The Pastor as Worship Leader

May 27th, 2011

Knowing yourself, being able to imagine yourself as the leader is an important part of the preparation for the roles you will fill as the leader of worship. You may say, “I’m called and appointed to be the pastor. I thought that was my role.” It is. But as you may have discovered already, there is a wide variety of images associated with that identity, and there are different ways in which you will function as a pastor.

Three biblical images are prominent in worship leadership roles: pastor, priest, and prophet. Each is distinct, yet also connected. In leading and guiding the worship service itself, you will function in these roles. Much of the time you will be in a ‘pastoral’ role, the ‘shepherd’ of God’s people. You will invite the people into the presence of God, reminding them of God’s care, the grace and love of Jesus Christ, the living power of the Holy Spirit. They will look to you for this guidance and leadership from within the circle of believers.

There are times in which you will function as ‘priest’; that is, the one who mediates between God and the assembly. In speaking the deep desires of the people, you are lifting prayers to God on behalf of the people. In presiding at the Holy Communion or at a baptism you are in a priestly role, set apart and given authority for this work.

You will also be a prophet. Whether in preaching or in prayer or action, the role of the prophet in worship leadership is to point the people toward a vision of what might be. You may call the people to repentance. You may issue a challenge to engage in ministry in the neighborhood or surrounding community. You may speak a word of reminder that God is “doing a new thing.” In your prophetic role you will be leading at the edge of the congregation, stepping out before the people.

Seeing how the roles function and seeing an image of yourself as the worship leader may point out areas for your own growth and understanding. For example, if the image is that of a quiet and caring ‘shepherd,’ you may not have thought of a role in ‘priestly’ functions. The work of presiding at the table for Holy Communion may be less familiar to you. Leadership of the sacraments may require more thought and practice until the role of priest becomes comfortable. Likewise, if you are very comfortable presiding, following the texts in the worship book, and leading the people in an ordered fashion, then you may find preaching and the crafting of creative and prophetic sermons to be a point of development for you. As you are in ministry with your congregation, remember that you are growing into and being formed in this calling.

You are becoming the leader of worship.


Adapted from The New Pastor's Guide to Leading Worship, by Barbara Day Miller Copyright© 2006 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

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