There may not be many people quite like me.
I’m a Worship Pastor. Okay, plenty of people are worship pastors. I spend a lot of time organizing music and musicians and helping lead a church in worship. I did my undergrad in music ministry, combining music and theology.
But I also have a Master Of Arts degree in Hebrew Bible. I spent two years studying Hebrew and taking various courses on the Old Testament, and then another year writing a thesis on Ecclesiastes. There are not many people who do that. Even fewer who are also worship pastors.
It may seem like an odd combination, a worship pastor with a research degree in Old Testament studies. There may not be many people quite like me. But I’ve always had a passion for worship and study. I believe that they intricately tied, inseparable. Here is a quote from Dallas Willard that articulates why this is so important.
Now we must not worship without study, for ignorant worship is of limited value and can be very dangerous. We may develop “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2) and do great harm to ourselves and others. But worship must be added to study to complete the renewal of our mind through a willing absorption in the radiant person who is worthy of all praise. Study without worship is also dangerous, and the people of Jesus constantly suffer from its effects, especially in academic settings. To handle things of God without worship is always to falsify them.
In worship we are ascribing greatness, goodness, and glory to God. It is typical of worship that we put every possible aspect of our being into it, all of our sensuous, conceptual, active, and creative capacities.
We embellish, elaborate, and magnify. Poetry and songs, colour and texture, food and incense, dance and precession are all used to exalt God. And sometimes it is in the quiet absorption of thought, the electrical passion and counter, or total surrender of the will. In worship we strive for adequate expression of God’s greatness. But only for a moment, if ever, do we achieve what seems like adequacy. We cannot do justice to God or his Son or his kingdom for his goodness to us.¹
I have seen worship and study done separately. I’ve cringed at hearing a worship leader passionately exhort a congregation with inaccurate and misleading statements. And I’ve seen academics study Scripture with great intricacy but without any desire to draw nearer to their Creator.
Our worship demands every possible aspect of our being as we strive to give adequate expression of God’s greatness. But this should drive us to learn more and more about God and to study his Word so that we may know more of his greatness. Studying his Word in greater depth should be approached with humility and worship as we spend time with the creator of the universe who has revealed himself to us.
Am I suggesting that all worship pastors go get a degree in Hebrew Bible? No. But all worship pastors and leaders are to be passionate about developing greater knowledge of God. This will only expand their worship.
Am I suggesting that all Bible scholars study music? No. But all who study the Bible are to do so in humble submission to the Creator of the universe who has revealed himself to us, inviting us to know him. This can only result in worship.
2 thoughts on “Music Study”
This is so good and so important. What a needed balance! Thank you, James, for expressing it so well and giving all of us something that will hopefully help us become better (passionate and thoughtful) leaders.
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Yes, balance is a good word! We need to be developing both sides.