My transition from volunteer to worship leader was a bit of a crash course, so I made sure to start grabbing books, reading blogs, and really living worship development. Some of us don’t like to read books, but I’m just going to say “grow up” and not even deal with that objection. You either take this seriously or you don’t. Now that I’ve come off like a jerk, I’d like to help narrow your potential reading list. These four books were the most helpful to me in my development as a worship leader:
4. Look and Live by Matt Papa
Written by a worship leader, primarily to worship leaders, Look and Live has application far beyond this core audience. It’s the one book on this list I would recommend to any church member. Matt Papa makes a compelling case to slow down, to drink deep the person of God. Pulling from his own experiences and from a selection of influential church thinkers, he pulls apart why contemplation of our Savior is not easy at first. The overwhelming nature of God’s glory can lead us to take glances rather than be fully changed by what we see and study. If you are finding your ministry life full of duty, just going through the motions, this could be a great spiritual reset for you.
Sample passage: “Human beings tend to worship whatever glory we put in front of our face. Whether it’s the glory of God or something else. We worship money when we put the glory of money in front of our face. We do this by staying up late and watching the stock market, rising early and conquering emails, worrying about not having enough money, envying other people that have more than we do. We “behold” the glory of money. So how do we behold the glory of God? How do we put his glory in front of our face?”
3. Doxology & Theology edited by Matt Boswell
While Boswell has the title credit for this book, it’s actually a compilation from several different worship leaders, each writing on a different topic. This book is great for the deep dive it manages to take into several important areas, providing more variety than a typical single author book. I can’t say that I agree with every doctrinal conclusion found in here, and there are a couple of dud chapters, but because of this format it’s simple enough to be on to the next chapter. There’s good stuff here.
Sample passage: “Where the Word of God is taught correctly, the opportunity exists for the informed worshippers to respond to God with their heart and mind, with affection and thought. The word of God doesn’t merely stir affections, but informs minds as well. Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half-full) of artificial admirers. On the other hand, emotion without truth produces empty frenzy, and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought.”
2. Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper
Mike Cosper leads at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville and is the founder of Sojourn music. He takes a very analytical look at worship in the Bible that doesn’t stray too far into academic. Rhythms of Grace begins with a walk through the Bible, showcasing a narrative of worship that is exemplified throughout the scriptures. Then it moves into practical theory of worship in a modern setting. Why do we worship the way we do, what are biblical worship activities, and to what audience do we express our worship? If you’ve every felt the need to define your liturgy so that you could express it beyond a gut feeling, this is how you get there.
Sample Passage: “Like any challenging topic for the life of the church, much centers on our definitions. So far we have described worship as ascribing worth to God by participating in His own glory-sharing life. That took a particular shape in Eden, another shape in Israel, and yet an altogether new shape in the life of the church. To describe that worship life in the church, I want to suggest a framework I call worship One, Two, Three. Simply put, worship has One object and author, Two contexts, and Three audiences. Once defined, this framework can answer a lot of the questions, confusions, and challenges that come up when we talk about worship in the church.”
1. Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin
Bob Kauflin’s worship career has spanned decades, and he has put his experience to great help for all of us in Worship Matters. Where he would have room to brag about his accomplishments, he rather turns the focus on his struggles with pride, and how he relies daily on God to check him. This book has become a staple of worship development programs because it covers a broad philosophy of worship leadership. I’ve used this book several times for development of worship team members as well as potential worship leaders. He gets into the relationship with the pastor, leadership of teams, and very practical ideas as well as foundational worship philosophy. If you’ve not read much about the ministry of the worship leader, then this is the place to start.
Sample Passage: “You know what it’s like: People approach you and exude extravagant praise for a song that they heard at a conference, on the radio, or at another church, and you brace yourself for the inevitable: ‘Why don’t we sing this song at our church?’ How should your respond? Here’s what I typically try to do…”