The study of theology is robust in many areas of the church: expositional preaching is making a come-back; rich and thoughtful books on topics such as discipleship, mission, and prayer seem to pop up every day; and an increasingly high value is placed on the application of this theology to the daily life of the church. Not so with worship.
There have been some excellent books published in theology of worship recently, but there seems to be a significant gap between the good thinking that’s beginning to be done by biblical theologians and philosophers, and the actual practice of the church. Personally, I blame the reformation. “Word-centered” theology, while a good corrective to tradition run rampant, has caused the preacher and the preach to take center stage in church life. The life of worship that the congregation leads, and the gathered worship of the church (apart from the preach itself) have gradually become, at best, secondary. Music has taken over as the definition of worship. People rarely, if ever, consider the significance of gathered worship. Planning is generally considered to be the realm of the musician. And thus musical style has come to be the most important consideration.
Is it any wonder, then, that the worship of the church, the ritual action that God intended for unification, has become a primary means of division? Satan always attacks where we are weakest.
Thus the title of this blog: thinking worship. The title was chosen partially because I intend to use this blog as an outlet for my thought-life, but also because it’s time to wage war on “unthinking worship,” and because I am vain enough to believe that I will be able to step into that gap between the theologian and the practitioner – because I am both.
I have 17 years of experience leading worship in various church contexts (across denominational lines, in several different cultural contexts, and in both large and small churches). Currently, my husband and I are leading a church plant just outside of Edmonton Alberta (Canada). In 2003 I finally realized that the growing passion I felt for the worship of the church (and the growing anger I felt when I saw it abused, misused, or simply “unthought”), might indicate that God was calling me toward a task – so I began studying at Regent College. In 2007 I graduated with my Master of Divinity degree (MDiv) and a concentration in Christianity and the Arts.
I will be forever grateful to Regent College for helping me to “think.” Instead of reading various “worship books” in a canned “worship program,” within Regent’s MDiv I found myself eking out my own program: tailoring my assignments to allow me to research various areas of worship theology. Now that I have graduated and am finally beginning to read “worship books,” I can do so having developed my own theology of worship by studying biblical theology, spiritual theology, systematic theology, biblical languages, pastoral theology, exegesis, hermeneutics, history of Christianity, and applied theology. It was a broad and fascinating program of study. (Special thanks to former professor Darrell Johnson – now pastor of First Baptist in Vancouver – who encouraged me to step into the aforementioned gap between the theologian and the practitioner.)
So, what do I hope to accomplish in blog-format? I plan to explore various areas of worship theology, keeping an eye out for the practitioner in the process. I plan to read and review with you the books that I’m reading as I continue to study. I plan to examine various trends and practices of the Christian church. And I plan to have a bit of fun while I’m doing it.
I hope you’ll join me.
Yes yes and YES I’ll join you.
And oh how your voice is necessary, helpful, longed for and a breath of fresh air amid all the set lists/techno-babble/how to rock the fill-in-your-instrument for Jesus!
Welcome to the blogosphere – a warm, warm welcome!
Put my name down as well.
This may be the best possible way to continue all those coffee-fueled conversations we began a few years ago. I am deeply delighted to hear your voice, once again.
A big yes from Seattle!
Thank you Stacey. I am so looking forward to hearing your thoughts and learning from you. Blog on!
Love it Stacey – so glad you’re doing this.
Thanks for sharing with those of us you hunger and thirst… I’m joining you.
I am in! Your influence will continue on at Tenth.
Thanks Lee – what a lovely thing to say!
You know this is near exactly some of the thoughts I’ve had in the last year or so. I’ve been reading a lot of Theology, and also ancient history which helps contextualize the life of Christ and the apostles. Rather than undermining my faith as Dawkins, Hitchens and their friends insisted it would I found my faith expanding. Rsearch, analysis and thought have strengthened my faith. And I’m glad that someone like yourself, clearly more intelligent and well versed in the subject than myself, is writing about it here.
Ah Matt – you are too kind. Sounds like you have been doing some good and careful reading yourself! I hope you’ll drop in from time to time and join the dialogue here – a historical perspective is always especially helpful.
Thanks folks. So glad to see that there are some good conversation partners on board! I’m looking forward to starting a series next week called Worship Theology 101.
Please excuse the geeky question. But do you have an RSS feed for you blog? I prefer to see all the blogs I’m reading in on place.
Sorry about that Ed! It should be working now – let me know if you have any problems with it.
Stumbled onto Larry Hurtado’s blog where he bemoans the lack of interest in the Academy in early Christian worship practices. I discovered that he uploaded a pre-publication version of his ‘worship’ entry in the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Link here: http://larryhurtado.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/worship-nidb.pdf
Haven’t fully read it, so I don’t know if it’s helpful. Just wanted to pass on the link.
Thanks James – I’ve been impressed by Larry Hurtado’s work in the past, but didn’t realize he had a blog. I’m now looking forward to checking out that and his entry in the Dictionary!
[…] “Thinking Worship” […]
Mike Morrell and I really appreciate your blog, and think you’d be an
excellent candidate for our Speakeasy Blogger Network. Do you like to
review off-the-beaten path faith, spirituality, and culture books?
Speakeasy puts interesting books in your hands at no charge to you. You
only get books when you request them, and it’s free to join. Sign up here,
if you’d like: http://thespeakeasy.info
You’re not on any contact lists whatsoever; if you don’t respond, that’s
it, and the invitation is open as long as you’re actively blogging. We hope
you join us!
Terry, The Speakeasy
[…] need for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and to the congregation. I appreciate her sensitivity in “thinking worship” with theological integrity and artistic […]