I recently completed Mike Cosper’s book Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel and was able to sing along because he skillfully frames church worship, liturgy, and the gospel story.
Cosper inspires by retelling the story of worship starting before the beginning, through creation and the Garden, and on to the coming of the Son of Man. He ends his summary of gospel song this way:
“That’s the story of worship: God creates, sin corrupts, but Christ redeems. And all of us get to sing along.”
He goes on to break down worship into three parts:
- One object and author
- Two contexts
- Three audiences
He writes, “God is at the center of our worship. He is the single most glorious thing in the whole universe, the One to whom we ascribe the greatest and highest worth…Worship is about God, from beginning to end.”
Cosper distinguishes the two contexts as scattered and gathered. When scattered we worship and spread the gospel individually. We represent Christ as He works and sings through us while we’re going. But when we come together, we sing the same gospel to one another.
“The gathered body teaches the Word and proclaims it together; we speak the truth in love as we sing, read the Scriptures, and remember the gospel together.”
He defines the three audiences: God, the church, and the watching world.
“There is God, who is both the object of our praise and a witness to us as we praise him; there is the church, which both participates in and witnesses the lives and gatherings of the people, and there is the world watching from the darkness.”
Cosper then challenges us with what goes wrong when we confuse these categories and overemphasize contexts and audiences. He tells the story of the church, provides excellent examples of gospel shaped liturgy, and beautifully reminds us:
“The gospel is what connects people – not music. Our differences are never so slight as they are at the foot of the cross.”
“If we’re gathering humbly, united by the gospel, we should be marked by a sense of thankfulness that brings us together, regardless of our stylistic and cultural decisions.”
“If music in the church is just about consumeristic preference, then my singing is motivated by personal tastes. If singing is about letting God’s Word dwell among us, then my singing is motivated by love for God.”
“We need to be willing to boldly challenge tradition for the sake of gospel clarity.”
What about you? Are you singing the gospel and worshiping with clarity, passion, and a love for God and other people? Are you willing to give grace to others who have different worship styles and preferences?