who’s held |responsible?

Posted on April 29, 2010 by


Several times throughout my life I have come across the passage in Hebrews 13:17and a part of it strikes me in such a way as to cause some trepidation,

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account…”

The part that grabs my attention seems to be, from looking at commentaries, one that has not gotten much attention from this passage. Who is going to be held accountable, and for what. It seems fairly straight forward. The leaders. And I think that when this letter was written the role of leader in a church was fairly easy to identify. But as the church has diversified and moved towards a Specialist mentality this concept has gotten vagued up for me. The reason I’m writing this is to clarify for myself Who is accountable for what. Because as a Worship Leader I want to know if, when I reach the throne of God, I’m going to be held responsible for things that I never considered my responsibility.

A few questions that I think will get us there.

|How does the bible identify leaders?

The easiest place to start is in 1 Timothy and Titus, where we are given the qualifications for elder. These lists are not only to separate the qualified men from the disqualified, but also provide a goal for all believers to aspire to (1 Tim. 3:1).  Within these character traits are also duties which include Teaching and Refuting false teaching. Looking to other passages that describe what an elder does; Willingly shepherd the flock (Peter 5:2), Live a life that is an example for the church (Peter 5:3), Execute administrative duties (Acts 15:2,6,22-29;16:4).

In tandem with the lists for Elders are qualifications for Deacons. The lists seem to parallel on most areas excluding the requirement to be able to teach.

|How does this specific passage identify leaders?

If we look at the Context of Hebrews 13:17 we can see that in verse 7 the author gives some light to who these “leaders” are.

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

and looking again at verse 17

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Here our leaders are those who speak the word of God and live exemplary lives. They also give direction that is to be submitted to and watch over the souls of those in their care.

For the purposes of this blog we now turn to how we define a Worship leader/pastor/minister/director ‘s role in the church. In the eyes of most churches and almost all lay peoples we are the ones responsible for the music in a church. And to be sure this is the most common and probably the largest part of our responsibilities. So with that in mind, how does the leading of song fit into the Elder, Deacon, Leader paradigm

Some churches take a view of music in the church as a form of preaching, preaching through song. And it’s not hard to see how they get there. What we sing easily becomes a part of who we are, and in some ways is more effective than spoken word in bringing ideals into the realm of the heart. I say this because we are not only proclaiming the truth to people, we are asking them to speak with us. When you say something and repeat it enough it starts to become second nature. I would say that this is a legitimate view of leading music. If this is true then, as long as they are not disqualified, they inherently fulfill the requirements of being called an Elder.

Some churches take a view of music in the church as sung prayers. This emphasizes the “vertical” direction of some songs. It also has some ground to stand on based on the congregational element of songs and the fact that we pray as a body but we do not all “preach”. Following this line of thought puts Worship leaders on the level of deacon.

*this is not to say that a Worship leader in this situation is unable of teaching, they may be very competent, but inherent in the musical duties of their position they are not required to teach/preach.*

Some churches take a view of music in the church that minimizes it’s importance and see’s it as a experiential draw. These churches either invest very little into music or use it as a draw and don’t see much spiritual use in singing. In this view there is no responsibility for those who lead in music to put in effort to make sure that the music is rich and deep and gospel focused.

From these different views we can see that if someone is involved only in planning and leading music then they fulfill different requirements and should be held to different standards.

Most worship leaders don’t only do the music, and in these situations they are clearly do more the work of deacon or elder.

Should they be called “elder/pastor” or “deacon”? We have been given these titles and roles to help us set apart those who we need to look to for leadership. We have also been given qualifications not only to work towards to but to help identify those in these positions. Ultimately this is a church by church issue. Some are more education oriented and require a seminary degree to be called “pastor” and differentiate them from elders. In other churches if you are upfront and work at the church you are a defacto pastor of whatever ministry you direct.

Titled or not it’s clear that we who lead in song will be held accountable for the spiritual health of those we lead. This is in opposition to the hierarchical business model of church which puts the “Senior” pastor as the Single Man held responsible for the spiritual health of the church. Christ is the head of the church and he is the one that builds the church, we work for him and will be held accountable for that which he has given to us for our care and investment.

So I plead with all Worship/Music   Leaders/Pastors/Ministers/Directors, take a high view of what you do and make sure that when you stand in front of God and give account for the ministry He entrusted to you, you are able to stand proudly and hear Him say…”Well done, good and faithful servant”

Let us be leaders who care for our congregations as those who will give an account.

Posted in: Praxis, Theology