Have you ever filled out a job application and wondered how to fill out the “prior work experience” section? There’s always a few lines on an application that ask where you last worked, what skills were needed there, and what your job title was. I always have to stop and wrack my brain for minute – what was my job title there? I know what I did there, but I have no idea what my actual job title was.
For example, I used to work for a family-owned homemade ice cream business. I loved my job because almost everyone I dealt with was cheerful and smiling. It’s hard not to be happy when you’re eating ice cream! I remember serving little kids, their faces glowing and smeared with our bright blue cotton candy flavor. I remember old couples sharing a scoop of classic vanilla from the same bowl, eyes twinkling. I got to take part in so many special moments while I worked there – but I honestly have no idea what my job title was. “Ice-cream Scooper” just doesn’t capture the fullness of what that job really was to me!
In less than 2 years I’ll be filling out job applications – and at the top of my prior work experience I’ll write “Worship Resident.“ My time as a resident at the Austin Stone Community Church will be wrapping up, and I’ll be looking for a job. In those moments of job hunting, I’m sure a piece of me will wonder if the title “Worship Resident” really captures all that this position entails. I’ll be tempted to write something that I think more accurately describes who I am, what I do, and what I’ll be continuing to grow into during my time at the church – I believe a better job title is “Shepherd-Musician.”
Why not call myself a worship leader, you might ask? Great question – I’m not opposed to that title! To call myself a worship leader is a true statement – it’s what I tell people I do on a daily basis. But deep down I don’t think it truly captures who I am or what I believe I’m called to do. It’s like calling me an “ice-cream scooper.” Sure, it’s accurate, but that title still seems to fall short.
I see myself as a shepherd-musician, and being a shepherd-musician means two things:
1) I serve others as a shepherd.
Jesus is the perfect Shepherd of His people, and I want to mirror His shepherd heart in the local church. Jesus describes Himself in John 10 as the good Shepherd who leads His flock, cares for them, loves them, and lays down His life for them. I will do this imperfectly in my lifetime. I will fall short in many ways – but hopefully in the process, people will be led to see and savor the perfect, unfailing, never-changing Good Shepherd.
2) I serve others as a musician.
Over fifty times in the Scriptures God commands His people to sing praises to Him. This means that singing is not a voluntary activity for the church – it’s mandatory! God cares about music. He cares about the melodies being made to Him, and the words used to express praise towards Him. I want to be a man who has studied, practiced, and engaged with the art of music-making. In doing this, my knowledge and skill as a musician becomes a tool used to serve and shepherd the local church as they sing praises to God.
So, are you with me? Can you feel my heartbeat for ministry yet? I want to use my life to shepherd people, and I see myself doing that in large part through music. In less than two years, I’ll be filling out job applications and interviewing for positions at different churches. I’ll tell them that I’m a worship leader. In fact, I’d probably prefer that you call me a worship leader, too. But now you know. Deep down, I don’t think that title quite captures what God has really called me to be — a shepherd-musician.