Review: Robbie F. Castleman’s Story-Shaped Worship

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10 out of 10 Stars
Author: Robbie Castleman
Publisher: IVP Academic
Reading Level: Moderate

The ideas of liturgy and story-shaped worship have been central in my study over the last year. It began with reading Contours of Pauline Theology then fleshed itself out in some of what I wrote here and elsewhere and finally in A Household Gospel. My primary argument is the gospel must be central in our home’s liturgy and the primary way in which we do this is by following the historical pattern of rehearsal and reenactment from the Old Testament onto the New seen in the church. Dr. Castleman affirms, “The liturgy of worship that is shaped by God’s word helps prepare the worshiper for mission shaped by God’s character” (119). In Story-Shaped Worship, she fleshes out the idea of story-formed worship historically and theologically. It’s an absolute delight to read.

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Accordingly Dr. Castleman divides the book into two sections: biblical and historical patterns of worship. Part one is a story within a story. She starts with creation and moves through biblical history so we have the rehearsal itself occurring within the admonition for rehearsal/reenactment. Right off, she orients our thoughts towards God and “the christocentric reality of the church” (35). She says, “Christians do not worship or serve God to either merit or encourage divine faithfulness. Worship, mission, witness and all Christian service is a response to the God who has demonstrated his faithfulness already” (37). She expertly traces the idea of worship through reenactment from Genesis to the early church. “Israel’s essential identity as a people delivered from bondage in Egypt was to be manifested in Israel’s worship of the one true God” (42).

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Not majored on in the book, but an important point for modern evangelicalism is the difference between rehearsal/reenactment and symbolism. For instance, baptism is not symbolic, nor our own personal testimony, but a reenactment, a rehearsal of God’s faithfulness. Also, because of the Godward focus of worship, she undercuts the forced “worship experience” of today’s church. You cannot faithfully rehearse the gospel story in the liturgy of the church and also create the “worship experience” of met felt needs that many Christians crave today. The two are mutually exclusive. One centers worship around me, me, me and the other centers around the Triune God. “Self-styled worship designed as means to other ends, especially those driven by human needs, personal desires or political agendas are devoid of God’s glory” (99).

See Also: “Gospel-Saturated Family Discipleship” and A Household Gospel

I appreciate Dr. Castleman’s holding fast to Scripture through out much of the book. She realizes Scripture must guide our worship and that comes across through much of the book. We may have differences in our understanding of the regulative principle of worship, but our shared desire to see churches rehearse the gospel story faithfully unites where details may differ. She says, “Story-shaped worship is mediated by God’s Spirit to bring to God as it reflects God’s own faithfulness to us through the Son” (186). Nothing is more significant in worship than understanding that. Worship isn’t about us. It’s about God. What He has done and will do through the Spirit by Jesus’s finished work.

How does your faith connect with the story of Israel and the person and work of Jesus Christ as the true Israel? Does your church rehearse the gospel story week? Or does it primarily strive to meet felt needs?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”