Theology of worship exhorted at Doxology and Theology conference

Communications Staff — November 19, 2014

Songwriter Keith Getty discusses the importance of theology in worship music at the Doxology and Theology conference, Nov. 13-15.
Songwriter Keith Getty discusses the importance of theology in worship music at the Doxology and Theology conference, Nov. 13-15.

Music ministers are responsible to teach their congregations theology through song, according to songwriter Keith Getty at the Doxology and Theology conference, Nov. 13-15, hosted on campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Songs portraying the incredible beauty about God are what the church needs, Getty said. The conference featured well-known musicians and music ministers, including Getty, Matt Papa, Bob Kauflin, Matt Carter, Harold Best, Matt Boswell, and many others. Various bands led worship throughout the event, including the seminary’s Norton Hall Band, to Indelible Grace and others.

Getty led both a brief talk and a breakout session during the conference. He discussed songwriting and ways music ministers can use the Christmas season to teach theologically rich hymns. A problem in the church today, Getty said, is that people think hymns, in their original length, are too dense for congregations to sing. If churches think that about music, he said, what does that teach the people about renewing their minds through study?

“Teach songs worth learning,” he said, telling attendees that one way he writes is to teach theology through story, which becomes a bridge for his music and ministry. For songwriters, he encouraged them to “aim to write hymns you can carry with you through life.” Hymns that endure time are not only rich with theology but a melody that transcends time.

“If we’re going to be critical about our theology we have to be critical about our art, too,” he said, noting the importance of writing good music and lyrics.

In his breakout session, Getty discussed ways music ministers can can take advantage of the Christmas season in their local congregation. He discussed five things to remember about Christmas music: churches need to sing the gospel through the songs they choose, immerse themselves and build the traditions of the church, target congregational singing, promote art, and reach beyond the walls of the church.

Harold Best, emeritus professor of music and dean emeritus of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and led a session about the labor of a musician. He told attendees the “true labor of a church musician means first of all returning to the basics. There’s a difference between labor and what labor produces. It varies from person to person, talent to talent, parish to parish,” he said.

Best, author of Music Through the Eyes of Faith, encouraged music ministers to ask themselves if they are laboring in worship or management.

“Examine your labor,” he said.

“It’ll always be daunting, but you will find rest, Christ’s rest, if and when you submit your labor to him for instruction, for reproof and correction, so that each of you will be by his actual promise thoroughly furnished into every good labor.”

Popular musician Matt Papa led a breakout session about aesthetics and music. “Good art always balances mystery and clarity,” he said. He defined real art and ministry as incarnation, or taking the mysterious and making it accessible.

Papa offered 10 criteria for judging a work of art. These criteria included wonder, clarity, complexity, truthfulness, authenticity, excellence, story, suitability, helpfulness, and worship. He encouraged artists and ministers to ask themselves how well they feed their congregations, noting, like Getty, the importance of doctrinally sound songs for churches.

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