The Forgotten Disciples
Raise you’re hand if, like me, you went straight from your mother’s womb to a saved seat in the sanctuary of your local church. Now keep your hand raised if you knew from an early age that music was going to play an important role in your future. Keep your hand up, still, if you began singing on your youth group worship team the minute you reached the allowed age and continued all the way through high school and even through college as part of your respective campus ministries. One final round . . . keep it raised if, at some point during your time as a maturing worshiper, you had a seasoned leader intentionally pouring into you, helping you fully understand what it means to step into the role of a worship pastor. If your hand is still raised, you and the person or people who discipled you deserve as many rounds of applause as one might hear during the annual State of the Union.
Because somehow over the years, this incredibly important piece has gotten lost in all the stage fog and bright lights, and much of the Church has been left with a whole bunch of good song leaders and musicians with no pastoral legs to stand on. There’s been a universal confusion placed between the role of worship pastor/leader and worship artist or song leader. My friends, would you agree that these are vastly different roles?
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. - John 4:23
If the people in our congregations only see the experiential (Spirit) side of worship, and don’t leave having been filled with truth as well, we have missed the mark. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-executed version of this month’s top CCLI songs as much as the next gal, but where appreciation turns to disappointment is when it becomes abundantly evident that the person leading us has nothing else to offer besides a good voice. Do I believe that the Lord can use a song with or without a teaching moment stuck in there to expound on the message of the lyrics . . . absolutely. But I also believe that on the whole, those charged with leading our congregations in worship, week-in and week-out, are to be just as called, equipped, and anointed to shepherd His people as the other church leaders.
Indulge me for just a minute.
Say you start hearing strange sounds coming from your car. You take it to the nearest auto shop and you’re greeted warmly by one of the mechanics. He seems perfectly nice and seems to know a lot of the lingo, as he throws around words like carburetor and fuel pump, but as you get further into the conversation it starts becoming clear that perhaps this guy doesn’t understand quite as fully as he’s letting on. You ask him, “So exactly how much experience do you have in fixing cars?” His reply is something like, “Well I’ve been hanging out here for several years observing these other mechanics fixing cars and I’ve watched several YouTube videos about it. They even let me turn a wrench every now and then when they need a bathroom break.” Something tells me you’d be hightailing it out of there to find a more experienced technician.
To my fellow ladies . . . if you walked into a beauty salon for a cut and color and the beautician available next is completely disheveled and her hair looks like a 3 year old styled it, how likely would you be to trust her with your coif?
And yet, week after week, the hearts of many church goers are being entrusted to people with no pastoral training, no teaching experience, and a Biblical knowledge that is shaky at best. But whose fault is that? Is it theirs? They’re simply operating out of the amount of knowledge and equipping that they’ve been handed. I’m inclined to believe that it is we who have failed this forgotten generation of disciples and left them unprepared to carry this mantle to its fullest extent. Something desperately needs to change, wouldn’t you agree?
Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. - 2 Timothy 2:2b
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… - Ephesians 4:11-12
We clearly have been tasked not just with leading songs, but with discipling those who will one day fill our shoes.
It starts with you, right where you are in your local context, finding those worshipers who you believe have been set apart to usher God’s people into His presence through music; who have the gifts that it takes to pastor the men, women, students, and children of your church; who desire to know God’s Word in such a way that they are ready to wield it from the stage in a manner that supports the songs they are leading; and who have the humble, teachable spirit necessary to step into this role. That could be a handful of high school and college students, green but eager. It could also be a few men and women who have already been serving on your team, but have never been poured into in this way. It may not even be members in your local church. It may be 3 or 4 people just a little younger than you who you know could really flourish with a little mentorship. Whoever it may be, find them. Reach out to them. Lead and guide them through more than just the “glamorous” and visible sides of worship leading. Dig into scripture together. Talk about what it looks like to really pastor and shepherd a church . . . the good, the bad, the ugly, and the uglier.
My boss and dear friend, Michael Farren, says “a true worship pastor will have muddy boots and bloody knuckles.” Our job is not to stand up each week, sing some songs, quote a couple Bible verses, and give emotional cues in hopes of people experiencing an encounter with God. Our responsibility, to both the Church and her future leaders, is first to LOVE these people well, to TEACH them about His presence, to DEMONSTRATE what it looks like to worship Him both on the stage and off, and to LEAD them into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Let’s not forget any longer that we are not the last generation of worship leaders. We are setting the bride of Christ up for failure if we don’t do our part in loving, teaching, demonstrating, and leading those coming up behind us.
To those of you already in the depths of discipling, bravo and keep at it. You are positioning your churches well. Thank you!
Maybe you’re reading this and you feel like perhaps you’re one of the very people talked about here who were thrusted into a position of leadership with little to no equipping. Don’t be afraid to ask another worship pastor to mentor you. We will never “have it down” this side of heaven. There is always more to learn.
If you’re a worship pastor out there who knows this is something that needs to be happening in your church, don’t wait. It’s never too late and you can never start too early. Our team here at All About Worship is for you in ways you can’t imagine! We are cheering you on as you step into this crucial role! We’d love to know what kinds of resources and tools would be helpful to you as you start your journey. Feel free to comment below with questions or with things that have helped you in your experience.
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