With correct theology as a key theme at this summer’s LifeWay Worship Conference, Denver pastor Jim Shaddix challenged participants with his “top 10 Commandments” for setting a theology of music in worship.
1. Thou shalt worship God, not worship worship.
“We are a people of extremes and we have a hard time maintaining a biblical balance,” Shaddix said. “A long time ago, people were nervous about the charismatic movement, so worship services became like funeral services. Now the pendulum has swung all the way to the other side and we have hand raising and clapping but lyrics without correct theology. In the revival of worship and the reaction of what we’ve seen, our focus is on the style rather than the object of our worship — God.”
2. Thou shalt worship as a lifestyle and not as a music style.
“If there is a disconnect in what happens at the church event and what is happening in people’s daily lives, there is a problem,” Shaddix said. “That needs to be more important than if people are singing on the right key.”
3. Thou shalt make the Divine Seeker comfortable first and foremost.
Shaddix warned about trying to make seekers comfortable first and foremost rather than God, who seeks after non-Christians. Citing 1 Corinthians 14:23-25, Shaddix noted, “If the presence of God is thick in a place and His Word is communicated clearly, seekers will be transformed.”
4. Thou shalt use music as a sacrifice of praise, not as a synonym for worship.
Shaddix challenged today’s definition of worship as music only. Worship should include preaching and not be limited to music alone.
5. Thou shalt be theologically equipped.
As a former professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Shaddix shared his conviction that seminaries tend to give the impression that the study of theology is less important for those serving as ministers of music rather than senior pastors. “We’ve compartmentalized theological education and raised worship leaders to believe it isn’t important to know theology. Therefore they aren’t able to filter out songs that don’t accurately represent God.” He encouraged worship leaders to pursue the study of theology in addition to technical skills.
6. Thou shalt reflect a holistic theology in worship content.
“Celebration is not the only kind of worship,” Shaddix said. “The Bible speaks of worship involving all seasons of life. Is there a place in our worship for saying, ‘God, I don’t understand’?”
7. Thou shalt worship in a rhythm of revelation and response.
“There is no worship without revelation,” Shaddix said. “God reveals Himself most clearly through His Word. We can’t separate the music from the preaching event. We have nothing to worship if God doesn’t reveal who He is.”
8. Thou shalt employ lyrics that reflect communal identity.
Shaddix encouraged the use of songs that represent worship on behalf of the entire church body rather than only individuals by incorporating songs that include “we” in the lyrics rather than “me.”
9. Thou shalt use technology with theological and pastoral sensitivity.
Shaddix agreed that the Bible speaks of worship including clashing cymbals and loud music. However, “Hearing others sing encourages worship. If amplification is so much that you can only hear the sound on stage rather than the people singing beside you, that isn’t good.”
10. Thou shalt foster worship that reflects the diversity and unity of heaven.
Shaddix encouraged worship leaders to keep the end in mind. “God is honored in worship when we strive to accomplish ethnic diversity and congregational unity.”