The Role Of The Pastor In A Worship Service

“God is glorified not only by His glory's being seen, 
but by its being rejoiced in.
When those that see it delight in it, 
God is more glorified than if they only see it....
He that testifies his idea of God's glory [does not] glorify God
so much as he testifies also his approbation of it\
 and his delight in it”.  
                                                                         (Jonathan Edwards)

The Pastor’s role in public or corporate worship has changed significantly in the last fifty years. Fewer have felt it more significantly than those in the Reformed and Presbyterian communities.  I will not take the time to unwrap all of issues that encompass this very important topic, but briefly present some unique aspects of Reformed worship and how that should affect the role of the pastor[1] in a worship service.

How you see corporate worship will have an effect on the role the pastor plays in the service.  Reformed worship has placed a higher priority on the vertical aspect of worship rather than the horizontal.  If the vertical is done correctly, the horizontal will naturally occur.  To have a vertical focus is to be “theo-centric” or God-centered. It has deep awareness of the presence of God among His people and the grace that He lavishes on His people as they worship him through hearing His Word preached, prayer, praise, and participating in the sacraments. To have a horizontal focus on the other hand is to place primary attention on the people who are present.  It focuses on fellowship and the “one another” aspect of worship.  The danger of an over emphasis on the horizontal is that felt needs of those present become primary and the means of grace becomes secondary, therefore depriving people of the true means of grace necessary for comfort, hope, and spiritual growth.

A vertical focus in worship places a more sober reality on the pastor’s call and different approach to his place in the worship service.  That is the say He has been called by God to lead worship.  Traditionally that meant that not only was he to preach the Word of God to the people and administer the sacraments, but to lead them in prayer and praise.  Literally, he would be the one that leads the people in singing.  To some who are “musically disadvantaged” the very thought of leading a congregation in song may cause a serious consideration of a new vocation! 

As the worship service has become more elaborate with full bands, large choirs, and varied technology most pastors neither have the skills nor the time to handle that level of responsibility.  As result many have unwittingly stepped back out of their role as Worship Leader and given others that responsibility. Others have kept the worship service simple therefore avoiding these challenges.   

So then, how do you remain faithful to your calling and lead God’s people in world of musical and technological complexity?

  1.  Grow in your personal worship.
  2. Pray for Wisdom.
  3. Keep expository preaching central.
  4.  Don’t ignore the “regulative principle”.[2]
  5.  Let Scripture and Sound Theology drive your ecclesiology, not music, technology, numerical church growth or the “latest and greatest.” 
  6. Some Practical Suggestions:
a.      Whether musically gifted or challenged the pastor is responsible for all aspects of the worship service.
b.     If you have a person who regularly leads the music in your worship, it is crucial to have close relationship with this person.  This permits open and honest discussions and discipleship.
c.      I like the idea of designating the one who leads the music aspect of your serves the “Lead or Chief Musician” so as not to confuse music and worship
d.    Lead as much of the worship as you can.

[1] The title of pastor is used broadly in the church today for varies ministry positions in the church.   In this case I will be using the word to describe those whose primary responsibility is to preach the Word of God.
[2] "But the acceptable way of worship the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imagination and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture" (Westminster Confession of Faith 21:1).

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