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An Apology to Lead Pastors

Where do I start? Well, I should probably clarify from the beginning that my last post, "A Challenge to Lead Pastors," was not directed toward my own lead pastor. We have a wonderful friendship and a work relationship of freedom, teamwork, and trust. I am extremely blessed to be working under such a humble, spiritually attuned man who is also not afraid to say the last ten percent in love. Hence the reproving that led to this apology.

What I wrote was immature, judgmental, and arrogant. My thoughts were under-developed and should never have been published in the tone they were. I woke up one morning last week thinking about the lead pastor/worship pastor relationship. I opened my computer just to jot down a couple thoughts to remind myself to think, study, and pray about the subject. Instead, what ensued was a quick, flesh-originated, brain spew session, after which I hit "Publish." The only thing that made me publish my thoughts immediately was a desire to stir up controversy. What you probably thought, though, was, "What an ignorant punk. Why should I listen to a single thing he says?"

So, lead pastors and everyone, please accept my apology. I did not mean to generalize, challenge anyone's authority, or lump all worship pastors together to an exalted place of prophetic insight and power. If I may, I would like to offer a different kind of apology for what I meant to say. Perhaps lead pastors, worship pastors, and all church leaders will more readily receive a challenge that comes out of brokenness and concern for the church.

The challenge is simple: Take a giant step back from your church, from the way you do worship, and begin thinking objectively and deeply about your church's structure of worship. What has shaped your worship? What elements are important to you in worship, and why? Why do you do things in the order you do? Do you stick with doing things because they work? What does it mean for something to be "working"? Are you afraid that people will leave if you change anything? Have you considered the historical structure of worship?

The reason why I ask these questions is because I question the reasons why we do the things we do in our worship. Are we doing things simply because that's the way they've always been done (traditionalism)? Are we doing things only because they work and throwing things out that don't seem to be working (pragmatism)? Do we choose the things we do based on the what our people want (accommodation)?

The questions could go on, and hopefully you'll take the time to really consider your worship structure. To help you, especially worship leaders and lead pastors, I challenge you to read Christ-Centered Worship together. Bryan Chapell's goal is for church leaders to allow the gospel to shape our practice of worship. If you openly receive what Chapell has to offer, you will more than likely find that the contemporary church structure of worship (songs - announcements - sermon) is not the biblical and historic pattern. Rather, contemporary church worship has been shaped by our individualistic culture, creating church consumers rather than true worshipers of God. Chapell is not saying that the alternative is the traditional, liturgical model of worship, but simply that we must have "gospel priorities" in our worship structuring.

I can guarantee you that if we approach this openly, laying our pride and pragmatism aside, we will be relieved at the simplicity of gospel-shaped worship, we will begin seeing a greater work of the Spirit in our communities, and God will draw closer to us in worship than ever before.

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A Challenge to Lead Pastors

[Update: Make sure you read "An Apology to Lead Pastors" immediately after reading this post.]

1. Break out of the mold. Most evangelical churches are stuck in the Contemporary Church worship mold, which is for the most part culture-formed, individualistic, disconnected from history, spiritually ineffective, and overall, I cringe to say, unbiblical. Your worship pastor prophetically sees this. They want to steer the worship ship in a different direction toward a gospel-formed, communal, historically connected, Spiritually affective, BIBLICAL church. And the number one person who holds them back is YOU, not the congregants, not the old timers.

2. Empower your worship pastor. Acknowledge first that they are called and gifted by God to do what you cannot do. If it is true that God calls and gifts each member of the body to a specific role and function, trust that your worship pastor is hearing from God the direction to take your church in worship. Trust them. Yes, reins are necessary, but that's how the body should work anyway. We should all be recognizing each others calling, submitting to one another, and moving forward as a united team. If all you want out of you worship pastor is awesome music, change their title to "Rock Star" and assume for yourself a greater level of study and responsibility in the worship life of your church.

3. Listen to your worship pastor. You don't read the same books they do. You are focusing on other things (sermon prep, polity, etc.). Let them lead worship, not just songs. Trust me, you don't see all that they see when it comes to worship. Let them enlighten you. Let them out of the cage. If they have been hearing from God, they will lead your local church into a greater expression of worship. There is a Spirit-led movement among worship pastors today, especially the younger generation. They are just not interested in anything showy, produced, contrived, manipulative, or programmed. They long to find their place in God's story. They long for true communion with one another. They long for a deeper connection with history. They long to bring the mercy of God outside the walls of the church. And most of all they long for the gospel of Jesus Christ to shape all that is done in worship.

I strongly encourage you lead pastors, "production" pastors, and others to humble yourself before God and your worship pastor with an open mind and willing heart. Read a book together. I recommend Christ-Centered Worship by Brian Chapell and Ancient-Future Worship by Robert Webber. Wrestle through some things together. That would mean the world to them and work wonders in the worship life of your church.

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