Once there was a church where the pastor and the worship leader were not getting along. Gradually, their differences began to spill over into the worship service. One week, the pastor preached on how, as Christians, we should be willing to go wherever the Lord sends us. The worship leader expressed his sentiments by closing the meeting with the song "I Shall Not Be Moved."

 

The next week the pastor preached on the importance of giving gladly to the work of the Lord. The response song the worship leader chose was "Jesus Paid It All."

 

Realizing that people were beginning to talk about the conflict, the pastor preached the next week from James 3 on gossip and the use of the tongue. The worship leader closed with "I Love to Tell the Story."

 

Finally, in disgust, the pastor told the congregation that he was considering resigning. The worship leader ended the service with, "Oh Why Not Tonight?"

 

Eventually, the pastor did indeed resign. On his final morning, he informed the church that it was Jesus who led him there and it was Jesus that was taking him away. For the closing song, the worship leader led the congregation in "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

 

Sound familiar? (I hope not!) Certainly, it bears no resemblance to God's intention for the church of Jesus Christ.

 

However, given the fact that we haven't reached heaven yet, pastors and worship leaders occasionally find themselves in conflict or confusion. Pastors can struggle with worship leaders who arrive late, don't follow the pastor thoroughly and humbly, or always think they need more time "to get people connected to God." Worship leaders, in turn, can feel taken for granted, over-controlled, or even as if they're competing with the pastor for time in the meeting.

 

Such thoughts and feelings are often surface-level conflicts that are rooted in much deeper issues. These might spring from differences in theology or practice. Pastors and worship leaders need to be in agreement on issues such as the worship leader's role, the goals of corporate worship, and how the Holy Spirit is manifested during the meeting. Or the underlying conflicts may be style-related, due to generational, cultural, or musical differences. These need to be acknowledged and worked through.

 

In many cases, the root issues are tied to sin. Selfish ambition leads to comparison, envy, offense, and slander. Selfishness in a pastor is often expressed in apathy and a lack of interest in a worship leader's responsibilities. When envy or jealousy is the root, the sad result is often a church split. Pastors and worship leaders alike can be tempted to be jealous over the gifting, impact, or significance of the other. The only proper response in such cases is humble confession and genuine repentance.

 

It is God's intention that a pastor and worship leader function as part of the same team, not as opponents. I'll be taking the next few issues of this column to suggest some ways they can serve each other as they lead God's people in the worship that God desires. We'll just be scratching the surface here, but I pray the ideas we cover will be helpful.

 

Recommended Resources:

Bob taught on this subject at the 2000 "A Passion for the Glory of God" worship conference. You can read the outline at  Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Bob is featured in a set of songwriter interviews. You can watch him  here.