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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.

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies 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 Culture, 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 four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.