Doxology and Theology: How the Gospel Forms the Worship Leader
Matt Boswell, et al.
B&H Books, 2013; 256 pages
After a string of polemical reads, it’s refreshing to dive into a book in which I find myself nodding, wincing, and writing “Yes!” in the margins. Such was generally the case with Doxology and Theology by Matt Boswell (and several other authors).
The book draws in twelve writers in all, men who lead the music in their respective ministries. The approach is both a strength and a weakness—a strength because the variation was refreshing, but a weakness in regards to consistency. I didn’t have serious objections to any writer, but their approaches were certainly not all equally helpful. The small-but-pervasive point on which I disagreed was the use of the term “worship leader.” Boswell acknowledges the potential problems with the term, but he essentially dismisses them as unimportant. I won’t fight about it, but words matter. It feels incongruous to me to perpetuate a term that equates worship with music, and then spend so much time explaining why it’s not so. I feel strongly that “music minister” communicates the role much better: we are servants (and leaders, which “minister” can communicate), and music is our particular role. But that’s a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent book.
To convince you to buy and read the book yourself, I’ll just post some quotes from the first three chapters.
1: Doxology, Theology, and the Mission of God (Matt Boswell)
This chapter was one of the strongest. Boswell sets up a theological foundation well, driving back to the Scriptures repeatedly as the only basis for true and acceptable worship. The following quotes are not exhaustive:
The worship of the church is God-centered (7).
Our worship should express more of what God has done for us, and less of what we will do for Him (8).
The only element needed for congregational worship to occur is God’s Word laid open in the midst of His people (11, preach!).
Doxology without theology is an impossibility. If we knew nothing about God, His greatness, His holiness, His goodness, His gospel, we would have no reason to worship Him (13).
2: Qualifications of a Worship Leader (Boswell)
This chapter was also outstanding. Boswell walks through the list of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and applies them to the worship leader. He makes the point early on, which I appreciate, that worship leaders should be men, since they are serving as functional elders in a teaching capacity (24). This is far from a side issue, and it’s the reason for most of the negative reviews this book received. Some may disagree with this evaluation for two reasons: either they don’t agree that a worship leader is teaching as he leads (which is a small view of the role), or they disregard biblical teaching regarding gender roles in the church (which is worse).
A few excellent quotes:
Many worship leaders have been installed in a church with little thought given to the man’s convictions, much less how he is viewed by the outside world. Gifting may gain a man a platform, but character is what gives him a voice (28).
Many musicians are wired with an artistic bent, which comes with both good and bad qualities… Being emotionally driven is not a personality type, but an immaturity and should be repented of and fought (31).
Worship leaders become a prominent voice in the theological understanding of a church and should take this responsibility very seriously (35).
If a worship leader cannot lead his own wife and children well, he should not attempt to lead the bride of Christ (39, wince).
3: The Worship Leader and Scripture (Michael Bleecker)
Another helpful chapter that elevates the importance of Scripture in the actual content of musical worship.
Where the Word of God is taught correctly, the opportunity exists for the informed worshippers to respond to God with their heart and mind, with affection and thought (45).
Most evangelical churches devote around thirty minutes each weekend to a time of congregational singing. During this time, we’re given the sacred trust of communicating to those in our churches the glory of Christ through song and spoken word… How are you using your thirty minutes? (51)
The role of the worship leader is to lead and equip the church… so that they might grow into greater levels of maturity (52).
That’s just a sampling of the book’s benefit. As I said, not all the chapters were equally compelling. Zac Hicks’ chapter on “The Worship Leader and the Trinity” offered some good observations, but it didn’t feel cohesive to me. He made some claims that I didn’t feel were supported by his arguments, although I didn’t object. The only point at which I outright disagreed was his view that we must avoid language that speaks of obedience and surrender. He believes such expressions are inherently self-congratulatory and hypocritical, but I think they function merely as a statement of intent and desire. Aaron Ivey’s chapter on “The Worship Leader and Justice” was perhaps the weakest chapter in the book. I didn’t have a principled objection to his call for justice, but he repeatedly conflated social justice with the mission of the church in a way that was confusing and could have been developed better. And Mike Cosper’s chapter on creativity, while better than his book Rhythms of Grace, was inconsistent at best.
But the book’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. Stephen Miller’s chapter on “The Worship Leader and His Heart” was simple but convicting and encouraging. And of the 14 chapters, Boswell’s three were by far the best. Although the other authors were sometimes inconsistent in their clarity and effectiveness, overall the book is a solid contribution to the cause. It’s similar to Kauflin’s Worship Matters, but different enough to not be redundant. Doxology and Theology is perhaps to worship leaders what Sing! by Keith Getty is to church members: an easy read, but solid and encouraging. I’d like to see Boswell write his own book on corporate worship.