The Minister--a Leader of Worship

The four-fold role of the minister.

NORVAL F. PEASE, Chairman oi Applied Theologoy, Loma Linda University

THE ministry is a complex calling. First of all, the minister must be an effective preacher of the gospel. In this role he must be well-informed, he must know his Bible, and he must know how to communicate his message. On an equal level with his ability as a preacher, the minister must be a leader in worship. In addition to these two areas in which the minister should be a specialist, he must understand the art of personal service both inside and outside the church, and he must be a competent administrator of the affairs of the church.

This fourfold role—preacher, worship leader, counselor, and administrator—pre­sents a very demanding challenge to the minister. Inasmuch as very few men are equally effective in all four areas, there is a tendency to seek excellence in the field where results are most measurable—ad­ministration. In recent years there has been a new emphasis in pastoral counsel­ing. Ministers have always been urged to excel in preaching, but the cost of success in this field is so great that only a minority achieve a high degree of competence.

The fourth area—worship leadership—is a wide-open field. Only a few have given serious study to the philosophy, the­ology, history, and techniques of worship. Those who have done so have discovered a new richness in the work of the ministry.

Eleven O'clock Impact

The success of the Seventh-day Advent­ist Church is determined to a great extent by what happens between eleven and twelve o'clock on Sabbath morning. In saying this, I do not discount the impor­tance of our evangelistic and home mis­sionary endeavors. But the eventual success of our outreach is dependent upon the im­pact of the worship service on the visitor or the new believer who is finding his way - into the fellowship of the church. A per­son may have been much interested in the Voice of Prophecy or Faith for Today and may have completed a Bible course, but if his first visit to the local Adventist church introduces him to a noisy, disorganized, meaningless service, the evangelistic influ­ence is likely to be counteracted. The transfer from the evangelistic auditorium to the church can be a traumatic one if the new believer is faced with worship amid a chorus of wailing babies in a poorly planned and amateurish service. The Ad­ventist churchgoer should be able to bring any visitor to any church service at any time without fear of embarrassment, ei­ther because of the conduct of the congre­gation, the order of service, or the sermon. The effectiveness of the church as an evan­gelistic agency may be greatly enhanced if this rule is followed.

What are the important factors govern­ing the work of a minister as a leader of worship?

Planning an Absolute

First, he must plan a service that is truly a service of worship. This will mean that in the service there will be place for adoration, confession, dedication, and in­struction; and the various parts of the service will be in some sort of meaning­ful sequence. The hymns, prayers, anthems, and offerings must be more than mere introductory material to a sermon. As im­portant as the sermon is, it is not the cli­max of the service—the climax is the per­sonal dedication that closes the service, which may be expressed in a hymn of dedication, a prayer, or an offering.

A large Adventist church is now using the following order of service:

Adoration and Praise

Organ Prelude

Call to Worship

Hymn of Praise

Invocation

Musical Selection or Anthem

Offering

Proclamation

Scripture Lesson

Pastoral Prayer

Hymn of Meditation Sermon

Dedication

Hymn of Dedication Benediction

Organ Postlude

This order, with slight modifications, may be used in churches of any size or type. The worshiper is led to see progress and meaning in the service. It is not a mere hodgepodge of unrelated or loosely re­lated activities. The Bible is used in the service in the call to worship, the Scrip­ture lesson, and the sermon. The three hymns are appropriately chosen as hymns of praise, meditation, and dedication, thus harmonizing with the three basic sections of the service. The offering is considered a part of adoration and praise. It could with equal consistency be received at the close as a symbol of dedication. The three pray­ers—invocation, pastoral prayer, and bene­diction—fit a familiar pattern.

Two Characteristics

This is by no means the only good way of planning a church service. Many varia­tions may be employed, but every good church service will have two characteristics —the order will be meaningful, and each part will be well done.

The second important factor in the serv­ice is that the leader of worship, whether a minister or church elder, must approach the service in the spirit of worship. This spirit involves adoration, gratitude, awe, and love. One great minister has said that only a redeemed person can really worship God. Real worship is the response of a redeemed individual to his Redeemer.

Third, there can be no worship with­out quietness. Moving about, whispering, crying babies, drive the spirit of worship from a service. These problems must be solved by education, nurseries, carpeting, or whatever may be needed.

Fourth, the music must be appropriate. Even in the simplest country church with an old piano or a squeaky organ good hymns of worship may be selected. Gos­pel hymns have their place, but not or­dinarily in the service of worship.

Fifth, the Scripture must be read well. The one who reads should have known his assignment several days in advance, and should practice reading his selection.

Sixth, the prayers, though spontaneous, should not be mere collections of worn clichés. Prayers may be planned without being read.

Finally, the sermon should be based on the Word of God, and should be calculated to draw the listener into the presence of God. It should neither be pure instruction or pure entertainment, but it should be a communication of God's message as found in His Word.

God Dishonored by Blundering

There is very little danger of Adventist services becoming too formal. Of course, we cannot follow the current liturgical re­newal with its emphasis on repetitious for­mulas, and its return to medieval symbol­ism. But we must seek to make worship beautiful. The worship of God deserves the best we can offer, and God is dishonored by blundering and crude worship practices. While esthetic considerations are not the primary criteria of worship, there is no rea­son why Adventist worship cannot have a beautiful simplicity that is esthetically ac­ceptable to the most discriminating critic.

Education Our Duty

I can hear many ministers say, "We are district leaders. We can only be in one place at a time, so we have to leave the leadership of our services to others. How can we keep the standard high?" You have a problem. But is it not part of the minis­ter's work to educate his church elders in proper concepts of worship? Should not the minister study the order or worship in each church with his elders and see if it can be made more worshipful? Cannot the min­ister prepare calls to worship, Scripture readings, and other materials that will help the elders in their leadership? Is it not possible, in many cases, for the pastor and the local leader to develop a mutual pride in the effectiveness of the church service? Changes in this area have to be made carefully and tactfully. It is true that many church members are completely satisfied with crude and meaningless serv­ices, and resist any effort toward change. It is also true that a growing number of church members are eager for their pastors to develop more meaningful services. We cannot always be inhibited in our efforts toward progress by those who confuse the status quo with spirituality. Neither can we be frightened by those who see some­thing sinister in every attempt to worship God more beautifully.

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NORVAL F. PEASE, Chairman oi Applied Theologoy, Loma Linda University

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