I am passionate about wholehearted worship and practical theology.
I think every worshiper should be. Here’s why.
1. Worship Flows From The Inside Out
“Word of God in; word of God out.” Ray Hughes
You worship from the overflow of what you put into your heart, mind and spirit.
So, are you being filled with the knowledge of God, the presence of God, the power of God?
Is the truth of God – who He is, what He has done, who you are now in Jesus Christ – springing up and overflowing from within you like “living waters”? (John 7:38)
There is a reward for studying theology – being filled with the knowledge of God.
2. Theology is For Living
Theology is literally, “words about God “, the study of God. It’s what we think about God.
Theology is practiced by everybody. When someone speaks about God, they are, in a sense, doing theology.
More importantly, as Miroslav Volf says, “Theology is for living” .
It is not only about “speaking” – what our lips utter; but also “doing” – how we live our lives. Actions speak louder than words, both privately and publicly.
What we believe about God, about life, and about ourselves overflows as our expression of worship. What you believe forms who you are. Who you are is more important than what you do.
3. We Practice Either Good Theology or Bad Theology
Worship leaders are practicing theology every time they lead worship. We are literally putting words into people’s mouths. The question is, are we practicing good theology or bad theology?
Good theology clearly tells the truth about God. It empowers the powerless and sets captives free.
Bad theology presents a murky, questionable or distorted view of God. Bad theology can really hurt people and mess them up. At it’s worse, bad theology applied can crush the human spirit and fracture the tender heart.
Good theology heals the brokenhearted, restores the soul, and rescues the perishing. We, the broken and redeemed, then respond with gratitude and adoration.
Our response is worship with hearts that have been made whole.
4. Theology Clarifies Worship Leading Values
Our worship leadership every Sunday powerfully impacts the spiritual formation of our congregations, and thus the heart condition of our people.
This is high calling and a weighty assignment, to be taken seriously.
We must do God’s work God’s way.
Therefore it is mission critical that robust theological reflection shape our worship values and practices. We’ve got to think deeply and theologically about “what’s important” when planning and leading gathered worship.
Yet, how much theological thoughtfulness is actually implemented in our worship planning and leading?
Why do we do the things we do?
And how Biblically based are the values of how we do worship ministry?
5. Theology Identifies Issues of Style vs. Substance
It has been fashionable in the modern worship era for worship to be “relevant”. Relevant is good and necessary, and is better that being irrelevant. But relevance goes far deeper than musical or presentational style. An emphasis on style represents shallow, surface level thinking.
Relevance must be built upon the underlying biblical foundations of worship that have remained unchanged since the beginning of the Church. God really is the same yesterday, today and forever.
On the other hand, it’s not just about having the right substance either. Good theological practice is more than executing a perfect liturgy, or saying all the right things. That can become dry formalism, and it’s boring. There is no reason why worship should be rote or boring.
Jesus offers a devastating critique of disinterested, going-through-the-motions worship when he quotes the prophet Isaiah in Mark 7:6
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain… ”
6. Theology Informs
When I first started leading worship, I could play guitar, sing and learn songs. I could get people to sing along. But I didn’t know what I was doing. I was untrained and immature. There was a mixture of soulishness in my leading.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
With more experience, attending conferences, some mentoring and personal study, I got better. But even as a “seasoned” worship leader, I realized there were gaps in my understanding.
Then I knew that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Working on that problem changed the course of my life, but that’s another story (link).
I submit there is a problem for many of us in the church today. We need a revelation of what worship is really all about.
We are presumptuous. We assume “we have this down.” We don’t really know the biblical foundations of worship. And we’re largely uniformed about the worship history of the church.
This is a recipe for disaster. Hosea calls out “ignorance” in chapter 4 verse 6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” George Santayana
I submit that worship folk need to regularly review the basics. Like working on the fundamentals in football training camp, or baseball’s spring training.
Theological study more than just learning or reviewing the basics. Knowing God is relational and dynamic. Our understanding increases and our hearts grow to experience Him more as we pursue knowing Him.
What does the Bible have to say about worship? Everything.
7. Theology Calls Out The Worship Leader’s Responsibility
“With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben to Peter Parker in Spiderman.
It is the responsibility of every leader to study to show himself as one approved (2 Timothy 3:15). Years ago, when God was radically altering my life and “promoting” me to a place of leadership in worship, this scripture was my guiding light.
Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 Amplified Bible (AMP)
8. Theology Shapes The Art of Leading Worship
Leading worship in the modern context can be a daunting technological and sociological task. For a worship gathering to truly give God the glory and honor He deserves, it must be:
- 100% “in spirit and truth” by
- 100% of the people, who are
- 100% fully engaged
Not easy to do, but that is the role of the worship leading shepherd, It is the Holy Spirit who does the heavy lifting, but the worship leader and team have to be faithful do their part too.
Leading worship is a convergence of art forms relying upon the knowledge, skill and character of the leader(s).
This is a tall order.
Worship flows from the inside out. The place to begin is in the Word of God. That’s the purpose of this study.