November 09, 2009

Are Worship Pastors Becoming Extinct? Over the past seven years, I have served as the Director of the New Life School of Worship, a 9-month program designed to train worship leaders for local churches. We believe that to effectively prepare our students for local church worship ministry they need to be trained in more than music. They need to be grounded in theology, familiar with church history, and responsible with their handling of the Scriptures. Moreover, they need to learn what it means to be a pastor: to shepherd the people under their care. But it seems that some churches aren't looking for that. They would prefer a musician who can lead the "singing", oversee the tech team, and produce recordings of their original songs. None of these are bad expectations, of course. But are we looking for these trade skills at the expense of other, more essential pastoral qualities? Are worship leaders simply highly skilled technicians who have a "steady gig" at a church? Today's worship leader may spend more time with his Macbook than with a real book. She may be more familiar with GarageBand than the people in her band. He may be better versed with directing the choir than providing spiritual direction. Of course, the trade side of being a worship leader and the pastoral side are not mutually exclusive. A person can be good at Pro Tools and at pastoring the people on his team. The trouble is we've lost the sacredness of the pastoral vocation. Any person who says their core role is to pray, study, and provide spiritual direction is not as "useful" to the corporation we call church. What else can you do? we ask. Then we proceed to fill so much of their time time with scheduling bands, arranging music, and working with the latest recording...
Theology Is An Aquarium... Last night I taught at our Sunday Night Campus on the subject of Justification. It was a great opportunity to clearly present the theological distinctions between justification, sanctification, and glorification, and to explain why the New Testament talks about salvation in past, present, and future verb tenses. The joy, the confidence that comes from knowing that our justification is a one-time declaration from God...and that it's all God's work through amazing. To believe that while our sanctification is on-going and involves our cooperation, setbacks in our sanctification process will not undo our justification. Thanks be to God! But along the way, while immersing myself again in Erickson's "Christian Theology" and Grudem's "Systematic Theology", and re-reading Paul's words to the Romans, it occurred to me that our theological categories can be problematic. Paul is not as clear in delineating these three phases of our salvation. And to complicate things further, there are other New Testament-inspired theological words like regeneration, redemption, atonement, reconciliation, and more. Then, as a parishioner pointed out to me earlier in the week, there is Matthew 25, in which Jesus seems to indicate that there is a certain kind of behavior that demonstrates what we have done with Christ (The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats) that determines our reward or punishment. How do all these things fit together? And why is the Gospel's first and best theologian-- Paul-- not as systematic as we'd like? I suggest, as many others have, it's because Jesus wants more for us than information and understanding; He wants participation and firsthand, relationship-based knowledge. (Paul's favorite word for the kind of "knowledge" we are to have of Christ is the kind of intimate knowledge that you could only gain through experiencing Him.) In a way, then, theology is like an aquarium--...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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