In my last post, I explained that I believe all worship leaders serving the local church are called to be shepherd-musicians. A shepherd-musician basically functions the way it sounds – a shepherd-musician is someone who serves people by shepherding with pastoral care, and who serves people by leading them in corporate song through skillful musicianship.
In this post, I aim to explain what it practically looks like for a worship leader to function as a shepherd. In other words, what does it look like for a worship leader to faithfully shepherd people on a day to day basis? In my next post, I’ll look to answer what skillful musicianship looks like, and how a worship leader can bring skillful musicianship to bear on a church gathering. My hope for this series of posts is to highlight the massive importance and enormous value that worship leaders have in the life of the local church!
The Worship Leader as Shepherd
Worship leaders are already shepherding people in the church. The real question we should be asking is are they shepherding well? A few things that worship leaders should seek to do as shepherds:
- A worship leader shepherds by knowing and understanding their primary identity as a child of God.
Worship leaders are constantly, consistently tempted to view their value and worth based on their performance. After any given service, a worship leader is typically flooded with (sometimes conflicting!) feedback. It becomes easy for a worship leader to begin to build their identity on what people are saying about their weekly performance. Worship leaders are not first and foremost performers. They are not first and foremost shepherds. They are themselves sheep, members of the flock that Jesus oversees as the true Good Shepherd. Worship leaders must understand their identity as redeemed, blood-bought trophies of God’s grace. Because they have been loved before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), and chosen for salvation while they were still sinners (Rom. 5:8), they can find strength in knowing their unshakeable identity as a child of God. To shepherd is, in large part, to constantly call people to live out the reality of their identity as sons and daughters of God – a truth that worship leaders must first internalize for themselves!
- A worship leader shepherds by making disciples outside of congregational worship.
To make disciples is the goal of every Christian, and is Christ’s last directive to His followers (Matt. 28:18-19). A worship leader should exhibit a healthy devotional life as a disciple of Jesus that leads them to exhibit a vibrant, ever-growing relationship with the Lord. As an outworking, then, worship leaders should have the ability to lead others in the church congregation to grow, over time, in their relationship with Jesus. This means a worship leader should be meeting with others in their sphere of influence one-on-one or in small groups for the sole purpose of discipleship – beginning with, if necessary, the musicians a worship leader leads with each week! This means that a worship leader should be able to teach others – and teach others rightly. Spiritual maturity, knowledge of Biblical truth, and the ability to communicate those truths (at least in small groups of people) are essential skills for a worship leader who will rightly shepherd.
- A worship leader shepherds by managing and overseeing the content delivered through song during corporate gatherings.
Along with a worship leaders ability to disciple and teach outside of church gatherings, worship leaders need to make sure that the songs sung, liturgy used, or calls to worship given during the church gathering are biblically accurate, theologically helpful, and appropriate for the context. Every song should be sung with the aim to glorify and enjoy God – and this can only be done if the things we sing about God are actually true! Some songs do a better job of pointing people to the holiness of God, their need for Christ, and the glory of redemption and subsequent empowerment to live for God and His glory than others – and those are the songs that our churches most need to hear! The shepherding worship leader is diligent, thoughtful, and precise in their song selection, knowing that the truths being sung are teaching their congregation who God is, who they are, and what they most value.
In my next post I’ll aim to describe, practically speaking, how a worship leader can bring skillful musicianship to bear on a church gathering.