Mahaney and a team of several other men. PDI is today a growing family of about 45 churches, located primarily in the United States. Our name refers to our motto:

* Proclaiming God's grace
* Developing local churches
* Influencing our world with the gospel

I served as a pastor in PDI churches in Virginia and North Carolina from 1985 until 1997, when I moved to Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD to head up worship development for PDI. In this role, my primary functions are to develop a theology of worship, lead corporate worship in various contexts, and train worship leaders and teams. I also have the joy of working with songwriters Mark Altrogge, Steve & Vikki Cook, and others to write and produce songs for corporate worship. We try to assure that these songs are both doctrinally sound and emotionally passionate.

The more I learn about worshiping the living God, the more amazed I become that he has called us to be his worshipers. I look forward to exploring with you the riches of God as we tackle the subject of worship in the days to come. May we all be changed, for the glory of God.

For His glory, Bob