Shepherding Musical Leadership

Vince Treadway, ACM Founder

Today there are many situations in church music ministries that could be made into a soap opera or, even worse, a horror film! Backstabbing, gossip, intrigue, firings, and angry confrontations are more common than perhaps we realize. These things should not be so. The church of Christ should be noted for love, joy, peace, and all the characteristics of being filled with the Spirit.

I believe that as music directors and worship leaders we can do our part to bring about a more Christ-like scenario by following the Good Shepherd’s model given to us in the Scriptures. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep, and cares for them.

“I know my sheep, and my sheep know me” – John 10:14b. NIV

In order to lovingly lead and care for our sheep, we must know them. We must learn their musical background and repertoire so that we have a starting place in teaching them. We must understand their strengths and weaknesses and not despise them for what we find.

A loving shepherd does not get behind the sheep and shove them, nor does he scream at them. If you know sheep, you know that if you scream at them they will scatter like glass marbles thrown across a marble floor. If we hope to serve the sheep in our congregations, we must lovingly care for them and help them grow musically. We must gently and consistently teach them and demonstrate Christ in our behavior, speech, and the kind of music and worship into which we lead them.

The sheep know their Shepherd, and they, in turn, follow Him. “The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes out ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3b.-4). If we have not taken the time to know the sheep – our congregations, as well as our choirs – they will not know or follow us.

Perhaps the problem with dissension is due to a lack of loving communication and understanding. Perhaps we have forced our own agenda with no consideration of knowing the sheep, and so they have fled. Perhaps in forcing our agenda, the sheep have been hurt and feel that they cannot offer their sacrifice of praise any longer.

Knowing that sheep are prone to wander, a good shepherd will not simply hope that the sheep will come home. If they do not return from the field, he will go looking for them, rescue them from all dangers, gently care for any of their wounds, and bring the sheep back to the fold.

Finally, we show our obedience to Christ when we care for the sheep. Jesus asked Peter this question: “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus then gave this directive to Peter, and through the ages, to us: “Take care of my sheep” (See John 21:15-17). Let us show our commitment to Christ and to the cause of beautiful, Christ-honoring music and worship, as by consistently loving words and behavior, we train our sheep to use their gifts for the glory of God.