So what’s in a name –or a title?
There are some who in the name of leveling the playing field think all titles should be abolished; after all, what use do the meek and humble have for titles? The problem is removing titles simply designates that person as “the guy or girl who performs the task of X, Y and Z”. I believe titles are helpful as long as they are intuitive and accurately describe the person’s role. For someone who leads worship, there are a variety of titles used such as: Worship leader, Music Director, Corporate Worship Minister, even Worship Artist or Lead Worshipper. If you are leading the congregation musically in a designated role, you might want to consider the title of Worship Pastor.
What is a Worship Pastor? How important are titles?
What is a Worship Pastor?
I realize in one sense it’s a purely semantic argument distinguishing between a worship leader and worship pastor, but I feel it’s a helpful distinction. Broadly speaking, anyone who encourages others to know God better and to worship Him more intimately could be called a worship leader. It’s not like the congregational worship leader has exclusive access to God’s presence (1 Peter 2:9); they enter the same way as any one of us would, by the blood of Jesus. We should all be worshipping God. A worship pastor, however, is someone who may or may not be an ordained minister, but is part music director and part pastor. If the title of pastor is defined as someone who has spiritual charge over a congregation, then a worship pastor has a similar charge of guiding them in matters of corporate praise. A worship pastor is one who ministers within the church by leading others in worship, and also mentors, counsels and pastors members of the worship team. Even if they never preach a sermon, a worship pastor will typically have the pastor-like responsibility to lead and care for members of a team, sometimes including other worship leaders.
What qualifies a worship pastor?
A worship pastor should have musical skill, passion for God and integrity. It’s not as though they need to have all the qualifications required of regular pastors, as laid out in the New Testament (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9) but there is a lot of overlap when it comes to character and Christian piety.
Worship leaders often have no theological training which can be problematic. I am not saying they have to go to seminary per se, but they should know God as revealed in the bible and have some solid teaching under their belts. While some people may view worship as simply the warm-up to the message, many others, especially the younger generation, choose their home church based solely on the worship style or the worship leader. For those folks mediocre preaching can be tolerated but lack-luster worship is unacceptable. I’m not saying that’s right, but it is often the reality. The music portion of Sunday service has become pretty important, so shouldn’t the person at the helm be skilled, humble, trustworthy and equipped with good biblical training?
Even those who do not identify themselves as any kind of “pastor” still do pastor in the sense that they lead (through worship) and influence people. They may simply want to sing songs and shy away from using terms like “theology” or “doctrine” but everyone espouses a belief system and what the worship pastor believes is going to come out in the things they say, and sing. Anytime a worship pastor is choosing certain songs based on the message in the lyrics, exhorting the congregation between songs, declaring things about God, drawing conclusions or applying the scriptures, he is making doctrinal and theological statements that have an effect. That’s why it’s important that the person leading has sound doctrine (Titus 1:9; 2:1) because whether or not they are pastors, they are influencing the church.
We have discussed the pastor-like qualities, now let’s look at the worship pastor’s relationship with their pastor. A worship pastor should be leading well in their sphere of influence and in particular, exercising authority in matters of music and guiding the team, but they are not the final authority. They don’t have to be best friends, but there should be high regard and mutual respect between the lead pastor and worship pastor. They should plan corporate meetings together, or at least communicate during the week about what the Lord is laying on their hearts. Hopefully a worship leader is a sounding board for the pastor, and when appropriate, someone who can bring loving correction, not merely take orders. They should always try to be in agreement, but when this is not possible, the worship pastor needs to respectfully submit to the pastor. God will honor and bless faithfulness in this area.
Submission gets a bad wrap these days, but it’s biblical, and meekness is not weakness. The ultimate example of humble submission is found in the life of Jesus. “Who being in very nature God …humbled Himself…” (Philippians 2:6-8, NIV) and submitted to His Father (John 14:10, NKJV). Jesus in His earthly ministry also marveled at the faith of the centurion who recognized that you only have real authority by submitting to authority. “For I also am a man under authority…” (Matthew 8:9-10). All of us should examine our hearts to make sure we can humbly receive whatever the Lord might be saying to us through our pastors, even when we disagree.
You are a Worship Pastor
A worship pastor should be able to articulate the essentials of God-honoring worship. The songs chosen and the words spoken should encourage and usher people into God’s presence. Some worship pastors are ordained ministers, but more often than not they are volunteers or on staff as layman. Regardless of whether or not a worship pastor is a vocational pastor they should lead well, pastor those God has placed in their care, and submit to pastoral authority. Ultimately, there is one person who draws us closer, and it’s not the worship leader. We enter God’s presence through Jesus Christ and his blood, the worship pastor merely points the way.