On twitter we recently confessed that my wife and I enjoy watching the reality show The Voice on NBC. So far this season, there were two groan-worthy moments we shared that, sadly, ties directly into the modern-day church and its reckless approach to corporate worship, particularly in our selection of “Worship Leaders” and the bad habit of calling them “Worship Pastors”.
Disclaimer: Yes, we do watch some TV
When it comes to television shows, I enjoy watching skilled competition, particularly in musical and culinary arts. As a fan of music in general, I find this particular show to have the best format for selecting talented voices for competition. The various formats for competition are interesting and the coaches are engaging, funny, and do a great job of conveying genuine concern for the prospective careers of the contestants and for each other. The show is not without its problems, particularly for the testimony of Jesus Christ being marred by the conduct of those professing to be Christian yet chasing after their selfish dreams and indulgences. Not a single episode passes by without one of us groaning over something that is said in a back story montage or over the lyrics of a song chosen, or of the zen Buddhism being passed of as “gospel” advice by a coach. We take care in what we watch, but we do watch TV together. That might be a good topic to discuss at a later time, how we should approach Television and guarding ourselves from its lies/influence.
When “Worship Pastor” is thrown into a Resume
The first major moment of groaning for us happened during the back story montage for contestant Chris Crump from the Blind Auditions part 3 (Air Date: 09/28/15). His montage begins at roughly 1:03 mark. In the montage, there is the typical hit on Christian-based home-schooling with the reference to “my first secular album was a Creed Album…” The part that really caught my ire was when he talked about how in the south, we believe the man needs to support the family, and then he goes on say he’s accepted horrible gigs just so I could support us: carpenter, grocery stores, mortgage company, worship pastor, women’s shoe store, and sold TVs. Now, his list was very clearly clipped together by the producers of the show. It is not my intent to hold Chris Crump directly accountable for this statement, because it is clear we are missing parts of the interview. My point is that the producers of the show clipped together a list that demoted “Worship Pastor” to a resume filler on par with grocery stores and selling women’s shoes. I groaned at the thought and then mentioned it to my wife, who then said, “sadly, most christians who hear that won’t even catch it, or see a problem with it.” I think she’s right, which is why we are going to discuss this now. For the record, He did a great job in his audition, singing a secular love song dedicated to his wife. All of the coaches wanted him, and he picked Blake Shelton for his coach. I want him to do well for his family’s sake, and I hope he demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit in his conduct on the show.
The Pastoral office is one of an Overseer, which is clearly defined in the New Testament. Just last week we looked at the Apostle Paul’s instructions to Timothy when we looked at the concept of being Dressed for Worship, so today let’s look to his instructions to Titus.
Titus 1:5-16 (ESV) | Qualifications for Elders
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
Now, I included v10-16 because they expand on the need for pastors to rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine. This is a vital role of the office of the Pastor that doesn’t get much recognition in the modern-day church. In fact, this role is often avoided by Pastors and Elders, and shunned by congregants. In fact, there is a subculture of professional “church-hoppers” who join a church, climb the social ladder within that church as quickly as possible and bail as soon as someone calls out their false doctrine, usually causing as much division as humanly possible. It is these who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers. Yes, Paul mentions those of the circumcision party (Judaizers). In our day we have many such groups… including modern-day Judaizers (Hebrew-roots movement, Theonomists, Dominionists, etc.).
When the Church identifies someone as a “Worship Pastor” we are saying that this Pastor/Elder/Overseer is in charge of the Corporate Worship. As such, he is expected to hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught, sot hat he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. We should expect the him to be that Pastor/Elder/Overseer shepherding those involved in the worship team (the band, singers, readers, technicians, etc). We should expect them to hold the members accountable to sound doctrine, and we should also expect them to exercise Church discipline. They are to be held accountable by their fellow Pastors/Elders/Overseers for the content of Worship and the conduct of their worship team. The admonition of James to teachers of God’s Word also applies to any who bear the title “Worship Pastor”.
James 3 (ESV) | Taming the Tongue
3 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
Wisdom from Above
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Now the standard being taught here is for everyone who names the Name of Jesus, but for those who want to teach there is an even higher standard. It is my sincere desire, that every congregation have a Worship Pastor in place; not in name only, but in keeping with the Biblical Office of Pastor/Elder/Overseer.
The truth is that what the vast majority of modern-day churches has is a “Worship Leader” who is either unqualified or untested as a Pastor or a Deacon (1 Timothy 3). Is this sin in every case? I won’t commit to an answer of “yes/no”; rather, I will urge the reader to recognize that it is a real possibility that must be judged Spiritually (1 Cor 2:14-16). There is a growing number of churches who are unashamed of their Worship Leaders who are living in open, unrepentant, sexual immorality. Getting back to #TheVoice, every season has had a token LGBT contestant that promotes their particular sexual immorality in an ever-present attempt to normalize sin and portray Biblical standards of sexual purity as bigoted. With each passing season, we are seeing more and more of these spokespersons of immorality/depravity claiming to have the backing of their respective church bodies. The normalizing of homosexuality and gender rebellion is the current great wave of Apostasy here in the West. The world is living out its Romans 1 judgement… I’m not writing to judge the lost, but to warn the Church. This sin has been ignored and even covered over for far too long. Having a “great sounding band” is simply not worth the price we’ve been paying for it these past several decades. We need Pastors/Elders/Overseers to fulfill the charge of their office to rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine… and no church should have anyone in open, unrepentant sin serving in any sort of leadership role within the Church.
There are many Church-plants throughout the United States. Many of them planted in rebellion rather than Providence. Many planted in hopes of riding the “church-growth” movement’s wave as a means of gathering unrighteous gain. Still many were planted out of a sincere heart to be faithful stewards of the Gospel of Grace, ministers of reconciliation, and to the building and equipping of the saints. To the latter group of churches, I encourage you to remain firmly planted in the Word of God, and to pray for your Pastors/Elders/Overseers. We pray for grace in the lives of your Worship leaders, that those who are eligible for the offices of Deacon and Elder might grow, be tested, and show themselves approved for the office of Pastor by the grace of God. That those who are unqualified, be humble enough to continue serving when God the Holy Spirit calls another to lead. I pray that every church body, that lifts up Holy Hands in worship of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will seek to maintain biblical, pastoral oversight of the Worship Service, whether they use the title of Worship Pastor or simply Pastor.
Jude 24-25 (ESV)
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,