Attending seminary was not always something I wanted to do. I honestly had no idea they existed. I think I was reading the bible by myself one night and thought, “I want to study more, but I need help. I want to go to school for it.” A quick google search assured me there was such a thing.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
I originally applied to Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), but my grandfather suggested Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I’ll call it “Southwestern” here for short.
The degree paths were different, though. Considering I would be an online student, my options were limited to a Masters of Arts in Christian Leadership at DTS or a Masters of Arts in Worship at Southwestern. This was almost a no brain-er, since I actually lead the praise and worship team at my church.
Still, I wasn’t convinced…
What helped me decide was a half-off tuition offer that would be granted to students who are members of a church associated with the Texas Baptist Association. The lights couldn’t blink around Southwestern’s sign any brighter. I had never been in such a rush to finish my bachelors degree.
Attending Southwestern really expanded my perspective on worship. I had no idea I was conditioned into believing what worship was. I had no idea that the “worship” of my current generation was based on consumerism AND emotion.
Southwestern’s worship degree allowed me to study God’s word and rethink the biased perspective I grew up with. The historical church and their approach to music challenged me to take a step back and view worship as defined by God and his word and not by our current cultural context.
This was honestly off-putting because this wasn’t what I expected.
southwestern and worshipu
I suppose what I expected was something like Bethel Church’s School of Worship. (This is a church from Redding, California that is marketed towards my generation and younger). Well, this “Worship University” doesn’t have any academic accreditation. This was unlike Southwestern, which had me question their curriculum. You can find out more on this by listening to Cultish’s podcast Defecting from Bethel. Here’s a link:
I also came to realize that they promote worship in a way that is solely based on music. What they do is teach students how to initiate an atmospheric change by ushering in the Holy Spirit (as if he was at one’s command). WorshipU also teaches students how to provoke an emotional response to God.
This was attractive to me at the time, because this is how I was accustomed to “worship.”
But this was not biblical at all, according to Southwestern. Their courses revealed how deceitful that practice of worship can be. How rooted in emotion, fickle and unstable it was – how alarming similar it is to that of pagan worshipers.
True worship, instead, is an entire lifestyle response after one receives salvation.
No, its not just the music. Music is one way in which we worship God, but if you refuse to listen to the sermon (the instruction of God’s word) you refuse to worship. If you withhold your tithe, you refuse to worship. If you refuse to gather with the people of God, you refuse to worship. If you refuse to get baptized or denounce your secret sin and yet, still sing about “the reckless love of God” in tears on Sunday morning, your life does not display true worship. It’s a display of this generation’s cultural form of worship, but not worship as defined by the Bible.
Unfortunately, there are many contemporary worship leaders that take the congregation on an emotional rollercoaster without providing any scriptural depth of how or why we are there in the first place. I had to unlearn the illusion that we were there to feel better – to get something from God. If I wanted to do this, I could’ve gone to any other religion and still find that.
Now I understand though, that we are there to glorify the God who made us and edify the body of Christ.
Today at my church
Since my time at Southwestern, I have incorporated much of what I learned into my church setting. We have a liturgy in which the gospel story is presented every Sunday. We base songs not on what’s trending, but on doctrinal content. I now vouch for corporate discipleship every time I’m presented with the opportunity to.
Making these small changes now can help my generation and the next in the long run. And though I plan to venture outside my scope of expertise with other subjects within in the church – my focus will always be worship.
My goal is to be the living sacrifice the Apostle Paul urges us to be. I want to exude a life of repentance and active faith, not just go through the motions the worship leader takes me on.
I want to read his word, and be spoken to at that very moment. I now know that to be possible. I now have a strong foundation on the Word of God when it comes to the core of my belief system. For that reason, I am very greatful for the professors and work I had at Southwestern BTS. Coming from a public school and liberalistic environment, it was something I needed to be sure of who I had faith in.