Who’s the director of the church?

Published 11:37 am Saturday, March 9, 2024

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By Michael J. Brooks

We attended a funeral recently and the Presbyterian church had an organist/director who introduced the hymns with a majestic swell. We sang three familiar hymns together. I’m more accustomed as a Baptist to a music director leading music from the pulpit, though I’ve been in some services where the pianist directed from the bench.

We’re told that more and more churches use soundtracks and sing along with recorded music since “live” musicians are getting scarce.

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I remembered attending a board meeting at a Christian college when we had a worship war.

One of the keyboard instructors traditionally directed from the organ. During this week of special emphasis, there was a guest director who did not know this. He led us in “Amazing Grace,” but he and the organist were never in sync. Why they didn’t confer ahead of time I don’t know, but I remember the hymn brought grins and groans instead of gratitude to God.

So, who’s the director? Of course this is something for the church to figure out musically, but we have to figure it out relationally as well.

Often, we say the pastor is the director. He is the primary worship leader and sets the pace in how the church prioritizes ministry. But in our congregational system the people decide major issues. For example, our church had three specially called conferences last year to approve a budget, a slate of leaders and a major capital expenditure. So, the congregation is the director.

But in emergencies the pastor is the director. He might say, “Go out that door” or “move quickly.”

I learned this lesson the hard way when a man had a heart attack in worship. One of our church leaders told me we best keep the sidewalks clear since emergency crews were en route. So, the congregation sat there for an agonizing ten minutes or so. I was chided later for not dismissing the people immediately, perhaps instructing them to keep the sidewalks clear. 

A pastor being dictatorial in emergency situations is not unexpected.

But many a pastor has been cast into a boiling pot of trouble with other dictatorial decisions.

One pastor declared the church wouldn’t sing hymns anymore, but only “praise” songs. Another pastor decided to remove the American flag from the sanctuary so we couldn’t “worship” America (not that anybody did). But the most memorable was the pastor who came into our Monday morning pastors meeting announcing he had “fired the choir” the day before.

It’s good to remember that the real director of the church is Christ.

Paul called him the “head of his body, the church” (Colossians 1:18).

Our job is to follow him in obedience and labor together in harmony. 

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.