It’s no secret that modern-day worship leaders are largely perceived as theological lightweights. We aren’t exactly known for our rigorous study of Scripture or creedal precision. Are we hip? Probably. Talented? Maybe. But theologically astute? Unlikely.
Knowing About God vs. Knowing God
Growing up in church, I’ve encountered worship leaders from across the denominational spectrum, too few of whom know their Bibles well enough to articulate even the most basic doctrines of the Christian faith. More than once, I’ve actually heard worship leaders promulgate the cliché “I don’t want to know about God; I want to know Him.” That’s simply impossible. You can’t actually know a person in any meaningful way while remaining ignorant about that person. Therefore, worship leaders, as people desiring to know God, should strive for theological excellence. To know God—and to lead others to know Him—we must know about Him.
After all, we bear the colossal responsibility of standing before our congregations every week, inviting them to revel in the glorious doctrines of biblical and historical Christianity, such as the Trinity, Christ’s Incarnation and penal substitutionary atonement. Our unique purpose as worship leaders is to help people speak (or sing) the truth in love in order to build up the church toward greater unity and maturity (cf. Eph. 4:13-16, 5:19). But how can we fulfill this purpose if our knowledge of that truth receives little priority?
Love With Knowledge and All Discernment
While theological aptitude isn’t everything, we don’t really have anything of substance without it. This is why, in the New Testament, the apostle Paul prays several times for the church to thrive in its knowledge of God. One such instance is found in Philippians 1:9-11, which says, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent […] to the glory and praise of God.”
Here, Paul is connecting the dots between our capacity to love and our ability to understand and discern the things of God. Therefore, if we’re going to “approve what is excellent,” we must increase in our knowledge of the Excellent One. If we’re going to abound in love, we must rightly understand the God who is love (1 Jn. 4:8). If we want to see our congregations come alive to “the glory and praise of God,” our doctrinal accuracy matters a great deal, for God delights when His people worship Him in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:23). In other words, the church needs more worship leaders who can love people with a humble, discerning, theologically capable mind.
So, once and for all, let’s put the stereotype of the “theologically shallow worship leader” to death. The church’s rich theological heritage provides us with a wealth of resources to help us become more doctrinally minded. If you will create space in your schedule to shape your intellect with the truth of Scripture, God will consume your heart with the immensity of His glory. Personally, I’d recommend supplementing your Bible intake with J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. But wherever you decide to begin, realize that all theology is meant to lead us into deeper worship of God. And for worship leaders, is there anything more important and worthwhile than that? (You don’t need to be a theologian to answer that question correctly.)
This article originally appeared here.