Hey everyone! Long time, no blog! Re: my last blog entry about our upcoming family changes, we have turned in our first round of paperwork today and finishing up our remaining classes this month as prospective foster parents. We would appreciate your continued prayer and support. Stay tuned on the blog for more updates as we get them!
In the meantime, I had a few thoughts that I wanted to contribute concerning the topic of worship. As much as I lead worship, you’d think these kind of thoughts would be overflowing, but they aren’t really. But one of the things that is (rightfully) getting talked about more and more in the worship blog “scene” is the idea worship leadership as a form of pastoral ministry. So, I thought I would add my thoughts to the pile and share a little bit of my heart concerning this topic.
Worship Leaders Aren’t Just Musicians/Singers
… Or at least they shouldn’t be. There are so many gifted musicians in Christ’s church, and as I have discussed elsewhere, I believe God has uniquely given the church music as an important means of worship because of how it helps draw out our emotions (which is a good thing) and stir our affections for God. At Tomball Bible, we are blessed with some extraordinarily talented youth who are playing the music at their youth services and events. But, one of things I try and impress upon these young worshipers is that, for those of us called into worship leadership, God doesn’t just want amazing musicians and singers who love him. He wants that for sure. But that’s just step one. There’s so much more to leading others in worship than just loving God and loving to play music.
You can check out these awesome students who totally get what it is about and are making great strides as worshipers and leaders. Super proud of them.
Worship Leader, You are a Shepherd
I believe all worship leaders are shepherds, whether they see that or not. In most worship settings, other than the person preaching, the most visible individual and present voice is that of the person leading the music. That is a game-changer when you think about it. So, for those of us in vocational ministry, many of us already carry the title of “Worship Pastor” and therefore some type of shepherding/pastoral ministry is assumed or expected. But many of the people who stand up and lead the congregational singing for their churches week in and week out do not have any sort of pastoral title and may not even have any pastoral expectations placed upon them, depending on the size of the church, how the leadership views the position, etc.
Make no mistake, even if you don’t have the title, you should view what you are doing as a type of shepherding. You may not visit people in the hospital (you should). You may not have to open your home every week to people in your church to open the Word and pray together (you should). You may not have to go to meetings concerning the direction of the church or its finances (maybe a good thing!). But you had better view your job on that stage as more than just getting people to sing along to your well-executed covers of other people’s songs to God.
Music as a Shepherding Tool for Ministry
This fact was no more clear to me than when–about 18 months ago–I was asked to lead the music for the funeral of a still-born child. The parents of the child and I had never even talked. I knew who they were but had never met them personally. Yet they trusted me. They wanted me, a familiar spiritual voice, to be one of the people who shepherded them through this traumatic event.
And let me tell you, it doesn’t matter how many awesome new, atmospheric worship songs you can flawlessly execute at that point. You are learning Keith Green songs and old hymns you’ve never played before in your life and may never play again. You are pulling out the one suit you own and taking it to dry cleaners. You are doing everything in your power to make sure the needs and desires of this poor, hurting couple in your care are being met. Because though you don’t know them and though you can’t even begin to understand the level ache and hurt they are experiencing, you know that they trust your leadership. They are sheep in your care. You are a shepherd. And the songs that you sing and they way you lead in that moment will have profound significance in their life.
First Things First
So for current and aspiring worship leaders reading this, I would encourage you in the midst the pressure be creative and play skillfully, don’t forget that most of the people in your congregations on a given Sunday aren’t looking for you to nail that guitar lick or hit that note perfectly. They are wanting to know that you are caring for them. They want to know that you are thinking about how best to lead them as a congregation, not just playing the songs you like. By all means, play skillfully. Be creative. But be a shepherd first.