Some 20 years ago, in the earliest season of serving in the ministry of musical worship, I chose songs that said good things and made my voice sound “awesome.” Really mature, I know.

In the next chapter of my life, I tilted heavily toward theology. My reading list over the course of the next few years was almost entirely devoted to theology proper and systematics.

For obvious reasons, the second chapter was better than the first. I cared more about truth and substance and God’s glory being known and seen and cherished. But there was something lacking. I had spent the first season of ministry thinking like a musician and spent the second season thinking like a theologian. Both of these are important practices as a worship leader, but I wasn’t thinking at all like a pastor.

Over the years of serving the church my heart has been expanded to care for the people of God in a deeper way. God providentially oversaw this process through a number of pivotal moments. Along the path there were shaping experiences and conversations that served in this development. These events transformed how I view worship leading, and my role as a pastor in the local church.

 

  • I sat down with my sister over the kitchen table (early 20′s) and talked about how I was disappointed to hear that a writer of one of my favorite hymns was suicidal and depressed. Her perspective on this was realistic and compassionate. She was completely gracious but the truth stung nonetheless. I’m glad it did.

 

  • I had a conversation in my mid 20′s with a team of pastors who were about to bring me on staff. In my answers to their questions they heard a young man who wanted to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” They told me, we want you to come not as a theological educator but a shepherd. I joined a small group and experienced biblical fellowship, confession of sin, and the beauty of praying and being prayed for.

 

  • I attended a seminar around that same period, by a man who has become a dear friend, Bob Kauflin. The seminar was entitled Corporate Worship as Pastoral Care. Bob offered biblical categories to the very things I was starting to experience as ministry was becoming deeply personal.

 

  • I heard an interview between Mark Dever and David Powlison, in which Powlison talked about how he had to read a classic volume on the doctrine of sin while in seminary. He said he got to the end of the book and noted that there were “no case studies.” No descriptions of why a teenage girl cuts herself. He went on to talk about the disconnect that often happens between theological study and the work of pastoral care.

 

  • My first walk-in counseling session was with a man named Ricky, with a 4-year-old boy at his side. (He had stumbled off at a nearby bus stop and had clearly been crying, and drinking.) Ricky had been on the news a couple of nights before. His ex-wife had come over to get the two of their little boys for the weekend and he didn’t hear from them for hours. So, he drove to her father’s house only to discover that in the river behind the house was an empty boat and 3 floating bodies: his two sons and his drunk ex-father-in-law. I had a high view of God ready in hand, but this moment changed everything. We just sat there and wept together while his boy rolled a toy car on my desk.

 

Little by little, God was shaping me through my own suffering and through the suffering of the people I was growing to love. Musical equipping was necessary, and theological formation was as well, but now I see how these tools are given to building up the people of God.

I still want to think like a theologian (though I’m not half as smart as I thought I was back then). But I don’t want to sing theologically-charged songs merely for the sake of orthodoxy. Not anymore. I want to sing them because the Ricky’s who are present on Sunday morning need so much more than Christian clichés strung together and hung on a good groove. They need a massive, all-sufficient, loving, and compassionate God who comes near to the broken.

Thinking like a pastor means that when I look around as we are singing, I’m more emotionally engaged (read: vulnerable to losing it!) in being a part of God’s people. The longer I serve on the pastoral team, the more stories of hardship, and suffering, and pain that I know. The more stories I know, the more I’m confronted by the reality of the nearness of God. His nearness is the only explanation I have for why all of the Ricky’s out there are singing at all.

 

Comments:


12 thoughts on “Confessions of a Misguided Worship Leader”

  1. anonymous says:

    ..“who could imagine a harmony sweet enough to tell of Your love, Lord” .. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1C9anVVIvEI

  2. Kurt Roberts says:

    Your influence has benefited many congregations. It is clear to see your heart of care when you lead worship and exhort in times of worship. Thanks for the reminder again, bro. Miss ya, but see ya very soon.

    1. Matt Mason says:

      Thanks Kurt. It was a joy serving alongside you my friend. Can’t wait to see you guys again.

  3. Pat Sczebel says:

    Thank you Matt. grateful for you bro. You model well what you’ve communicated in this article.

  4. Trevor M. says:

    Thanks for this transparent post Matt. I liked how you (unwittingly?) presented what I think is a helpful triperspective on thinking through leading corporate worship: musical, theological, and pastoral.

  5. Thanks for sharing, Matt. I’ve had Jesus shaping my point of view in very similar ways, and I hope he always does.

  6. Joshua Van Der Merwe says:

    Matt,

    Could you find a link to that Dever/Powlison interview you mentioned?

    Thanks!

  7. Matt Mason says:

    Joshua,

    If memory serves it was a 9Marks interview between Dever and Powlison, from a few years back. If you go to the 9Marks audio interviews, you should see it there. I remember many great moments in the interview, not least of which is the story of God’s grace in bringing Powlison to faith. Beautiful. But, also, somewhere in there, is the Powlison statement I referenced.

    Matt

  8. Thank you for posting this. So good. Love it. Well done.

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TGC Worship


TGC Worship seeks to promote gospel-centered worship throughout the church by training and equipping leaders in the Word-shaped ministry of singing, songwriting, and service planning. The gospel changes our relationship with God from one of hostility or slavish compliance to one of intimacy and joy. The core dynamic of gospel-centered ministry is therefore worship and fervent prayer. In corporate worship God’s people receive a special life-transforming sight of the worth and beauty of God, and then give back to God suitable expressions of his worth. At the heart of corporate worship is the ministry of the Word. This multi-contributor blog is edited by Matt Boswell, pastor of ministries and worship at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas.