The Pastor As Worship Leader
Do you imagine the pastor as worship leader? Pastors should give leadership, guidance and direction to all aspects of the worship service.
“I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).
(Note: I write as a Southern Baptist with little familiarity with how other denominations do their worship services. Therefore, what follows may be of limited value to some of our readers.)
Some tasks we cannot shunt off to someone else. Some key responsibilities we cannot hire others to perform for us. Leading the worship service is one of the pastoral essentials. The pastor is the leader.
This is not to say the minister will physically lead the hymns. (In some churches, he does, but in most someone else does this.) He will not pray every prayer or be the only one reading the Scripture or promoting upcoming events. But ultimately, it all goes back to him. The pastor is like the stagecoach driver. He does not pull the coach, but holds the reins to the six horses that do.
1) Let the pastor give leadership, guidance and direction to all aspects of the service.
This calls for advance planning, usually in a weekly staff meeting. (The pastor who has no weekly staff planning meeting is setting himself and the church up for great confusion and a multitude of conflicts. A thousand problems can be headed off by regularly sitting down with the other ministers or key leaders to talk out issues, plan special events, synchronize the calendar and make decisions about ministries.)
With one leader, the minister works on the choice of hymns, with another on other features in the service, whether a video, testimony, promotion, drama or something else, and with another on preparation for the service. The latter involves the greeters, ushers, displays and physical attractiveness (yes, this includes making sure the bathrooms are clean, attractive and well-supplied). Some of this is done one-on-one; some of it in the full gathering.
As the “overseer of the church” (Acts 20:28) the minister is the point person, giving direction and oversight to everything.
Note: As the new pastor of a church struggling with financial issues, there being precious little money for “extras,” I began designating money occasionally into a “pastor’s ministry fund.” When the leader of the children’s choirs requested $100 for refreshments, I asked the bookkeeper to take the money from the pastor’s fund. At this, the deacon serving as the unpaid business administrator balked. “The children’s choir is not ‘pastoral ministry.’” I said, “My friend, everything taking place in this church is pastoral ministry. If I use that money to buy bathroom tissue, that too is pastoral ministry.”
2) The minister is the one leading the worship.
Even if you have a staffer who is called “worship leader,” it’s a misnomer. You as the shepherd of the congregation lead them in worship. You do it personally, and you do it indirectly through others, and throughout all of it, you set the example.
You are worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ in this service, and the congregation should know that.
You begin the service (i.e., you are the first one at the pulpit to speak) by giving direction to what will take place here today. When you step away from the platform then, and sit with your family until the next time you rise to speak, you should fully participate. Sing the hymns heartily, and follow everything taking place. Be present, and not distracted.
Note: The time to set this pattern is when the new pastor has his first staff meeting. He makes it clear—without ever saying the actual words—that he is interested in everything taking place and that “we are going for excellence in every detail.” In some churches, the music director has assumed control of the first half of the service and may resent the pastor’s intrusion into “his” area. The new pastor should learn this ahead of time and deal with it personally and privately rather than springing it on the unsuspecting staffer in the meeting. But absolutely no one is granted their own time in the worship service without being accountable to the minister. Since God and the congregation will hold the pastor accountable, he may as well bite the bullet and take the role.
3) The minister should begin the service clearly and positively.
Let the pastor walk to the pulpit and say loudly, confidently and from memory some clear and uplifting verse of Scripture.
“This is the day the Lord hath made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
“I will call upon the Lord who is greatly to be praised! So shall I be saved from my enemies. The Lord liveth! and blessed be the Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted!”
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines; though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food; though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls. Yet, I will exult in the Lord! I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The Lord God is my Rock, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet; He causes me to walk on my high places!”
And after calling out that verse, lead in prayer. What kind of prayer? Keep reading.