Zac Hicks (D.Min. candidate, Knox Theological Seminary) is Canon for Worship & Liturgy at Cathedral Church of the Advent (Birmingham, AL), blogger at zachicks.com, and author of The Worship Pastor (Zondervan, 2016). He grew up in Hawaii, studied music in Los Angeles, trained in Philosophy and Biblical Studies at Denver Seminary, and his current doctoral work is in the theology and worship of the English Reformation. Zac's passions include exploring the intersection of old and new in worship and thinking through the pastoral dimensions of worship leading. He is a songwriter, having recorded seven albums to date. Zac has been married for over fifteen years to his wife, Abby, and they have four children—Joel, Jesse, Brody, and Bronwyn.
Blogs by this author:
This Advent season, on the eve of the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I’ve been thinking a lot about the theology of Martin Luther. Particularly, I’ve been pondering his doctrine of simul iustus et peccator. This doctrine often gets articulated anthropologically—you and I live our lives “simultaneously justified and sinful.” Our experience of life under the simul is described well in Romans 7:15 (ESV): “I do not understand what I do.
It has perhaps become THE criticism of modern worship songs: replace all references to God with the name of your boyfriend (or girlfriend), and you have a song virtually indistinguishable from the love songs of top 40 radio. Folks like me, who cut their blogospheric teeth on such observations, have made plenty of hay over these kinds of things in posts past. The argument is a justifiable cry that our worship songs need to be more than the mushy, sappy, and touchy-feely. We need doctrine. We need awe. We need reverence.
OUR ACHILLES HEEL
I’m a believer in thoughtful worship. I’m a believer in biblical worship. I’m a believer in worship that is theologically deep, historically informed, and intellectually engaging. And yet, many of us who buy into this have an Achilles heel. In an effort to fill worship with meaning, we can end up over-explaining everything.
I said it at the Calvin Symposium a few months ago, and I’ll say it again. And nobody’s paying me to say this. It’s just true. John Witvliet is the Kevin Bacon of the worship world. It seems that every significant worship insight can be traced back, by a maximum of six degrees, to Dr. Witvliet. Instead of sweeping this reality under the rug, I’ll just go ahead and name it and claim it right at the beginning of this post: I got this idea from him.
Ah, the old Trojan horse. You think you’re welcoming something innocent and wonderful into your life, and it turns out to be evil and destructive. People talk about worship songs that way. I’m a part of several online forums, and this conversation always comes up. It goes something like this:
Should we, with all the other churches, incorporate [X] song from [Y] church, if [Y] church’s pastor preaches heresy?
Liturgophiles Gone Wild
Many of us who love and appreciate the Church’s rich liturgical tradition feel this way because of how it has affected us, especially over time. For us, the liturgy is deeply understood and deeply felt. But this is not the case a large majority of Christians. Despite the resurgence of interest in overtly liturgical worship (I use “overtly” because, as many have pointed out, all worship has a liturgy), the growth of the Church in the global South has been largely of the Pentecostal and charismatic variety.