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McMinn combines love for music and theology at Southern
July 19, 2004
By David Roach
Keith McMinn (above) hopes to teach church members to love theology as much as he does. Said McMinn, “[I]f you can’t really nurture people and point them to God and teach them the truth, you’re not much good.” Photo by David Merrifield
Keith McMinn has always loved music. But it wasn’t until he came to Southern Seminary that he realized how music and theology work hand-in-hand in the local church.
When McMinn, a 2004 graduate of the School of Church Music and Worship, arrived at Southern, he was already developing an interest in theology. But professors like Carl Stam and Esther Crookshank taught McMinn how theology must be more than a casual interest for successful music ministers.
McMinn served as Stam’s assistant for two years. During that time Stam taught him valuable lessons about theology, music and ministry, McMinn said.
“I always sensed that we’ve got to sing deeper,” McMinn said. “We’ve got to sing the riches of God’s grace. And when I came to Southern, ... I met Carl Stam. His positive model of singing the Word, praying the Word, and using Scripture and prayer in a service radically changed how I saw the importance of worship.”
Through his interaction with Crookshank, McMinn discovered that hymns are an important but underused resource for teaching Christians the deep truths of Scriptures.
“She [Crookshank] just opened my eyes to hymnody, what the church is lacking in that area, why hymns are not sung today as much as they were,” he said.
“... She said the reason hymns are not sung in the church ... is because they’re not sung and cherished in the home.”
In light of his seminary education, McMinn, who serves as minister of worship at Valley Station Baptist Church in Louisville, says that he never plans a worship service without considering the theological implications of hymns and choruses.
His process for planning worship is always the same: consider the text of songs first and the tune second, he said.
“What I sing is of utmost importance in worship,” he said.
“Even to this day I don’t sing a word in worship, even if I’m leading, if I don’t understand what it means. I’ll skip over it.”
McMinn has not always felt so passionate about theology, however.
While he attended Shorter College in Rome, Ga., McMinn went through a period of confusion over the Bible’s teaching on salvation and the sovereignty of God.
But through the influence of a close friend, McMinn probed the Scriptures and eventually came to understand and love the Bible’s teachings about salvation.
As McMinn’s love for theology grew, the same friend who helped him work through his questions about salvation recommended that McMinn consider attending Southern Seminary.
When McMinn heard the tape of a sermon preached by Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., he knew that Southern Seminary was the place for him.
“I heard a sermon called ‘What Mean Ye These Stones?’ and I learned about the changes Dr. Mohler was making at Southern,” McMinn said. “I knew I wanted to go there.”
McMinn solidified his decision to attend seminary at Southern when he met Mohler at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Mohler preached at the church and then spoke with McMinn after the service. During their conversation, Mohler made a prediction that McMinn says he will never forget.
“At that time I was single, and Dr. Mohler said to me, ‘Keith, I met my wife in seminary, and I bet you’ll meet your wife in seminary.’ And I did.”
McMinn met his wife, Joy, while he was assisting Crookshank in a hymnology class during the fall semester of 2001. Crookshank asked McMinn to meet with each student in the class to discuss a project.
When he met with Joy, the two felt an immediate attraction.
They began dating and were married on January 4, 2003.
Today, the McMinns minister together, and they hope to teach church members to love theology as much as they do.
“If you’re going to be a music minister, just having a music degree is not enough,” he said. “Sure you can lead a choir and conduct an orchestra and sing a solo and play the piano.
“But if you can’t really nurture people and point them to God and teach them the truth, you’re not much good.”