Review: Story-Shaped Worship

Story-Shaped Worship
Story-Shaped Worship by Robbie Castleman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Robbie Castleman contends that worship that is pleasing to God is worship that is shaped by the story of God–a story where God, and not me (or us), is the hero! What she sets out to do, and accomplishes, in this book is to explore the resources in the Old and New Testaments, and in Jewish and Christian practice through the centuries that may inform the shape of our worship today. How worship shaped by God’s story appears may look very different in different times and cultures but there are some underlying contours that distinguish between God-pleasing, and human-centered worship.

The first part of her book explores the biblical pattern for worship. She begins in Genesis with God, creation, fall, and what she calls the first “worship war” between Cain and Abel. She goes on to explore worship patterns, the matter of sacred space and the importance of sabbath in Israel’s worship and identity. She then identifies a seven-fold pattern of worship that emerges in the liturgical patterns of ancient Israel that she believes has continuing relevance to story-shaped worship: God’s call, praise of God, confession, declaration of the good news of our forgiveness, the Word of the Lord, responding to the Word, and Benediction. She proceeds to talk about worship by the book, that we are not free to improvise any way we wish or turn worship to other purposes than the glory of God. Worship is to reflect an obedience grounded in the grace of God. She concludes this first part with looking at the rise of the synagogue and the pattern of readings and prayers that was carried over into Christian practice.

The second part considers structures of worship in the patristic, reformation and contemporary periods. In the patristic period the church worked out in its liturgy what it was clarifying in many of the early battles around the Godhead, the person of Christ and his work. The reformation was a period of both confirmation and correction–reaffirming patterns that were true while modifying practices of the eucharist (and baptism) around differing understandings of the meanings of these ordinances. In the contemporary period, the issue is avoiding falling into a subjectivism of worship where everyone does what is right in their own minds, while adapting the resources of scripture to develop God-honoring worship that is faithful to his story.

Each chapter includes a “workshop”–a series of questions that may be used by worship leadership teams. The book concludes with a chart of the Christian year showing how this is another way of shaping worship around God’s story. An extensive glossary and bibliography is also included.

Robbie Castleman is a former work colleague. A personal memory of Robbie is her strict commitment to spend time speaking to and listening to God before she participated in any other conversations in her day. This passion for God, and God’s story runs through this book, which offers helpful resources for the theology and practice of worshiping God for any who share her passion for God.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Story-Shaped Worship

  1. Pingback: March 2014: The Month In Reviews « Bob on Books

    • Why would God be so preoccupied about how we give praise to him? Is the “old fashioned way” the best or only way to worship? The story of our relationship with God does not end at some point in history, it is a continuous story that does not end with “Revelations”. We think and act in a more sophisticated manner than we did thousands of years ago (most of us anyway), why shouldn’t our methods of worship reflect that sophistication? Simply because there were no computers during Biblical times, am I not allowed to worship online in the intimacy and privacy of my own home?


      • Thanks for your comments! Since this is a review, your best bet might be to engage with the author. I suspect that some of the answer is that we always consider the character of a person in how we relate to that person and the more important that person, the more we consider their character. We certainly would not relate to the president of the United States in any old way. Yet it seems that we sometimes assume that we may do this with God. I’m not sure about the old fashioned vs sophisticated. While our technology is different it seems that there are examples of noble and thoughtful people in past millenia, and utterly brutal figures today. C. S. Lewis and others have noted the danger of chronological snobbery–of assuming we are more enlightened than our forebears.


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