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Why else are we in this mess?

I suggested last week, springing from Kevin Bauder’s excellent article, that one of the reasons worship is in such trouble today is that pastors who should be the primary leaders of worship are often ill-educated in matters of worship and music.

I suggested that while pastors used to give careful attention to the leading of worship, they eventually gave over responsibilities of worship leadership to musicians instead.

This point leads to the other factor that has caused so much trouble in worship today: church musicians who are ill-equipped theologically. It was short-sighted, in my opinion, for pastors to give away their leadership in the first place, but this is no excuse for the lack of theological acumen so characteristic of many church musicians.

Once again, this was not always the case. I mentioned last week Martin Luther’s statement that he would not ordain a preacher to ministry until he understood music. Likewise, in that same ecclesiastical tradition, church musicians like J. S. Bach were required to undergo rigorous theological education and appraisal before they could lead in one of the most important events in the life of the church.

And that is the point, isn’t it? Corporate worship is–or should be–the ultimate priority of churches, everything else from evangelism to edification flowing from that emphasis. Yet because worship has devolved into little more than emotional stimulation, many pastors fail to recognize the significance of elements of worship other than preaching, and church musicians see no need for theological education.

But because corporate worship is the church’s priority, and because music and poetry are critical parts of the God-ordained practice of worship (see Bauder’s article), pastors need to have at least a basic understanding of the history of worship and the nature of music and poetry, and church musicians must have a robust theological and biblical education.

In other words, one of the greatest causes of problems in worship today is the inevitable divide that exists between pastors and church musicians. Pastors are just those guys who think the only purpose of music is to fill the seats, and church musicians are just those people who think theology is the boring, unnecessary fetish of brainiacs.

Thus I truly believe that at least one way forward in solving the worship mess is pastors who are better trained in worship and music and church musicians who have a thorough education in theology.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

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 worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He has written two 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.

4 Responses to Why else are we in this mess?

  1. Frank says:

    Great article. God is still in control and my Pastor at Valley View Bible Church keeps well on top of the music presented. Thanks for posting.

  2. granonine says:

    I'm not disagreeing with anything here. My question has long been: When did "worship" and "music" become synonymous? When I was growing up, with a dad who was a pastor, we just called it "the song service" and then the preaching. What changed? And why?

  3. Scott Aniol Scott Aniol says:

    Thanks for your comments, Frank!

    granonine, You point is well-taken! I agree with you that many churches today (contemporary or traditional) see music as worship and the other elements as separate.

    I think there are several reasons for this (some good and some not so good), but we do need to think of all of the elements as part of the worship.

    However, I think one of the reasons we have come to equate worship with music, and a reason it may have been implied here, is that music is one of the most prominent, powerful, and controversial elements of worship. This is why I am insisting that pastors have at least some understanding of it (along with poetry).

    The purpose of music in worship is not simply decoration (as many would suggest); music is actually a teacher of the heart, and a powerful one at that.

  4. Jim Lowery says:

    I find it instructive that in the Tabernacle, there was music (and instrumental at that! Numb. 10), but not preaching. And in David's inspired re-organization of the Levites in preparation for the Temple, there was also no "preaching" [in fact, Jeremiah had to be directly instructed to give his message at the Temple (7:2)]; but there was 'prophecy'- by the musicians (I Chron. 25). This is the same word Moses uses in Dt. 18:15.

    The relationship between Col. 1:28 and 3:16 ought to be sufficient justification for musical training of 'preachers' and of theological training of musicians.

    Keep up the good work, Scott! Keep challenging us all to "bring every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

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