Christ-Centered Worship
Bryan Chapell
Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2009 Hardcover, 320 pp.

Bryan Chapell’s superb book Christ-Centered Preaching (Baker) has become one of the standard texts on preaching in evangelical seminaries. Church leaders now can welcome a parallel volume in Chapell’s newest contribution, Christ-Centered Worship (Baker).

Chapell roots his study of worship in the history and traditions of the church, arguing for the necessity of understanding those traditions without being bound to them. As he observes, “Slavish loyalty to traditions will keep us from ministering effectively to our generation, but trashing the past entirely denies God’s purposes for the church on which we must build. If we do not learn from the past, we will lose insights God has granted others as they have interacted with His Word and people. Always we are to be informed by tradition; never are we to be ruled by it.”

The manner in which we worship, Chapell asserts, is an indication of how we view the gospel. The initial section of the book is an exploration of five liturgical approaches—Rome, Luther, Calvin, Westminster and a contemporary approach based on the work of Robert G. Rayburn in his 1980 book O Come, Let Us Worship—and demonstrates how each approach to worship expresses the gospel in its own way.

In addition to exploring the church’s various liturgical streams, Chapell also discusses the biblical patterns and emphases that should undergird and inform our worship practices. He notes that the New Testament does not offer extended discussion of early Christian worship practices, suggesting various “elements of worship rather than their precise order or content.” Those elements include such practices of corporate worship as prayer, reading of Scripture, preaching, singing and sacraments. As he lightheartedly observes, “The New Testament does not provide us with even one bulletin from a worship service in the time of Jesus or Paul.”

Christ-centered worship, Chapell says, re-presents the story of Christ. Although there is no single biblically mandated style of worship, what is clear is that Christian worship should reflect the dynamics of the gospel—it “always confronts the believer with the greatness and goodness of God.” As we receive assurance of God’s love, we respond in thanksgiving and express our love toward Him. Worship is “a love response to the truths of the gospel.”

Thus, worship must be Christ-centered because that is the redemptive pattern of Scripture. “Because worship is a response to this witness of redemption,” Chapell writes, “the grace God provides through His Son is the thread that sews the service together.” As a result, “We make our worship Christ-centered not by simply mentioning the name of Jesus, and definitely not by failing to honor the Father and the Spirit; we make our worship Christ-centered by shaping it to help God’s people understand and appreciate the grace in all of Scripture that culminates in their Savior’s ministry.”

Chapell addresses the current conflicts over worship style that plague many congregations. He observes that too many churches “only know how to make those choices based on the power and preferences of a dominant person or party in the church. As a consequence, worship style is determined by arbitrary rule (‘I’ve
decided … ‘), personal taste (‘What I like is … ‘), church tradition (‘What we have always done is … ‘), or cultural preference (‘What the people will find acceptable, attractive or enjoyable is … ‘).” Instead, worship choices must be made based on our mission to present Christ.

The balance of the book explores various elements of worship, as well as resources on which we can draw. Chapell also offers examples of various worship services representing different theological and ecclesiastical traditions—from “historic Reformed” to “emerging.” He addresses such topics as communion, preaching, music and more.

In Christ-Centered Worship, 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.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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Bryan Chapell is one of the most significant homileticians of our day; and in this masterful work, Christ-Centered Worship (Baker), he draws on solid biblical and historical study to help us understand the nature of authentic worship. Chapell offers a helpful blend of background and practical guidance. Whatever the style of worship in your church, you will benefit from engaging with the ideas in this important volume.

Share This On:

About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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