Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

Platform Wars

The conflict between pastor and worship leader rips apart churches and cripples the ability to experience God's presence.
A pastoral colleague arrived a few minutes after the beginning of worship. His intentioned late arrival enabled him to slip into the back of the sanctuary to experience the building spiritual atmosphere. Instead of being greeted by a sacrifice of praise, he ran smack into a wall of strife. The music pelted out the familiar cords of a jubilant praise chorus, but the vessels on the platform were emptied of Spirit and filled with scorn.

Just minutes before the worship began, one singer berated another on failing to achieve the right harmonious balance. Another pouted over not being able to sing her prepared solo. Fuming over the conflict between worship team members, the morning's worship leader had scolded the whole group.

The embers of burnt feelings still smoldered well into the opening chorus. The team's fiery tempers had aborted any possibility of God's fiery presence flowing into the house.

Smelling the putrefying flesh, my pastor friend decided to stop everything, empty the platform and start the service over in an a cappella mode. He invited the worship leader and team to sit and receive instead of stand and perform.

Recently, I heard of another instance in which a worship leader told a gathering of church leaders that the senior pastor had "missed God" and "lost the vision" of the church. When asked to repent and submit, he stormed out of the place and took his show on the road.

Amos asked, "'Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?'" (Amos 3:3). The same may be asked this way: Can pastor and music minister or worship leader worship together unless they are agreed? Of course, not. Consider these foundations for working together in harmony:

1. Pray and worship together outside of services. I honestly wonder how much time pastors and worship leaders actually spend before God in praying about the services, joining in agreement for what He will do through worship (see Matt. 18:19).

2. Resolve differences through regular meetings and communication. Face-to-face communication and conflict resolution are too often avoided. Such avoidance births hurt, offense and oft times, church splits. Disparaging comments drive wedges between pastors and worship leaders. The only right way to face disagreements and differing opinions is face to face (see Matt. 18:15).

3. Affirm, encourage and support one another in public and private. Don't just throw roses at one another while on the platform--encourage one another outside of the service (see 2 Cor. 13:10; Phil. 2:3).

4. Understand spiritual authority. Whether or not the pastor sings, the leadership of worship in a service flows from the Spirit through the pastor. Spiritual leadership and authority start with the head and flow down. Someone has to take the lead, and that someone must be the pastor (see Ps. 133:1-2).

What's at stake? Without unity between the pastor and worship pastors and leaders, a train wreck looms around the bend. Disunity in this critical relationship may soon result in services focused on performance rather than Presence; relationships among leaders that are strained and formal instead of intimate and relaxed; sheep following hirelings rather than hearing the Shepherd's voice; divisions leading to church splits and acrimonious accusations; people wounded, lost and offended, doing damage to God's kingdom.

Harmonious relationships between senior pastors and music pastors can release God's presence for the lost to be found, the hurting to be healed and the oppressed to be delivered. Seek relational harmony and a new song of musical harmony will soon flow from heaven.

Larry Keefauver is senior editorial adviser for Ministries Today and co-pastor of The Gathering Place Worship Center in Lake Mary, Fla. He is the author of The 77 Irrefutable Truths of Ministry (YMCS).

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