Last week, Ed Stetzer posted a very helpful two part ‘Letter to my worship leaders.’ In that letter, Ed encourages worship leaders to serve their specific congregations by embracing a contextually appropriate repertoire of sing-able, thoroughly Scriptural songs which will enable the people of that specific church to truly worship God. I’m glad that he has written this letter, because he says some things that we as worship leaders need to hear and that preaching pastors don’t always think to say.
I have benefited greatly from this letter and from comments like it that pastors have spoken to me. I realized that perhaps a letter going the opposite way would be equally edifying. Here then are things I want to say to my preaching pastor, that I hope will strengthen our ministry together.
I humbly submit to you my letter to senior pastors, written from a worship leader’s perspective. May we strengthen each other for the glory of God and the building up of His Church.
Thank you for your ministry. Week after week you stand up in front of a large group of people and talk about sin and forgiveness and submission and God - all glorious truths, but things our culture would like to ignore. You have a great burden and responsibility and I want wholeheartedly to live in line with Hebrews 13:17:
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (ESV).
Thank you (Pastor Stetzer) for your letter to us. You have no idea how important it is for me to hear you say "We the leadership have your back.” The truth is, we feel the subjective nature of our leadership - young Jaden thinks we should have more of this, Aunt Agnes thinks her generation is entitled to more of that, the worship music industry suggests that worship should look like what's on those worship DVDs - sometimes I wish I could just stand up and read scripture for half an hour – who’s going to argue with that?! – instead of navigating a musical minefield every Sunday.
That being said, there are some ways that you could help me (And here I'll try to speak broadly to reflect the varying experiences of worship leaders).
1. Complement my circumstances. There are a lot of differences between you and me. When you get up to preach on a Sunday morning, it’s just you. I on the other hand am dependent upon the performance of at least a handful of other people. And I need to disciple them along the way and frankly, artists aren't always the most reasonable people. Further to that, I don't (necessarily) have theological or pastoral training, so I don't necessarily know how to build into them. And what's more, I'm not (necessarily) paid to do this work, so I'm trying to do it while also being faithful to my family and work responsibilities.
You can help me by cultivating relationships with the artists in the worship ministry. You can help me by mentoring me in how to lead small Bible studies. And you can help me with the theology part. Especially regarding Sundays...
2. Build the service with me. Tell me what you are preaching on. There have been so many times that I've made stuff up because I had no idea what you were going to say. It seems to me that the whole service should revolve around the preaching text - you telling us from that text who God is and what He had done and me helping our people to respond to that picture or truth expressed by the preaching text. Maybe we could even sit down and study the text together- that would be a great way for you to mentor me on how to lead my people in Bible study.
Know too that sometimes I'll send you song choices or questions about the order of service. I really want your feedback because you can predict better than I based on your sermon and experience the mood and condition of the congregation. If you think this is my job and I should just butt out, tell me; otherwise, respond so that I don't feel like I'm wasting your time. I truly value your insight!
3. Be predictable. This one has more to do with Sunday mornings. Sometimes you preach for 35 minutes. Sometimes it’s 45. That's a big difference. Absolutely – you have the right to vary a little, but please recognize that if you are impossible to predict, it makes it difficult for me to linger in a time of corporate prayer or Spirit led silence. If I'm never sure if I'll have to cut a song, I'll never really feel free to spontaneously follow the Spirit ('cause if I go long, the kids’ ministry will be emailing me Monday morning) ;-)
Pastor, when it comes down to it, I appreciate you. I appreciate your letter and counsel to me. You're helping me to see that I don't have to reproduce those worship DVDs to have meaningful worship and you’re helping me to think about how to serve the people – God’s people! – that He has put in our congregation. Let's continue this conversation so that God gets the glory He deserves!