Ministry would be easy if it weren’t for the people. Worship ministers have heard this quote and probably have had this thought after difficult team meetings or rehearsals. We are reminded that worship ministry is all about the two great commandments: loving God and loving your neighbor (or your congregation). For many years in ministry, I had the title “minister of music.” With this leadership position I often thought that I’m not really a minister of music like my title says, but a minister to people. As worship ministers we can be distracted from loving our people like we should due to demanding aspects of our work such as planning, rehearsing, and leading worship several times a week. We spend energy focusing on the latest worship songs, discovering the best possible technology for our praise teams and bringing vision and principles to the worship ministry. All of these good things must become secondary to caring for the souls of our people.
As worship ministers we must shepherd the people. The senior pastor of our church is the lead shepherd but we must also take care of those who serve under our leadership in the worship ministry. I Peter 5:1-5 instructs us as leaders to exercise oversight on those with whom we serve willingly, eagerly, and by example.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:1-5, ESV)
As we work with our worship teams week in and week out, we should care for them willingly not under compulsion. We don’t “have” to care for them; we “get” to care for them. We must seek God’s wisdom in caring for the souls of our people.
We should also show leadership with our people eagerly. They should know that we love them and desire to see them grow in their walk with Christ. We do not build our worship teams in order to make our ministries look successful or show how great a leader we are. We do not lead out of greed. Our eagerness should indicate the joy of Christ to our people. This old saying is still true: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Worship ministers must lead by example. We are not dictators domineering over our worship teams. We should display servant leadership with Jesus as our model. Jesus was the perfect example of servant leadership. He washed his disciples’ feet including the feet of one who would betray him.
I am often reminded when working with those in my care that Jesus is the chief shepherd. This ministry that I am privileged to steward at my church is Jesus’ ministry. This church that I serve is not my church but Jesus’ church. Jesus died for his church. We show our love for Jesus by the way we care for his church.
What are some practical ways worship ministers can love their people? We love people by
- being more concerned about their souls than the music,
- taking time to get to know those in our ministry,
- praying for those in our ministry,
- checking on those in our ministry who are having difficult times,
- investing in our people to help them to grow as disciples, and
- by arriving early and staying late at rehearsals and services in order to speak to people.
A number of years ago my worship team was preparing a fairly involved musical drama for Easter. One week before the first presentation, one of the lead actors in the musical pulled me aside before a rehearsal. He quietly told me he had just gotten word that his father who lived several states away suffered a sudden heart attack and had died. My first thought as the young man shared this tragic news was all about the musical. What would I do to replace this person since he would be away at his father’s funeral? Fortunately, I did not express this thought to the young man. Later I felt strongly convicted that I was more concerned about the musical than I was for this young man who had lost his father. The program had become more important than the people. The Lord used this situation to help me see that my priorities were way off balance. This musical presentation should never be more important than the people who are serving in the worship ministry.
How well are we loving the people in our ministries week in and week out? Lord, help us be better shepherds of your flock and love your people as Jesus does.
Greg Brewton is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Biblical Worship at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY.