Here’s another message I shared in Australia at the one day TWIST Pastor’s Conference. I first gave this message in 2004 and called it “Corporate Worship as Pastoral Care.”
The talk developed out of a realization that we can often be unaware of how God wants to use the lyrics of songs and how they’re led to care for people’s souls. We’re doing more than simply singing songs together when we gather, hoping for some “worshipful” or “anointed” moment to happen. The Holy Spirit is at work to encourage, impart faith, convict, and comfort as we “teach and admonish one another” through song.
Here’s a brief outline of my message. You can download the audio and notes at the end of this post.
The pastor’s influence has changed significantly in recent decades. The rock concert culture has influenced some churches far more than we’re aware.
We tend to value:
* Performance vs. participation
* Skill vs. character
* Musical experiences vs. truth experiences
* Singer-songwriters vs. pastor-theologians
In response, some churches have minimized the significance of singing in the church. See it as a warm-up for the main part of the meeting – the sermon.
But the meetings we lead and the songs we sing are of one piece in seeking to pastor those the Savior has purchased with his own blood. Wisely and faithfully led, they can be a significant means of grace for a congregation.
Roles of the Pastor
God has given pastors the responsibility to feed, lead, care for, protect, and be an example to their flocks. (1 Pet. 5:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:2-3; Acts 20:28)
Pastors are responsible to lead both their churches and meetings. Delegated leaders are responsible to serve diligently and follow joyfully.
So how can singing songs be a means of shepherding God’s flock?
Application of Pastoral Roles in Congregational Worship
Songs teach. “We are what we sing.” Even songs we use for expression leave an impression. Our songs reflect and shape what we believe.
Singing is similar to preaching. Both seek to magnify God’s glory through the word of Christ.
Make sure your congregation is getting a theologically balanced diet – sound the right notes.
Know what songs really say as well as what they emphasize.
Plan before meetings:
* Carefully, to insure theological weight and balance
* Expectantly, because God wants to bless His people
* Humbly, with a dependence on God’s Spirit
* Purposefully, so that people know what to focus on
Lead during meetings:
* Directly or indirectly
* Lack of musical gifting is no excuse for not leading
* Well-timed transitions are key moments to exercise wise, godly, pastoral leadership
* The pastor or delegated leader is responsible for what takes place during the entire meeting.
Teach on worship and the role of music:
* Music should be an offering of worship, but is not meant to “produce” worship.
* Don’t expect music to do what only the Gospel and the word of God are meant to do by His Spirit.
We must help people connect the promises and works of God with the challenges they face. The key is faith.
People need to see their problems in light of the greatness and goodness of God.
It is not singing, per se, that changes us, but trusting in God’s word and the finished work of the Savior.
We serve our people best by helping them apply the Gospel to their lives. Many of our people’s problems result from a deficient or inaccurate understanding of
We must explain what the gospel means and accomplishes:
- Reconciliation to God (Rom. 5:10)
- Adoption into God’s family (Rom. 8:15)
- Security in God’s love (Rom. 8:37-39)
- Freedom from sin’s power (Gal. 5:24)
- Victory over death (1Cor. 15:54-55)
- Release from condemnation (Rom. 8:1)
Offer hope for change during struggles against sin.
Offer comfort and strength during trials.
Offer faith during fear or discouragement.
* From the errors of the world by singing songs with rich, theological, Christ-exalting truth
* From the vices of the world by reminding them of God’s holiness, righteousness, purity, justice, and wrath against sin
* From the pleasures of the world by doing all we can to present Christ as “dazzling” and infinitely superior to the temporary, deceptive joys this world offers
The uninvolved or distracted pastor doesn’t communicate that singing is unimportant, but that exalting God is unimportant.
People are unimpressed with the leader whose faith and joy in God is only evident on Sunday mornings.
The Result of Effective Pastoring Through Song
If our people are beholding God’s glory in our meetings, they should experience true and lasting change. (2 Cor. 3:18)
Evidences of fruit include humility, holiness, security, unity, and gratefulness.
Meetings can’t provide everything our people need to follow God. But let’s make sure we don’t give them any less than they can provide, by God’s grace.
Some fantastic insights – thank you for sharing.
What a great reminder of the teaching/pastoring power the songs we sing can have for us and our congregation. We must exercise care that we are conveying sound theological truths.
Some more great thoughts Bob.
“But the meetings we lead and the songs we sing are of one piece in seeking to pastor those the Savior has purchased with his own blood. Wisely and faithfully led, they can be a significant means of grace for a congregation.”
That paragraph in particular was rockin. I feel there is a tendency in Western churches to divide intellect and emotion; teaching and music, so that Christians need to choose to pursue one or the other, and I just don’t see that in scripture.
You mentioned very good points. You gave a concept for leading a worship. I like your idea of protecting “From the vices of the world by reminding them of God’s holiness, righteousness, purity, justice, and wrath against sin”. Yet, I don’t see any song, talking clearly about the wrath of God against sin.
The lack of pastoral worship is therefore not a lack of will or competence, it is also a lack of worship songs, which do not include the hole bandwidth of the picture, the scripture draws of God, isn’t it?
Robin, thanks for the comment. I had two thoughts in response. The first is that pastoring through song includes what we say in and around the songs. So it’s never limited to the songs themselves. Second, I did a post a while back on songs that reference God’s judgment/wrath, which is a theme that we need to keep in view as we gather in God’s presence. You can find the post here.
Thank you so much for posting this message! I’m not a pastor, but I am the “worship service planner” for my church, and this message was extremely helpful to me.
Thanks so much for this hope! You have articulated what God has shown me and sown in my heart as to what worship leading is and what worship pastors really should do! Thanks for the time, research, and thoughtfulness you put into this so that I can be empowered and equipped to better serve and lead my worship teams. I have already shared the blog with them all!
Thanks for this! Wish I could have been there to experience it in person. Seems like it would have been refreshing to be in the same room with folks exploring these concepts for worship ministry…not to mention…being in Sydney. :)
“Music should be an offering of worship, but is not meant to “produce” worship.
Don’t expect music to do what only the Gospel and the word of God are meant to do by His Spirit.”
These are criticial pieces of information and understanding! It seems fairly easy for people to mistake “good music” for “good worship”. When we, as musicians and worship leaders understand that our music is an offering, and acknowledge the sovereignty of the God we worship, a great weight of (imaginary) responsibility is lifted from our shoulders. There ARE other responsibilities we carry, of course, but MAKING people worship is not one of them.
I have gotten hooked on some of the posts here, great stuff. This post is really great and will be going to our team for sure.
I have (as a Pentecostal) often though of worship having a sense of comfort, direction, teaching but have never called it ‘pastoring through…”
Something great to chew on