Are We Pastors?
If you read my other blog, http://www.paulclarkjr.com , and who doesn’t? ha. Anyway, if you read this week’s article you Tennessee music ministry folks will note that the article reflects on the ministry of our dear friend and former president of the Tennessee Baptist Church Music Conference, Jonathan Nelms. While that article is primarily a reflection from this past Sunday’s worship time in Jonathan’s church, I wanted to make a little broader application that was impressed upon me as I worshiped in the church that Jonathan and Glenda and several others in Cookeville began just a little over a year ago. While Jonathan’s role in ministry has clearly changed, since he now has the primary responsibility of leading the church as undershepherd in his new setting, he is, nevertheless, continuing a ministry direction or trajectory that all worship pastors should be following. Since I have known him, Jonathan has been in every sense of the word, a pastor.
We have struggled for years with the nomenclature for those who lead the church in worship and music ministry. Whereas “Minister of Music” use to be the given term, many other monikers have been in use now for some time; worship leader, assistant pastor for music, worship pastor, pastoral musician, and even minister of magnification. Well, regardless of what we are called by our fellow church members, my guess is that how we function has much more to do with our sense of God’s calling upon our life, our preparations to fulfill that calling, our understanding of ecclesiology, and our ongoing spiritual sensitivity in responding to the Lord’s direction for His church and for us. In other words, those of us who have sensed a unique calling to Gospel ministry in our lives, who recognize that we have giftedness in the art of music and in assisting others to express worship and discipleship through music and liturgy, and who know the church is a living organism that is the Bride of Christ seeking to live out our worship in our world, will serve as ministers applying what we have learned through the gifts God has give us to the end that Christ will be known and the Bride will be strengthened. In Jonathan’s case, while his role and responsibility have changed and his application of ministry has certainly been adjusted and amplified in many ways, it seems to me he continues in a path trajectory set along all those years of serving in pastoral leadership through worship & music ministry. I am in no way saying these positions are the same, nor that they are “equal” in an organizational dynamic sense. I do say, however, that the calling is to the same Gospel.
I wanted to call your attention to these things because I know in some instances longstanding traditions and systems can easily relegate music ministry leaders to be viewed as nothing more than paid musicians, who have little to do with anything more than picking songs the folks will respond well to, and keeping the “music department” functioning. Worse yet, some are seen as entertainers to keep ‘em coming, providing the right mix of variety in the variety show. Lest this sound overly harsh, my point really is aimed toward we who serve as pastoral leaders in worship and music ministries. If we function in response to a call from God to Gospel ministry, it will be obvious, and I believe, effective as such. We are never striving for position, but rather living out our calling. This is one reason I am so insistent upon focusing much of our attention of training and ministry events on better understanding the biblical, theological underpinnings of our ministries through music and worship. There are plenty of places for all of us to get technological assistance and to be resourced with musical options. There are numerous educational institutions and formats by which we can learn the techniques of musical performance and development. Our fraternal fellowship of ministering musicians, however, we have sought to root deeply in our shared calling to proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ as ministers serving the church, growing together by engaging in actual ministry and mission ourselves (purpose of TLC and TMC), and by unselfishly aiding one another, since we share a Kingdom vision, whereby our ministries strengthen one another, that the Church is built to His glory!
I see this spirit fleshed out among you over and over again. It is always inspiring.