Critics who paint modern worship as being thoughtless, a-theological, and mind-numbing are having to come to grips with an increasingly large canvas. Their broad-brush strokes aren’t so broad, anymore. Modern worship is diversifying its portfolio. Could we ever have imagined ten years ago that a major touring modern worship artist would pursue theological education at the doctoral level? No, Chris Tomlin isn’t headed to Harvard.
But Vicky Beeching is headed to Durham. She recently announced this move on her blog.
Why do I care to report this? Because it helps dispel the myth that modern worship leaders and songwriters are touchy-feely neanderthals. Beeching is admittedly the exception more than the rule, but we’re seeing this kind of thing more and more. Theological reflection is taking place in greater measures in the modern worship camp, and it’s evidenced in the higher level of song-content finding its way onto major label worship albums (see, for instance, my reviews of Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons and Chris Tomlin’s And If Our God is For Us).
I’ve said many times that traditional worship and modern worship have a lot to learn from each other. Modern worship, generally speaking, can show traditional worship more of what it means to worship God with abandon. Traditional worship, generally speaking, can help modern worship remember the values of biblical reflection, theological depth, and historical connectivity. I believe that leaders like Vicky Beeching embody the blend of these realities—the “sweet spot” of worship leadership.
When I was attending seminary, the typical jokes always went flying around about how seminary is really a “cemetery.” It’s a place that kills souls, one theology course at a time. For me, I never found this to be the case. I found the study of theology enlivening to my faith and relationship with God. Beeching expresses much the same thing in her post:
Some people might think studying academic theology sounds boring – and at worst a waste of time. A few people have said to me “why study more?! Just get out there and live it!”. For me, growing in my understanding of God is a crucial part of following him.
When I study theology I am worshipping God with my mind and heart simultaneously. As my mind learns more about him, my heart is stirred to love him more. As someone once said ‘revelation leads to response’.
The way I most deeply experience revelation about God, is through studying theology. It’s different for everyone, but that’s a huge way that God speaks to me and it has inspired most of my song lyrics.
Three cheers for more theological depth in modern worship!