Here it is a little more than a month that I have officially been here in Johnstown, and I feel like my feet are still not on the ground. My whole life is still a whirlwind of remembering names, tracking down a stove & oven, launching a church (he said nonchalantly), making my house livable, and so much more. If you think of it, please pray for me and for our team. We are each sensing a lot of spiritual warfare. I am feeling the power of your prayers, and I am relying on God so much.
Today, I want to encourage all of you who find yourself leading worship regularly to engage your role as a worship pastor.
A “pastor” is not so much a title (although it can be) as it is a spiritual calling and gifting, according to Ephesians 4:11. In many Christian circles, the word “pastor” is interchangeable with “shepherd,” and rightly so; as a shepherd is one who looks after the wellbeing of his sheep, so a pastor is one who looks after the wellbeing of those the Lord has entrusted to him or her. In Jeremiah 3:15, the Lord gave a message to the people of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah: “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” (NKJV).
As I have encouraged again and again and again in my posts, our calling is not necessarily to lead songs, but to lead people.
Sure, as worship leaders we ought to be musically competent (check out a previous blog of mine on understanding music theory), and ours is the responsibility to provide artistic merit, beauty in the presentation of truth, and draw out the special wonderment of the Gospel. However, we would do well to interpret our calling as pastors, first and foremost, and artists second. Bringing people to Jesus is our priority. Art doesn’t save people. Jesus does.
Here are a few ways to engage your role as more of a worship pastor:
- Don’t isolate music from the rest of the service.
Worship is not a mere sing-along, and it can’t be isolated as such. Ensure that your service elements (prayer, music, Scripture reading, teaching, etc.) are fluid and cohesive by collaborating with your lead pastor and other team members. It just won’t do to have a prayer focus on evangelism, a time of music that emphasizes personal intimacy with Christ, and a message on taming the tongue, all in the same service: your service will be disjointed and confusing, and this does not serve your people effectively.
- Meditate carefully over the content of your songs.
Every song I choose to work into our rotation goes through a regimented process of prayer, pitting the song against the standard of Scripture, and special regard for the spiritual condition of our church. Hear me, it’s not about the latest and greatest song. What is a song really communicating? Is the content verifiable with Scripture? Are the words actually important for your church to sing, or are there a lot of meaningless lyrics? Not every song on every important worship album is going to be worth utilizing in your church, and it is 100% acceptable and encouraged to be nit-picky here. The people in your church are worth it.
- Be spiritually sensitive in putting together worship sets.
I’ve talked extensively about choosing and arranging songs for worship sets, but I want to specifically touch on being spiritually sensitive when doing so. Bear in mind that “Joe” might be attending the service that morning, and Joe just graduated from high school. He’s excited and can’t wait to clap his hands to the rhythm of a fast song. Then you may have “Tina” show up, who is morbidly aware that only yesterday was the anniversary of the passing of her daughter in a car accident. Her life was taken by a drunk driver, and Tina is reminded of her grief and loneliness.
While it is our responsibility to exhort the congregation to lift their eyes from their situations (whether good or bad) and exalt Christ who brings peace and purpose, we must always remain sensitive to needs, even unknown needs. Be mindful and plan your repertoire accordingly, in sync with the Holy Spirit. You never know what walk of life someone is coming from.
- Regard your worship team as your discipleship group.
The Lord has entrusted your worship team and choir to you. Honestly, because of your close influence with these individuals and the hours you spend with them, you may be more of a go-to pastor for them than any of the other pastors at your church. Why not sow into them spiritually? Try incorporating prayer and Scripture reading into every single rehearsal (the benefits are wonderful, I’m telling you!), and make space for intentional teaching moments. I like to have monthly Team Nights where our team gathers to eat and play games, and I share a strategically chosen spiritual application.
- Be a theologian and student of Scripture.
Teaching theology is not reserved for your lead pastor! Dig into the Word and study it. Know for yourself what makes a song theologically balanced and rich. Understanding proper theology is also essential if you try your hand at songwriting. Listen, if our worship songs are the #1 teacher of theology, we must ensure that we are teaching and communicating something accurate, worthwhile, and balanced – as well as musically pleasing, of course.
- Be equipped and prepared to perform pastoral responsibilities.
As I referenced earlier, your team of creatives, and others, may view you – yes, you – as their primary pastor. In my relatively small career as a worship pastor in two different church plants, I have accepted countless late-night phone calls from desperate individuals; I have visited more than one hospital on more than one occasion to pray with folks and their families; I have had to break important bad news to people; I have had to step in and spontaneously facilitate services; there are many that I mentor, disciple, and hold accountable… And I’m absolutely certain the same is true for you, too. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. We are regarded as pastors to our flocks, so why not rise to the challenge? If you feel some of these responsibilities are too weighty for you, why not shadow a trusted pastor around to see how he or she handles these situations?
Fellow worship pastors… let’s take our calling for what it is. Anyone can get up on a stage and sing a song. Anyone. That’s not what God is interested in when it comes to leading His worship. He wants someone who will take care of His people, someone who will shepherd them with sensitivity and grace.
What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on the subject? I would love to hear them. What note would you add about engaging our role as worship pastors?
Well, there you have it. I write with all my love and prayers for you as you lead your church in the worship of Almighty God. We have such an otherworldly calling, and be reminded that you are 100% qualified to do it, because of the One who is in you.