Worship Leaders Should Be Theologians, and Theologians Should Be Worship Leaders

Zac HicksUncategorized4 Comments

In preparations for a sermon on Psalm 29, I re-opened two influential works in my own life and theological development: Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy.  The two theologians share a feature in their respective works—a feature which is instructive to both theologians and worship leaders alike (not that the two have to or should be separate offices).

For too long, the church has functionally made theology (study and meditation upon God and the Bible) and doxology (worship) two separate enterprises.  We have “theologians” and “pastors” on one side, and we have “worship leaders” on the other.  And the church has suffered greatly because of this bifurcation.  At least part of the reason that critics of modern worship are justified when they accuse contemporary churches of “dumbing down” the sacred expression of the gathered people of God is that we’ve made this split between theologians and worship leaders okay.  We’ve fostered it with our employment structures.  We’ve encouraged it with our niched resources and industry.  We’ve catered to it with our degree programs. 

Grudem and Tozer show us that there is a different way.  They’ve peppered doxology throughout their theology.  In fact, both The Knowledge of the Holy and Systematic Theology end each chapter with the text of a hymn.  For example, after expounding “The Infinitude of God,” Tozer ends with two verses of a Joseph Hart hymn:1

This, this is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend,
Whose love is as great as His power,
And neither knows measure nor end.

‘Tis Jesus, the first and the last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
We’ll praise Him for all that is past,
And trust Him for all that’s to come.

Similarly, Grudem ends his Chapter 11, on the “Incommunicable Attributes of God,” with the famous hymn, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”2  He explains why he does this in his preface:

I do not believe that God intended the study of theology to be dry and boring. Theology is the study of God and all his works! Theology is meant to be lived and prayed and sung! All of the great doctrinal writings of the Bible…are full of praise to God.  …True theology is “teaching which accords with godliness” (1 Tim 6:3), and theology when studied rightly will lead to growth in our Christian lives, and to worship.3

Just because theology is an academic discipline, complete with published works and degree programs, does not mean it should lack passion and praise.  Just because worship is artistic, expressive, and emotional does not mean it should lack theological reflection.  There are many implications for all of this, but here are some:

·   Theology should drive our worship—what we know about God should fuel our praise of God.

·   Worship songs, even simple ones, communicate theological truths and therefore shape the thinking and spirituality of the people of God.

·   Professional theologians should therefore be some of the most passionate worshipers in our congregations.

·   Professional worship leaders should therefore be some of the most rigorous theologians in our congregations.

·   Good worship leaders will examine and evaluate the songs they lead not only for musicality but for theological content.

·   Good theologians will regularly worship, on the spot, with their pupils, turning the classroom into a sanctuary.

 

*****

1 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978), 48.
2 Wayne Grudem,
Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 183-184.
3 Ibid., 16-17.



4 Comments on “Worship Leaders Should Be Theologians, and Theologians Should Be Worship Leaders”

  1. Zac,
    fantastic. Looking forward to your help creating a resource page for all the hymns in Grudem's Systematic Theology. 😉
    Bruce

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