The Worship Quote of the Week for (09/01/2009):

Christian Unity and Musical Style
There is a brief health update at the end of this message.

Today’s WORSHIP QUOTE is from a brand new volume that jumped out at me this week from the shelves of our seminary bookstore. The title alone is worth the price of the book—CHRIST-CENTERED WORSHIP: LETTING THE GOSPEL SHAPE OUR PRACTICE. In the excerpt for today, seminary president Bryan Chapell (Covenant Theological Seminary) talks about musical style and unity around the truth of the gospel. I find this very helpful.

Prioritizing the honor of Christ's name and the progress of his kingdom can create harmony around a common mission that will enable us to unite in worship style choices even when personal preferences vary. As noble as this ethic may sound, however, I realize the stumbling block hindering many churches' progress toward unity in worship is music.

At levels more deep than most of us can explain, music communicates our values, anchors our feelings, and expresses our hearts. The music chosen to lead us to communion with heaven can create within us the deepest experiences of either inspiration or isolation. Music can move us or repel us. People may advocate a musical style because they find it appealing or because they believe it appropriate. What makes it appropriate can be tradition, familiarity, a sense that a certain style communicates proper respect, or a missional conviction that a style will appeal to a target generation or people group. None of this can be proven by a Bible verse or a mathematical formula, so reactions to musical choices are often more visceral than reasonable. We rely on personal judgment, past experience, advice from experts, and expressions of appreciation or criticism, and we hope (and pray) for some level of consensus.

The most important strategy for church leaders to pursue in uniting the church in worship is clear and regular articulation of gospel principles. When leaders lock arms around the common purpose of re-presenting the gospel with respect, sensitivity, and intelligence to those God has called them to teach and reach, then the leaders can more readily explain and act on their worship approach. Regular teaching of gospel priorities can also help the people of existing churches learn to be accepting of differences and deferential to others' needs while simultaneously insisting on biblically sound content, God-honoring presentation, and respect for forebears. Leaders of new churches may have more opportunity simply to declare what worship style(s) will be best for their target constituency—but eventually all churches will have their own traditions that subsequent generations will challenge.

-- Bryan Chapell, CHRIST-CENTERED WORSHIP: LETTING THE GOSPEL SHAPE OUR PRACTICE. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. 2009, pp. 296-97. I can't wait to finish this important book.


Dear Friends,

Thanks for praying for my healing from cancer. There are longer journal entries and some photos at

Not much new this week. The fuzz on the top of my head is a little darker and a little longer. The upcoming PET scan and CT scan are scheduled for Friday, September 11. These tests will allow the doctors to see if my body is really cancer free. In honesty, I was hoping to be feeling stronger by this time in the process, but I willing to accept the Lord's timing. A daily nap is still part of my schedule.

We are in the middle of the third week of classes at the seminary, and things are going well. It is so exciting to see hundreds of new students beginning their preparations for gospel ministry in local churches and on mission fields around the world.

Your friendship and prayers are a great encouragement to us.

Blessings in Christ!

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Ministries
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

To subscribe, unsubscribe, or view a complete
index of worship quotes, please visit