A reader wrote in to ask:
How do I serve and support the role of my Senior Pastor when his approach to corporate worship may sound a little different than what I get from your conferences?
Great question, and not the first time I’ve been asked. This question reveals what happens when the worship leader and musicians are getting biblical training and the pastor isn’t. It highlights the need for pastors to think about worship theologically, rather than basing their thoughts on past experiences or the culture.
But what do you do if you’re in a church where the pastor is asking you to do things that you don’t think are going to serve the church in the long run?
The first thing we need to do is examine our heart to make sure we can humbly receive whatever the Lord might be saying to us through the pastor. Often pastors are discerning enough to know something’s wrong but may not know the best remedy. It’s our job to listen carefully, make sure we’re hearing what they’re saying, and discuss alternate solutions.
Here are some examples. Maybe he says he wants you to do more “upbeat” songs to get the people going. That could sound like he doesn’t care about the truth, and wants you to musically manipulate the congregation. Or, it could be that you tend to pick slow songs all the time and people are falling asleep. Maybe he doesn’t think you need to be to pre-occupied about theology when it comes to song choices. Perhaps you tend to only choose weighty songs that don’t take new believers into account. I know that’s been my tendency and I’ve appreciated input in that area. Maybe he’s told you, “Just pick songs that people like and that tell God how much we love him!” You could be choosing songs that are difficult to sing and don’t include songs that enable us to express our hearts toward God. Corporate worship is most effective when it combines objective truth with subjective response. Or he might ask you to stop talking and just play the songs so you don’t interrupt the “flow.” What he might be saying is that you sound like a frustrated preacher who does talk too much when you’re leading. Or maybe you tend to wander aimlessly whenever you say something.
Don’t assume that when your pastor asks you to do something different, that you have to defend your actions. Learn from what he’s saying.
However, if you discover that you really are in disagreement over certain specifics of leadership, it’s good to talk through them. It can be helpful to ask your pastor to read an article or a chapter of a book, or to listen to a message that clearly defines what you think he’s missing. Then ask if you can discuss it together. Vaughan Roberts’ True Worship might be a great place to start. You might also consider two seminars I gave at the last WorshipGod06 conference, Corporate Worship as Pastoral Care and Healthy Tensions in Corporate Worship.
It might also be good to have a conversation about the purpose of congregational singing. It’s not to produce a spiritual high in people or to simply enable us to express our feelings towards God. The clearest direction we have is that it’s supposed to help us teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16).
Above all, it’s good to make sure that we’re regularly communicating to our pastor that we want to serve his vision for the church, and make his job as easy as possible. I don’t want my pastor to ever feel hesitant about bringing correction, adjustments, or questions to me. I’m there to serve him, not the other way around. That means I should frequently ask him how I can serve him more effectively, and if there’s anything he’d change about what I’m doing.
One last thought. Sometimes I think a certain decision is HUGE, when in reality it’s more a preference. Even if I don’t agree that doing a certain song would be edifying, I want to try to make it work if my pastor asks me to do it. And if you’re in a church where your pastor in regularly asking you to do songs that you think are unbiblical, unhelpful, or unwise, it may be time to start looking for another church.