Doctrine and Worship. An Odd Couple or the Perfect Pair?

“So, you are teaching at a music school, huh? I didn’t know you played an instrument.” I have had questions like this tossed my way a lot lately. I usually reply by letting people know that I gave a solo performance of “Seek Ye First,” on my recorder in third grade, or that I know how to play the “Hokey Pokey” on the piano. After the strange looks pass, I try and correct a couple of misconceptions with the Worship Arts Conservatory. First, it’s not just for people interested in music. The WAC will have a program in Christian Ministries. People interested in growing deeper in their knowledge of the Bible or in becoming equipped to serve in a variety of positions at a local church will have a new option for their education. It will be a great place to learn even for people like me who don’t know the difference between the bass and treble clef.

The next thing I tell them is that my main role will be to teach classes on doctrine. And, while a doctrine class might not involve sheet music or discussions on the importance of aesthetics in a worship service, it is connected to the Worship Arts.

This connection is made clear by the Apostle Paul, who in Colossians 3.17 implores the Colossian Church to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

I love this verse because Paul puts teaching and singing together in the same sentence so that we understand the importance of both. Too often, people in the church find themselves separating the two into different camps based on preference and style. Even at the church I serve at, some people don’t come into the service until the music is done because they don’t value it the way that Paul did. Others quit listening the moment I open up the word and start to preach because they prefer the participatory act of singing.

But a good understanding of doctrine and the right view of worship does not separate the two. Paul didn’t and we should not either. The way I understand this passage is that music serves as a vehicle to deliver the message. Music teaches us, it informs us, it draws us deeper into worship and helps us to express deep truths from Scripture in ways that we would not be able to apart from song.

Of course, in order for this to be true, it means that the songs we sing need to be doctrinally correct. We want songs that reflect truth, not error. We want songs that play well into the message that is being shared. We want an approach that values good music alongside of the message from Scripture.

This does not mean that every song is going to be filled with theological terms like propitiation and adoption. Some songs will be incredibly instructive. Other songs will be more meditative in their approach. But no matter how the song is constructed the doctrine behind it and the doctrine that flows through it needs to reflect the truth of Scripture. This is why I have a passion for doctrine. This is why I have a passion to pass that along to people who are learning about worship.

I am excited to think about the many musicians, worship leaders, worship pastors and others who will hone their skills and their doctrine at the Worship Arts Conservatory. I am excited to think of the many people who will carry their skills to churches and develop strong ministries that will allow for people to use their talents in worship. I am excited to think of the churches whose worship ministries will benefit from trained individuals who can help craft a worship service that will make much of God and proclaim His truth to the nations. All of this requires good doctrine.

So, in the fall, I will be leaving my recorder at home. No kazoo for me either. I will leave that to the qualified people. But I will do my utmost to help students understand and appreciate biblical doctrine. And that excites me.

by Jason Coplen
Instructor of Bible and Theology, Worship Arts Conservatory
Associate Pastor, Crosspointe Church


Posted in General Worship.