Category Archives: Worship

Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper

 

After finishing this book, it took me a couple days to actually begin writing this review. One reason is I was busy, but the other reason is I was so overwhelmed with everything this book said I was trying to let it soak in. Rhythms of Grace is a book that I would recommend every church leadership team read together. It is THAT powerful! Mike Cosper is a founding pastor at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky where he serves as pastor of worship and arts. He is also the founder of Sojourn Music. To put it in simple terms, this is his heart and he speaks with conviction, wisdom and understanding that we in the church should take the time to listen to.

The best thing about this book is all throughout it, Mike constantly points to the center of the Christian faith and the reason why we do what we do (or should be why): the Gospel. If the Gospel is not at the center of everything a church does, what is the center? Would that church really make a difference? Or will it become so self-centered that it transforms into some sort of spiritual country club where the gospel is hardly mentioned at all and it is simply a social hub. The way a church worships should be centered on the gospel. If how the church worships does not bring glory to God, it is bringing glory to something else, which is idolatry.

The back of the book makes this statement:

“Is it singing? A church service? All of life? Helping Christians think more theologically about the nature of true worship, Rhythms of Grace shows how the gospel is all about worship and worship is all about the gospel. Mike Cosper ultimately answers the question, What is worship?”

This is what makes this book so great. Mike does not just attack styles or methods but goes right to the heart and soul of worship. Why do we gather as a church? What is the purpose of the church gathered? How can the church gathered utilize its time for the greatest impact for the kingdom of God? Worship is more than just singing and he tackles that in a tactful manner that will get people thinking. Worship is everything we do throughout life, not just the songs we sing on Sunday morning. If we believe that worship is only what happens on Sunday morning, then we are truly missing the heart of worship and what the Christian life is all about. From the moment of creation to now, life has been about worship. All of creation was made for worship. We were made to worship God. Church was not instituted by God to all of a sudden be the only place people worshiped. God created people for the purpose of worship and fellowship. Unfortunately, we in the church have made it more about style and how we feel than about who God is and who we are singing to and about.

This book will challenge you and your church to worship God with all that you are and actually take a look at how you set up your worship service and why you do it that way. Worship is all about the gospel and if we do not have an understanding of the Gospel, we will not worship as we were created to worship. Because only in the Gospel can true worship take place. If the only time we think about the gospel is Sunday morning, then our hearts will not be ready to sing. If our lives Monday through Saturday do not match what we profess to believe, then our Sunday mornings will not bring a smile to God’s face either. Worship is so much more than what we the church have made it about. It encompasses all of life and that is the only way true worship happens, when it actually invades our lives. The world was created in a rhythm. Sin upset that rhythm. The Gospel helps us see the rhythm and move back towards it while restoring our hearts to the real reason for worship. From the very beginning, life has been about worship, and worship has been about the Gospel. If the church does not grasp this, then the church will not be truly worshiping.

Rhythms Of Grace was packed with quotes but I want to share a few that stood out to me as I read through this book. Maybe it will help pique your interest in this book.

“At it’s heart, worship is rooted in love.”

“Worship as an activity that’s somehow separate from the rest of life appears nonexistent and frankly, unnecessary. In the seamless perfection of that virgin world, it is all worship – a constant reflection of God’s love, glory, and brilliance.”

“When worship gets married to a particular style of music, the consequences are huge.”

“We need to lead worship in such a way that when people gather, they see Jesus.”

“Only someone with a deep background in the Scriptures and pastoral theology can make discerning decisions about songs, prayers and rhythms of grace in the life of the church.”

“A congregation is just as responsible to sing the gospel as the preachers are to preach it.”

“Because we tend to define worship as singing, we tend also to treat singing as an individualized encounter with God. Worship is a broader thing than music, and music’s purpose in the church is bigger than my personal experience. It’s not merely my song, but our song. We sing together, uniting our voices and our words.”

I sincerely loved this book and highly recommend every church leader read it. I would take that a little further and say that I believe every follower of Christ would benefit from this book as it is a refreshing look at worship and church and the Gospel in a way that is God-centered, not man-centered. May we learn from this and realize that worship is all about the gospel, the gospel is all about worship and it is a cycle that feeds off of itself and changes our lives from the inside out.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review. Thanks for taking the time to read this review and feel free to leave comments or questions.


A Few Thoughts On Worship

 

Friday, July 8th I went took the youth from Journey Church to King’s Fest at King’s Dominion. This is a yearly Christian music festival featuring many top artists, bands and speakers. It is a fun time to enjoy all the rides the park has to offer and also attend mini-concerts. I just want to share something that struck me from this year’s trip.

The day started out great with the rain staying away and everyone was able to enjoy the rides without any problem. Then came 4 PM when the concerts were starting to swing into high gear and along with it came the rain. It started raining pretty hard causing us to consider just heading home since it did not seem it was going to let up and when it rains like it did, they close the rides for obvious safety reasons. But my story picks up with what happened right before we left. We had just ridden the Flight of Fear coaster, which is an indoor roller coaster, a couple times and as we were heading back to the van, the rain began letting up and we passed the amphitheater where the concerts were taking place. It appeared as though they were still allowing people in and thus the youth from my group wanted to go see what was going on. It turns out the Newsboys were about to continue the festival with a concert. So after begging me a little bit, I conceded to allow us to stay for their performance and then head back. It had been a long day, most everyone was soaked and we still had at least a 3 hour drive ahead of us. I was reluctant because I was considering the fact that the adults are the ones who have to drive back and we were the ones most tired but let me say that I am glad we stayed. I was able to get a glimpse of something that was truly amazing.

Let me attempt to set the stage. Something has been bothering me for a while concerning the church here in America and what we consider to be worship and what worship is even all about. We attend church on Sunday mornings, sometimes Sunday evenings and then maybe attend a small group throughout the week. For many Christians, Sunday morning worship is more of a duty. They stand up and sing but with begrudging attitudes and hardly any joy being expressed in their faces. I truly believe this saddens the heart of God when His followers cannot muster up any kind of facial expressions of joy while singing about our Great God and King, OUR Savior, the One who Redeemed us, paid the price that we owed out of love for us. How anyone can sing to Him and not allow their hearts and minds to be moved to the point that it is expressed in a change of outward expression is beyond me. It is a pet peeve of mine to see people singing about How great our God is with a blank expression on their face. It is NOT A SIN to show emotion in the church. In fact, I feel that God receives more glory from people who can actually sing to Him and actually show some emotion and allow their hearts, minds and souls to be moved by what they are singing. It is NOT A SIN to show true joy. If we show more joy at ANYTHING other than our God and Savior, then we have a heart problem.

But anyways, back to my point, it just saddens me to see it happen in churches. I know many people who attend are not believers and thus they will not show any emotion so I am not talking about them. I am speaking to followers of Christ who profess Christ and teach Christ. I know many people are not huge on outward expression, as I am not really one of them either but God has been working in my heart in this regard in that how can I get excited about anything and not allow myself to get excited with Worshiping the God of this universe? It is beyond me.

So, with that in mind, I come back to Friday evening and listening to the Newsboys. It was getting dark by the time they began and most of their concert took place in the dark, except for the lights and stage and spot lights. Facing the stage were two spotlights where when you looked at their beam, you could see the rain falling. It was not a hard rain except at a couple points but it was enough to have already deterred some from attending. As part of their performance, the Newsboys added in a couple worship songs which everyone knew and were able to sing along with. Well, as we were singing, I just looked across the number of people who were there enjoying this time and singing along and it moved me. To see people singing to God in spite of the rain and completely undeterred by it was an awesome experience. It was not comfortable being wet at the moment but this time had me more caught up in who God was than how wet I was. I felt it was a small glimpse at what worship must truly be about and what kind of worship brings a smile to the face of God.

We have allowed ourselves in the church to become too comfortable. We want to worship in air conditioned buildings where we can control the environment. We are more concerned with our comfort and our environment and how comfortable I am than in who God IS. I also understand there are some physical limitations of people who keep them from being able to stand for longer periods of time. But once again, that is not my point.

My point is that when we are involved in true worship and allowing our hearts to be completely open to “Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13), we become less concerned with our environment, our circumstances and our comfort. We become more and more consumed with who God is and when this happens, worship happens. Worship should move us to think more about God than about our comfort and about our environment and about our circumstances. It should move us to worship God for who He IS and who we profess Him to BE.

Does your worship do that? All I know is that I long for my worship to do that. Worship is NOT about music and how great a band sounds or making sure that things go off without a glitch.  Worship IS about God and how great and amazing and powerful and loving and just and merciful and gracious HE IS. Allow yourself to be caught up in that and see if your attitude does not change in regards to your circumstances.

 

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