Why Pastors Won’t Have a Theology of “Worship”

Usually I share links via my Twitter feed. However, I came across this blog post by an author, Dan R. Rick, which lamented the fact that Methodist Pastors in the U.S. don’t have an biblical understanding of “worship”, and I had to post a reply. Here’s a quote from the blog post:

“I had a chance to talk with the pastor and worship leader over lunch, and I asked the question, “So, what is your theology of worship?”  The pastor scrunched up his brow and said, “What do you mean by that?”  I explained, “what are the underlying beliefs and motivations about God and the worship of God that shape and inform what you offer as leaders?”  The worship leader chimed in, “We don’t really think that way.  Worship is about giving people a memorable experience.”  The pastor added, “Our theology of worship is engage, inspire, entertain, and excite.”

Worship in this instance refers to the music/songs. I’m going to explain why I think that Pastors don’t won’t have a theology of worship (music).


tn_IMG_0245We’ve already determined that the biblical definition of worship really doesn’t talk about music. Rather, it involves concepts of submission and service. Even then, “worship” as a concept is extra-biblical. There is no specific word for “worship”.

Pastors trained in liturgy and orthodoxy will at the most have a traditional church understanding of worship – which is that “worship” refers to the “worship service”, or basically, what Christians do when they gather (word, prayer, fellowship, sacrament, praise).

Now instrumental worship as we know it today has very little New Testament basis – perhaps the “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” of Col 3:16. It is more closely related to the instruments used in temple worship of the OT, and according to the Church Membership Manual of the Methodist Church in Singapore, is typified by Isaiah 6:1-8: Preparation, Praise, Prayer, Proclamation and Promise (don’t we love that passage?).

No Basis for a Theology

Most people would argue that the OT model of Temple Worship is no longer applicable since the veil to the Holy of Holies has been torn, and we no longer require ritual sacrifice of animals. Surely the forms of worship cannot remain as they were – a new understanding must be found.

However, that leaves us with no strict NT principles for musical/instrumental worship. That would explain why Churches resisted the use of musical instruments in worship.

Pastors DO have a Theology of Worship – its the biblical concept which involves submitting and serving God with our whole lives. They also have a Theology for the Worship Service, which is the liturgy, based on NT gatherings in Acts, and Isaiah 6.

What they WON’T have, though, is a Theology of Instrumental Worship Music. Simply because there isn’t one. And so they’ll interpret your question as “what purpose does the music play?” because you’re the guy that “does the music”. And their answer will be, “for the congregation”, because that’s what they see the role of music.

Read the article, and more importantly, read the comments. I’ve posted there, but there are way more knowledgeable people commenting.

Right, wrong, downright heretical? Let me know what you think.


~ by jonhyz on February 10, 2009.

3 Responses to “Why Pastors Won’t Have a Theology of “Worship””

  1. Interesting. I believe music to be spiritually ‘neutral’; not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in itself. However, it can clearly be helpful in us offering praise to God. When I lead the worship in church, I am very aware of the fact it’s the words that are important – my music is not improving or surpassing those words – but the music is (if I’m doing my job) hopefully helping people to consider, learn and deliver those words with passion. A good song (‘In Christ Alone’ springs to mind) can be tremendously helpful in delivering the biblical gospel and aiding understanding.
    Like other beautiful gifts from God in creation, I find music to elevate the soul and give me a thirst for heaven. The angels sing worship to God and I am happy to do so too…


  2. i totally have to agree with that! a good song indeed delivers the biblical gospel and aids understanding, hence the importance of meaningful ‘God’ songs…
    what we sing or do on Sunday morning as worship leaders/ pulpit pastors affects people’s Theology…
    i quote that guy Dan R. Rick, “(if) church and worship leaders think deeply, clearly and intentionally about the role of worship in the life of the community of faith, it is a much more meaningful and potentially transformative experience”

  3. […] on NT Principles for Music Hi all, in my previous post we explored how there is no definitive Theology for “Worship”, that is, worship […]

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