FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Some might compare the dialogue on worship in the Christian community to a game of tug of war. Some say it should be done this way, and others say it should be done that way. Ph.D. student Scott Aniol says the only thing that matters is that it is done God’s way.
“My highest quality of good worship would be that it’s deliberately biblical,” Aniol says. “In other words, that pastors, music ministers, those in involved in leading worship are deliberately ordering their worship based on principals they find in the word of God.”
Aniol’s view lines up well with what Southwestern strives to teach in its music school—so much so that professors began using the book Aniol wrote about worship in some of their classes. Three classes use his book, Worship in Song, this semester.
Aniol, a former associate pastor and the founder of the ministry Religious Affections, says while some churches follow a biblical model of worship, there remains room to improve in many congregations.
“I’m afraid the status quo is just doing things as we always have, maybe a little bit more entertainment-oriented,” Aniol says. “So, even putting issues of style aside, my primary objective is to encourage deliberate, biblical orientation, first of all, and then the second thing would be deliberately God-centered, so that worship is about Him.”
Aniol wrote Worship in Song over a span of about five years. He says he did not initially plan on writing a book, but after speaking on worship in churches across America, writing journal articles and writing his master’s thesis on worship, he realized with a few tweaks, he could easily have a book and a tool to help pastors and music ministers fine tune their worship services.
“I think for most people, music is seen as merely decoration or a pretty packaging for truth, and what I really encourage them to see is that music has a God-ordained function that really aids in our response to the Lord as we consider biblical truth,” Aniol says.
The father of two, who travels an average of two weeks each month to talk about worship in churches and in conferences, says for worship to be given the right treatment, both pastors and music ministers have to work together to find the most biblical balance.
“I really have a burden that church musicians need more theological training and pastors need more exposure to ideas about music and worship,” Aniol says. “One of my main visions and goals is to see that integration between worship and music on the one hand and theology and pastoral ministry on the other hand.”
Aniol says some churches could stand to be more biblical in the purpose of worship. Worship, he says, is a way for believers to respond to God’s truth.
“One of my emphases is that the worship time is primarily for believers to gather to worship the Lord,” Aniol says. “The worship service is not primarily for unbelievers, although unbelievers are certainly welcome to come. Paul is clear in Corinthians, as unbelievers see believers truly worshiping the Lord, that is an evangelistic thing, but the idea that we order and structure our service based on what unbelievers want, I think is a dangerous path. Instead we should be asking what musical forms, what worship order will best help believers understand biblical truth and then respond to that truth with their hearts.”
The Michigan native believes sound worship choices should extend beyond the church doors, as well. Aniol says a Christian’s every moment and every choice should be an offering to the Lord. He encourages Christians to sift all of their music choices through a screen of biblical truth to decide what is appropriate.
“My primary objective is to encourage Christians to at least work through that process, to not have an ‘anything goes’ kind of perspective, but to say, ‘I’m going to really evaluate the kind of music I listen to in life,’” Aniol says.
Where people draw those lines, he says, is between them and God.
Aniol, who plans to finish his Ph.D. in May 2013, has also published a shorter, footnote-free book on worship titled “Sound Worship.” He and his wife, Becky, recorded and released the album “God Himself is with us: The Gospel Proclaimed through Hymns” in 2009.
Aniol hopes to continue writing, speaking and teaching after he completes his degree in order to equip the local church.
“That is the goal, that is the method, that is the intent,” Aniol says. “It takes work, takes thought, but I think it’s necessary for worship that is thoroughly pleasing to the Lord and beneficial for the worshiper, as well.”