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More on pastors and musical training

There has been a profitable discussion happening in the comments of my recent observations about the need for pastors to be trained in worship and music if they are going to (rightly) reclaim their role as those primarily responsible for worship music choices.

A commenter asked for a fuller explanation for why I believe this to be necessarily, so I thought I’d elaborate a bit here. This journal article by Kevin Bauder may help you to see the full thought behind my reasoning, but here are some summary thoughts.

Musical training certainly does not ensure that one will choose what music is best for worship. Yet it is basically common sense to say that if a pastor (or anyone, for that matter) is going to make judgments about what poetry and music best facilitate his church’s purposes and goals, then he’d better be equipped to understand how poetry and music work. He’d also better have a sound grasp of theology as well. If this is not possible in one individual, the second best option is that a theologian work closely with a musician, each depending on each other to make sound judgments. The best option is that theologians have some musical training and church musicians have theological training. A pastoral team comprised of musically-knowledgeable theologians and theologically-knowledgeable musicians would be a beautiful thing.

Let me use architecture as an example. We would expect that someone making judgments about what kinds of buildings best facilitate the church’s purposes and goals have a full grasp of architectural principles. It would not be enough that a person understand theology and the purpose of the church; he would need to have a knowledge of architecture or (more likely) work with someone who has that knowledge. But it also wouldn’t be enough for an individual to know architecture but not theology. To build the best church buildings, there must be a collaboration between the architect and theologian. I suppose it would be most ideal if one individual (or multiple individuals) have knowledge of both, but it is more likely that the theologian and architect will work together.

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The same is true with something like church music. If music is simply pretty decoration for truth or at best a way to “energize” the truth, then the one choosing music for worship simply needs theological knowledge and an intuition about what his congregation likes and what will energize them.

But if music (and poetry) is a powerful means of communication that shapes its propositional content (as Christians have believed for the majority of church history), then a knowledge of the form is necessary for making sound judgments.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Cutlure, 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 three children.

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