A Critical (Often Overlooked) Trait of an Excellent Worship Pastor

sam_s_rainer_IIIIn my previous post, I revealed a critical — yet overlooked — trait of executive pastors. I will do the same for worship pastors in this post.

A good worship pastor knows how to lead artists. Indeed, observing a worship pastor lead a group of artists is a work of art in itself. Worship pastors often get labeled as innovate yet quirky, creative but peculiar. Let’s be honest — many fit the label. But quite frankly, I believe far too many churches squelch the creative passion of artists for the sake of mundane familiarity. True worship art (or perhaps more correctly, artful worship) is always accompanied with risk.

While I value the creative world of worship pastors, most do something that is entirely overlooked by others: They create the framework for worship. Within the artful expression of worship is a structure built almost entirely by the worship pastor. My worship pastor teaches doctrine first, then how to sing. He cares more about theology than music style. Praise team practices, orchestra practices, and choir practices are more about practicing the doctrine of the songs than performing the songs.

The best worship pastors build a structure within every worship experience. Even the most unstructured expressions of worship should have a framework of sound doctrine. The body should feel worship, but the body should also respond to worship. Most any music (good or bad, artful or artless) will rouse or rile the emotions. The best worship experiences, however, stir a desire to follow Christ. This response cannot happen apart from good doctrine, and worship pastors are responsible for laying this foundation on which the worship experience is built. When the framework of worship is based on sound theology, the creative ways in which to glorify God are endless. He is the God of creation, after all — of things created and things yet to be created. It’s a shame too many churches rely on banal creative processes detached from solid doctrine. It’s what ultimately kills worship (not style).

The hand-and-glove relationship between senior pastor and worship pastor must begin with a passion for God’s Word. In most churches, both the worship pastor and senior pastor share the stage during a collective gathering, each before the congregation about half the duration of a worship experience. The whole of the service should be rooted in theology, not just half. Spontaneous or liturgical, traditional or contemporary, great worship pastors elevate doctrine over performance and theology over creativity. In doing so, the structure of the worship service stirs not only the emotions, but the soul.

Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research (rainerresearch.com), a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also is the senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks, and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at @samrainer or at his blog, samrainer.wordpress.com.


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