The Worship Leader: Pastor, Theologian, Musician (Part 1 of 2)

A serious case can be made for corporate worship being one of the many avenues to challenge and inspire the church, as well as to teach and admonish.  No doubt, corporate worship is about our thankful praise to the God of gods and Lord of lords, but only in part.  It is, in a more balanced approach, an interplay of the God to Us and Us to God vertical aspects and the Us to Others and Others to Us horizontal aspects of interpersonal interaction.  That means there is much more to leading worship than what is commonly thought.

In this two-part article, I will help us think through a trend that must be addressed in the life of the Christian church.  I seek to address overall trends within the larger Christian community, and there are exceptions in local congregations.  If your church is an exception, then be thankful.

Pastor and Theologian

As congregations grew in total attendance in America throughout the 20th Century, church staff positions grew to meet the challenge of administrating the greater number of people, programs, and larger facilities inherent in this type of growth.  Part of this pattern was for pastors to bring musicians to the staff who would take care of the musical aspects of worship.  Admittedly, pastors with large congregations have many responsibilities, and many pastors have little musical ability to manage a growing worship program.  Thus, the addition of music staff only makes sense.

It seems, however, that as pastors continued to get busier and busier that they began to not only rely on the musicians for the musical leadership of worship, but also – in many ways – the spiritual leadership of worship.  Rather than retaining an overall spiritual leadership as the pastor and leader of the congregation, they had to begin sharing this responsibility with others due to the overwhelming size and complexities of these ministries.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I do not doubt that many gifted musicians are spiritually fit to lead a congregation in corporate worship.  My question would be whether or not that is their appropriate place or responsibility; given the preparation they have received to fulfill this kind of role.  Due to the broadened implications of a biblical and balanced approach to corporate worship, one must realize that the great load of responsibility which lies on the shoulders of the “Worship Leader” may be greater than their training.

To get straight to the point, I suggest a re-evaluation of the kinds of requirements placed upon a candidate and eventual staff person who might fulfill this role of Worship Leader.  Whether the trend began this way or not, what has become of this position is something that more noticeably resembles the role of a pastor than anything else.  Call the position Associate Pastor, Worship Pastor, Pastor of Worship Arts, or whatever – but call it what it is.  It is much, much more than leading music, and I think you could ask anyone who has filled this role to verify that reality.

Pastoral and Theological Training

This being the case, what must also come along with the title is the expectation of the preparation as a pastor.  I think what is called for is Bible College, seminary, or some kind of higher education that focuses on Scripture, theology, and pastoral education.  Many of those filling these roles have plenty of experience in order to lead music, but what I have discovered over and over is that they sorely lack the skills to function as a pastor to the people they are seeking to lead.

For those seeking to be Worship Leaders, rather than opportunities to learn pastoral skills and theology, there seem to be a plethora of opportunities to learn the “skills” of worship leading.  In reviewing the class schedule of various of seminars, camps, and even college/university degree programs, what is found is a very basic (i.e., short) review of Bible and Theology, in contrast to a long, long list of music classes, as well as the modern aspects of multimedia – sound, lighting, computer, recording, video, etc.  What is the real focus of this training?

What I find most puzzling is that churches (I am referring to what I see as overall trends that may not be true in all cases) accept this as the appropriate training.  Yet, this is non-pastoral training for a person who has almost as much time to address and lead the congregation during a worship service as the pastor – and sometimes even more!!

The position of Worship Leader is one that is first of all spiritual and pastoral.  This must be established as the central focus and those filling these positions must be aware of what that means, as should the churches that hire them and the colleges, universities, and seminaries that train them.  This means that the requirements placed on spiritual leaders in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9) will also be expected of the Worship Leader. Impeccable character, the ability to lead with spiritual wisdom, and the knowledge of doctrine and theology to refute error are the hallmarks of the elder, pastor, and deacon – as well as any spiritual leader of the church.

In Part 2, I will look at the music side of worship and the role of Worship Leader as a musician.

(Original Post on July 30, 2012 at the Worldview Church:


Posted on August 26, 2013, in Worship Leader. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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