Worship Pastor, Are You a "Church Lover" First?
What about church lover?
Given the crisis of commitment in many churches nowadays, Zac Hicks challenges fellow worship leaders to make this role primary in his new book, The Worship Pastor:
those who commit to sticking it out with a church are becoming an endangered species. But even in times when such rare breeds were perhaps more plentiful, they were a sight to behold. The people of a bygone era once called these fanciful creatures “churchmen.” (22)
Churchmen can be translated church lover. Hicks invites his fellow colleagues in worship ministry to look to this model for leading their church. Below are six characteristics he hopes will shape such ministries.
1) Passionate Lover and Believer of the Church
First, “A worship leader who has a pastoral heart believes with desperate optimism in the church and her work in the world” (22).
Think Bill Hybels' maxim: “The local church is the hope of the world.” A worship leader committed to being a worship pastor agrees with every fiber of their being.
Why? “Because the Father has put all His eggs in the Son’s basket, God has bet all-in on His Son’s body and bride” (22).
A worship pastor joins the Father in his affection for His Bride, and grows in loving the church—warts and all.
2) Zealous Commitment to Church’s Vision & Mission
Another characteristic that separates worship pastors from worship leaders is the ability to conceive of their vocation within the broader vision and mission of their local church. As Hicks explains:
A church I once served had this mission: “to declare and demonstrate the liberating power of the gospel.” I needed to be able to conceive of how my work in planning and leading worship services facilitated and participated in that mission. (23)
What is the mission of your church? How are you leveraging your role and what are you doing with your work to to further that vision?
3) Humble Submission to God-Ordained Leaders
Hicks has found this axiom to be nearly unassailable: “When my relationship with the lead pastor is solid, I can weather just about any storm; when my relationship with the lead pastor is shaky, absolutely everything else feels destabilized” (23–24).
Perhaps you feel the same. That’s because the relationship between lead pastor and worship pastor “is the most vulnerable relationship in the entire church” (23). Which is why Hicks encourages his colleagues to humbly submit. How does this look?
- Cultivate solid relationships of trust
- Follow faithfully, joyfully, easily
- Selectively disagree, and with gentleness and humility
- Pick your die-able hills carefully
4) Joyfully Cultivates Compassion for All
“Just as I can’t selectively love only my wife’s eyes, hands, lips, and right pinky toe,” writes Hicks, “so a worship pastor can’t cultivate affection for a part of Christ’s bride. We are called to love her wholly and completely” (24).
Like all pastors, worship pastors need to look to Jesus, who “perpetually [disrupted] the status quo when the community was either too undefined or too cliquish” (24–25).
Hicks also encourages cultivating God’s heart for the forgotten and marginalized, given his “scathing critique of Israel’s hypocritically tidy worship practices alongside blatant injustices (Amos 5)” (25).
5) Willingly Enters into Woundedness
The church is filled with wounded people, who turn around and wound. “Hurt people hurt people,” the saying goes.
Worship pastors frequently experience the brunt of this woundedness, becoming wounded themselves and often bitter. Hicks acknowledges this, but offers a perspective change:
The difference between a worship leader and a worship pastor is in the ability to recognize that others’ propensity to wound is a symptom of being wounded (25).
In turn, “he or she is able to respond in love by drawing near instead of retreating or fighting in defensiveness” (25).
6) Reminds Their Church of Their Church-ness
“In our day and age, when worship has become such a subjective experience, the church is ever prone to hyperindividualizing our faith and practice” (26).
That’s why worship pastors need to remind their church of the inherent communal nature of Christ’s Body. Hicks offers a few ways to do this:
- Balance “eyes open” and “eyes closed” time when leading singing to remind the church "we are all encountering God together”
- Consider the community’s range of physical expressions during worship, and approach members whose individual expressions seem to trump and threaten this communal nature
Hicks offers an extended chapter on leading people in the communal (rather than individual) experience of the presence of God.
“The call to love Christ’s church is no easy thing. But it is a must for the worship pastor” (28). Hicks goes on: “Loving the church well means a willingness to assume this office,” the office of pastor.
Let him help you embrace this role, live this role, own this role—for the good of those Christ has entrusted to your care.
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