In the past three years, I have met a continually growing number of young worship leaders who desire to be more than rock stars or lead musicians in their churches. In their minds, that approach has been weighed and found wanting. They want to go deeper. They want to take their role with the seriousness and gravity with which the minister they serve alongside takes theirs. They want to be pastors. I could rehearse many things, but the following five keep popping up as actions I observe being taken by worship leaders who desire to take their job more pastorally. I’ll phrase them as imperatives:
1) Pray for the church, her work, and her worship.
One could spot a worship pastor a mile away if one could listen in to their prayers. Pastoral worship leaders think and pray the “big thoughts” for their congregation. They know that what happens when the people gather on Sundays is special, sacred, and uniquely life-giving for the people of God, and they are regularly praying that this Divine transaction is visible, powerful, and effectual every week. Their heart bleeds for the local church, and they are regularly praying for who the church is and what the church does. Their commitment to the church’s biblical vision and mission is evident in how they intercede in prayer.
2) Engage your team and church relationally throughout the week.
Humanly speaking, I observe a direct correlation between the relational engagement of a worship leader with the church and the effectiveness of the services which he or she plans. When worship leaders are connected relationally to the flock, they develop another set of “senses” with which they put together services. They can’t just plan happy music and cheerful prayers when they know that several of their church members are battling depression and struggling to voice that to God in their private lives. Worship pastors initiate and intentionally seek out one-on-one time with the musicians and other volunteers they regularly work with. They show by their actions that they don’t just value people for what they do but for who they are in Christ. They demonstrate that value by caring about them as individuals, beyond what they bring to the team.
3) Evaluate the success of your services through the lens of disciple-making.
Worship leaders who engage their jobs pastorally measure a worship service’s effectiveness less on bodies present, hands raised, tears shed, and ecstatic moments experienced and more on how well, over time, the people of God are being shaped into the image of Christ. They recognize that both the content and form of their worship services serve to either make or mal-form disciples. They praise God for intense moments of encounter with Him, but they measure worship’s success with a long view. They ask questions like: “Does our repertoire of songs give the people of God a well-rounded picture of who God is and what He does?”; “Do the prayers we pray lift our heads about the nature and scope of God’s mission?”; “Does the language of worship reflect the breadth of the Psalms, and am I providing the people of God a full vocabulary of how to relate to Him in their personal walk?”
4) Visit and care for the sick.
Worship leaders who engage their jobs pastorally recognize that one of the most valuable informants of worship planning is the ministry of mercy and care. They are ready for their schedule to be interrupted by a call to pray for someone in a hospital or in their home. They recognize that their church most likely includes people who can’t regularly attend worship, and they make an effort to connect on the phone or in person with those who are home-bound. The worship services they plan reflect their heart for the poor, the downtrodden, the heavy-laden, and the broken-hearted.
5) Find ways for the worship service to preach gospel other than through the sermon.
Pastorally-minded worship leaders recognize that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes. They know that sanctification only happens through going more deeply into, as opposed to moving beyond, the good news of Christ. They burn with the same zeal that engulfed Martin Luther, when he said that we are to know the gospel and “beat it into their heads continually.” They recognize that their heart and the hearts of the people of God are stubborn, stiff-necked, and prone to wander, and they know that the only remedy is the perpetual drinking of the gospel. Worship pastors are therefore dissatisfied if the only time the gospel is preached is in the sermon. They seek songs that proclaim the merit and finished work of Christ. They walk people through the gospel-story in the shape of the worship service. They want people to journey from the glory of God, to the gravity of sin, to the grandeur of grace.
Wow. Writing and re-reading this humbles and challenges me. So…what are some of the other ways you’ve witnessed worship leaders engage their jobs pastorally?