#103: Music Ministry of the Pastor

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #103, on the subject of Music Ministry of the Pastor.

This continues our miniseries on what it is to be “called” to “music ministry”.  Our first installment was #95:  Music Ministry Disconnect, making the point that most Christians are not what we call “ministers” and most musicians are “entertainers”.  In #97:  Ministry Calling we examined how to know whether you are “called” to be a “minister”, based largely on who you are, what motivates you and how you relate to others with needs.  Following this we identified five specific “ministries” in #98:  What is a Minister?, and began looking at individual ministries with #99:  Music Ministry of an Apostle followed by #101:  Prophetic Music Ministry and #102:  Music and the Evangelist Ministry.  We now come to the pastor, fourth on the list.  We previously addressed the question of why pastor and teacher are linked as they are in the text, and suggested that it is not because they are the same ministry but because they ascend to importance in the local church together.

The word pastor is problematic.  It appears to have been imported from the French directly, and given a meaning drawn from its Latin roots, although there is some indication that it once meant shepherd in English (as it originally did in Latin and French).  We use the word because we have imbued the office with theological significance which is not captured by the literal translation:  the Greek word for which it stands is the ordinary word for a shepherd, and any theological meaning it has comes from its metaphoric attachment to this ministry.  Unfortunately, there are reasons why we cannot easily replace pastor with the literal word shepherd.  First, it has become in some sense the title for a particular category of ministry (although it is abused, covering some persons who are not and not covering some who are spiritual shepherds).  Second, the concept of “shepherding” fell into disrepute in the last third of the previous century from its use in some rather authoritarian hierarchical church structures.  Third, the Middle Eastern method of shepherding is very different from the European approach which dominates our understanding.  We thus have to understand the image to understand the metaphor.


Shepherds in Europe, the Americas, and Australia tend to drive sheep.  This is relatively easy, and you can hire anyone to do it.  The trick is to get behind the sheep and frighten them into fleeing in the direction you want them to go.  Dogs are easily trained to assist this, because sheep are terrified of dogs, and while the dogs can be trained to protect the sheep, the job of herding sheep involves making them frightened enough to move away from the dogs.  The Bible, however, speaks of shepherds leading sheep, and explains that the shepherd has a relationship with his sheep:  he calls, and they follow him.  This is not some fantasy Jesus created; this is the way shepherds manage their sheep in the Middle East.  I am told that they will gather around watering holes such that hundreds or even thousands of sheep are mingling, trying to get water, and then one of the shepherds will start to walk away and will give his call, and all of his sheep will separate themselves from the mass and follow him.  It is his job to lead them to food and water, and to the shelter which protects against predators.  He does this by making them feel safe and secure, and because they know that he will care for them, they follow him.

Peter, as we mentioned, is the only person in the New Testament connected by name to the office of shepherd or pastor.  He uses it of himself in his first letter.  More significantly, in John 21, Jesus charges him with commands that are very much those given to a shepherd:  “Tend my lambs….Shepherd my sheep….Tend my sheep.” (Updated New American Standard Bible).  This is what a shepherd–a pastor–does.

Peter is unfortunately not a very clear example, because he is also an apostle, and much of what we see him do is based on that ministry.  Yet what we see in his letters and in the directives Jesus gave him seems reasonably clear:  pastors care for people; this means they care about people.  People matter to them, and they are nurturers.

I use to have a lot of trouble listening to pastors preach, because their exegesis was often shoddy and their statements often questionable.  It wasn’t until I came to understand that pastors are not teachers that I recognized why the standards I applied to teaching the Word were not appropriate for pastors.  When a pastor preaches, it is not his primary job to convey understanding or information, to deliver doctrine or explain mysteries.  Peter does none of that in his letters.  The pastor is there to make sure that the sheep are safe and growing.  It is about their lives, the love they have for each other, the way they live and interact, the choices they make.  Pastors are there to lead believers closer to God.  We make the mistake of thinking that feeding the sheep is about teaching truths, but that is a very small part of it.  It is truth, not truths, that sheep most need.  They need direction, someone to show them how to get closer to God and to each other.

With this understanding of the pastoral ministry, it becomes obvious that those musicians we call “worship leaders” are actually exercising pastoral ministry:  in leading people in worship, they are drawing us closer to God.  Again, as with the evangelist, part of the value of music in this is that aspect that we easily learn and often repeat songs that are simple enough for us to handle.  Thus in teaching us worship songs and leading us in worship, these pastors are also teaching us to worship, and how to worship, when we are away from the group.

Pastoral ministry also involves bringing us together in love, getting us to embrace each other and live and work together and build each other in faith and love; and it involves encouraging us to reach beyond ourselves, both individually and collectively, that is, that I would reach out to those around me but also that we would reach out to those outside the faith.  These are the ministry objectives of pastors, to show us how to live Christian lives and enable us to do this.  For the pastor, people are the most important thing, and pastors are driven to work with people individually and collectively to profit and edify through relationships with God, each other, and those beyond.

That leaves us with the teacher.


Next in the series: The Teacher Music Ministry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.