In the past couple weeks I have tried to suggest two reasons (among many others) problems in worship exists today. The first is that pastors are untrained in worship and music, and the second is that church musicians have little theological competency.
I have observed a growing trend in recent years to try to solve the second of these problems. More and more church musicians are recognizing their role as a pastor in the church and along with this the need for robust theological education. Individuals desiring to be worship pastors are increasingly giving themselves to a seminary education, and the curriculum in many church music degrees has a good theological foundation.
Unfortunately, the perception remains, however, that “music guys” are theological illiterate. In addition to this, the problem of lack of education in worship and music still remains among many pastors. Thus many pastors continue to see worship music as little more than entertainment, or at best “spiritual stimulation.”
This reality is seen perhaps best in the fact that fewer churches are hiring full-time worship pastors any longer. I regularly receive requests from church musicians for suggestions of churches looking to hire, and yet I regularly come back empty handed. Church that once housed robust church music programs now have little in that area.
So what can a thoughtful, well-educated, ministry-minded church musician do to convince pastors that there is more to worship than just preaching (although preaching is important and central to worship) and that music in worship is more than entertainment or “stimulation”? Here are a few suggestions:
Invest yourself in a robust theological education. If church musicians want to be taken seriously by those more theologically educated, then they must be conversant in basic biblical and theological issues. And this is not merely a concession to “get a hearing.” As I argued last week, worship is a profoundly theological matter.
Spend time with pastors and theologians. Sometimes church musicians get into their own little enclave of other church musicians, and it’s no wonder they have no voice. Attend pastors’ conferences and theological meetings. Demonstrate that you believe theology and ministry are important.
Fully equip yourselves with an understanding of the history and theology of worship. If pastors are not educated in these areas, then it will be largely up to the church musicians to help them understand their importance. This means that you need to have a full grasp on them and on the best ways to articulate the ideas.
Make the effort to instruct pastors and others in your church in the importance of worship, the nature and purpose of music in worship, etc. This is something that will certainly take time, but if you know of open-minded pastors who are willing to give you time for a hearing, spend that time patiently explaining historical, theological, and philosophical issues that inform a more robust understanding of worship and music.
Finally, invest in children. Children will one day be pastors, and if we take the time at early ages to shape their affections and sensibilities, perhaps some of the problems that exist today will be more easily solved later.
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is on faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He has written several books, dozens of articles, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and two children.