Preface, Part C: the philosophical and scholarly aspects
Historically, the significance of worship and worship leadership may readily be seen in my life, but my focus has shifted in recent years: I was for a while more of a practitioner who philosophized and studied a little, but I am now more of a student who wishes his soul would find ways to practice more.
During the years since graduate study in music and conducting at the University of Northern Colorado, whatever scholarly inclinations I possess have been directed more into scripture and the things of the Lord than into music. At present, avenues for music scholarship and praxis are rather dry, whereas the biblical studies area is fertile ground for me. Sometimes it seems as though I am an impostor among true biblical scholars, but I have been affirmed a few times, and I have had the opportunity to respond to a few works of those trained in biblical research. Moreover, graduate schooling in any field can provide one with general principles that support scholarly pursuits in another field . . . so I press on with serious work in biblical studies.
To sum up the above: while my conceptualizations of worship have been forged in real life, anything I intentionally offer to others these days is likely to be rooted securely in what I understand as bona fide scriptural “worship-ology.” Anything else risks being disingenuous.
Honestly, at times I think it’s a curse to have learned from a few trained biblical scholars. It’s difficult to sit in on run-of-the-mill “Bible studies” these days as so many people play so fast and loose with precious, ancient texts. Then, when I begin to get my own feet wet in pursuits for which I have no academic credentials, I may be overconfident or even brash. On the other hand, I’ve seen enough people who do have credentials who are either ignoring their training or abusing it that I simply must use what I have been given, regardless of my lack of pedigree.
With a sense, then, of where I’ve been and where I am, and with trepidation, I intend now, again, to write something worthwhile about worship. For a bit, it will be “heady,” because I think it is most likely in the lexical and exegetically interpretive veins that an appropriate foundation can be laid. I won’t by any means be attempting to lay out an entire theology of worship, but I will reiterate in general terms, and from a strict-definition vantage point, what is and what isn’t worship. Toward this end, I will offer insights from (and commentary on) Karen Jobes’s eminently applicable word study, found as an appendix to Moisés Silva’s 1983 book Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics.
These worship blogs will be forthright and, I hope, salient. If there are things I say that surprise, shock, or seem to counter popular “wisdom,” that part is not by design, but it is without apology.
I’m not sure where I’ll end up after completing this entire series. After attempting to deal with words & semantics, a few practicalities, and inspirations during the next 8 or 10 posts on worship, I don’t intend to write about it in any focused way until some new dawn occurs (although I’ll surely mention it from time to time in the course of general meditations). Frankly, I expect that new dawn to coincide with the end of this life and the beginning of the next, but time will tell.
In any event, these words will be for those who, like me, have yearned to worship but have neither a) regularly been fulfilled nor b) lastingly been effectual in their worship or leadership.