Most people would typically understand and agree that one of the pastor’s main responsibilities is the weekly preaching and teaching from the pulpit. Further, most would agree that the pastor is the overseer of the doctrine that is taught in the church, although it is most likely within the bounds of the confession or doctrinal statements already laid out by the church.
Though preaching is likely focal point of the pastor’s ministry, let us not deduce the office of pastor (or elder) to his being merely a preacher. (Although the term “merely a preacher” may be a bit of an oxymoron. Preaching the mysteries of Christ as revealed in the written Word of God is no “mere” task).
In Titus 1v7, as Paul is laying out the qualifications for elders (“elder” is synonymous with “pastor” in Scripture), he refers to the elder as an “overseer.” “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach” (Titus 1v7). An overseer is one who oversees what has been put in his charge. The pastor is an overseer of what is God’s, namely His church, as the text refers to him as “God’s steward.”
Furthermore, in 1 Peter 5, Peter is addressing the responsibilities of elders. “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you…” (1 Peter 5:2a). Here Peter describes the responsibility of the pastor as “exercising oversight.” Peter illustrates this responsibility of oversight by exhorting elders to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” A shepherd does not merely feed his sheep, at least not a good one. A shepherd feeds, defends, protects, cares, guides, directs, and tends to the wounds of his sheep. A good shepherd exercises complete oversight over his sheep, keeping in mind what is in their best interest. The pastorate is not a dictatorship, it is stewardship.
This is what the office of pastor entails, oversight over the local congregation God has given him to steward, not just over the pulpit. There are many ways in which this plays itself out. In this post, I would like to speak to the area of worship music.
Since the pastor is to be an overseer, this means one of the areas he is responsible to exercise oversight in is the worship music of the church. God almighty as charged pastors, His under shepherds, with this great responsibility. It is unbiblical and ecclesiastically illegal for a congregation, committee, or other party to strip the pastor of this responsibility, since it is God who gave it to him. It is also unbiblical for a pastor to surrender his obligations in this area.
Worship music can often be seen as a trivial thing for a pastor to spend his precious time on, or one of low theological importance. But I argue the opposite. It is my conviction that the songs we sing in church are of utmost theological importance, second only to the ministry of the Word from the pulpit. The church’s corporate singing is a direct mode of worship, so we had better get that right.
The pastor’s oversight in this area of course does not mean that he has to actually lead worship himself. That is not what is meant by the term. Delegation is a valid and necessary practice for a pastor. However, some church’s that are blessed with a plurality of elders will often make one of their elders the worship leader, or make their worship leader an elder, if he is so called to the office. This is a valid option, the ideal option in my mind.
To exercise oversight over worship music, at base level, means that a pastor is monitoring the songs that are sung, and even the style that is used, always vetting them theologically, and testing them against Scripture. Quite frankly, elders have veto power if they deem a song not up to par theologically. The style of music played in corporate worship is also under the oversight of the elders. A pastor shouldn’t deny certain styles based on his personal preferences, but he certainly can if he deems a certain style to not be compatible with his congregation, or inappropriate for a corporate singing setting.
Pastor as overseer of worship music does not mean he has to pick every song out, but it means that he certainly can. Exercising oversight can be done from near or from far, but it must be done.
Pastor if your church music is missing the mark theologically, or is unsuitable for corporate singing, you not only have the authority to do something about it, you have the responsibility to do so.