When we think of the worship leader at church most people think of the person directing the congregational worship songs and rehearsing the instrumentalists and singers. Sometimes we call this person our worship pastor, minister of music, or song leader. I have even seen a church that called their worship leader “the Minister of Magnification.” Whatever title a church may give to the music leader, I actually do not think that the music person in the church is the main worship leader.
Ultimately, I see the pastor of the church as the main worship leader. The pastor is responsible before the Lord for what happens in the church which includes the weekly worship services of the church. Because of this the pastor should be involved with the planning and leading of the corporate worship times. Yet, how many pastors simply turn over the first 30 minutes or so to the music leader without supervision?
Over the years the Lord has allowed me to be a worship leader in several churches working with different pastors. Most of the time I worked closely with the pastor in planning and leading the services. Over time I gained my pastor’s trust and he would leave me with the responsibility of putting together the services each week. However, I always appreciated his input and impressions concerning what I planned.
I think there are several implications for the church when the Pastor is seen as the main worship leader:
1. Pastors need to have a good understanding of biblical worship and see that it is practiced at their church. Even if a music person is planning the songs and other parts of the service, the pastor must know what each song text says and how the service is put together.
2. Pastors need to seek out music leaders who have strong theological grounding. This grounding helps the music leader implement biblical worship principles each time a service is planned. It also helps the leader to discern scriptural song texts from vague or even heretical texts.
3. Pastors and music leaders need to work together each week to plan the service. I am grateful for at least one of my former pastors who would give me his sermon plan for three to six months in advance. This helped me to strive for a more cohesive worship service as opposed to a series of unrelated items in the bulletin. Most of my former pastors all would spend time with me in planning the worship service.
4. Pastors need to be involved in the worship service prior to the sermon time. I am all for involving as many people in the service as possible but people need to know that the pastor is interested and also involved in the early part of the service. The pastor is not only the main worship leader but the lead worshiper as well. This past year when one of our Boyce music groups traveled to a church to sing, I was impressed by the pastor who was totally engaged in the worship songs and prayers in the first part of the service. What an example he was to his congregation! This also sent a message that all of the service was important not just the sermon time.
5. Pastors and music leaders need to evaluate the worship service. Pastors should take the lead striving to improve the way the service is planned and carried out.
Let me also state that although I do see the pastor as the main worship leader, this does not excuse the music leader from also being pastoral in the way he carries out his work as worship planner and leader. The music leader must be pastoral in the way he works with his musicians and his care for the congregation’s needs.
Pastors, our churches are looking for your leadership in the worship service. If you have a capable music leader, you are blessed but this does not excuse you from your involvement in worship planning and worship participation. If your music leader is not where he should be in his understanding of biblical worship principles, let me encourage you to help your music leader grow in his theological training.