Why should worship leaders know and study theology? One may wonder why a question like this should even be asked. It seems pretty obvious, right? If it doesn’t, it should, and here is why.
Worship leaders are tasked with a great responsibility every week. They have the privilege of leading a group of people in something we are commanded by Scripture to do — SING! During a job interview, the pastor on the search team asked me, “what is your primary responsibility as a worship leader?” I of course came up with what seemed like an eloquent answer — it was a job interview after all. His answer was, “No. Your job is to get the people to sing.” This simple response changed my view of the role of the Worship Leader. Of course he meant more than just singing, but in this simple answer he as alluding to the fact that we lead by example. We provide a Biblical foundation, teach the people aspects of worship, model it, and then expect them to mirror.
1. Understanding theology to be an example of a genuine worshiper.
How can we expect people to mirror Biblical worship if we have little knowledge of Scripture? How can we expect to know the depth of the Scriptures without diligently studying about God? Without this background and a lifestyle of studying, we become mere hypocrites. Jesus warns the people in Matthew 23 of the Pharisees that lived a public life that resembled nothing of their private life.
I often tell our church body that corporate worship should be an overflow of our private worship. Every time I say this I am immediately reminded of my life in private. I am flooded with conviction to study the Scriptures more, sacrifice time to understand good theology, and participate in a multitude of other acts of worship. Without strong conviction and follow-through, we become just like the Pharisees.
2. Theology informs our worship planning.
The amount of time we have every week to sing corporately as a congregation is minuscule in full scope. Keith and Kristen Getty touch on this point in their book “Sing!”. This time limit should put weight on the shoulders of the worship leader when planning corporate settings. He or she must be jealous of that time in order to lead people in gospel-rich songs. There is no time to sing meaningless, especially not theologically incorrect, songs if we want our congregation to be enthralled in worship.
How can we expect to understand what songs are rich and theologically correct without a healthy understanding of theology itself? By studying theology, we are learning the depth of the gospel rather than just scrapping the surface. This will allow our planning to be lead from a Biblical mindset. We must go beyond surface knowledge.
3. Theology aids the worship leader in the pastorate.
I firmly believe that every worship leader plays the role of a pastor as well. They share the gospel every week through songs, prayer, and transitions. They shepherd a team of volunteers that lead with them. They provide a biblical example in the lifestyle they live (or at least they should). Finally, most are tasked with filling other pastoral duties during the week as a staff member.
Whether your church identifies the worship leader as a pastor or not, they are. They may not have the title, but they do bear the responsibilities and will be held accountable (James 3:1). Understanding theology allows them to better serve their flock. It should be noted that theological knowledge is not for simply “knowing more”. This knowledge should be used to reflect Christ more and better communicate the gospel to the saved and the lost.
Taking time to diligently study theology can have a drastic impact on the ministry of the worship leader. A deeper understanding of the Scriptures gives the worship leader stronger abilities to plan, lead, and model Biblical worship. Though these are just a few reasons to study theology, they should be enough to encourage the worship leader to stop and study in order to be the most effective in service.