Format: Sound Plus Doctrine PodcastDownload Session
In this part 1 of 5 of “Shepherding Souls Through Song,” David, Bob, and Bob’s son Devon discuss the often neglected perspective of leading songs as a means of pastoral care. They cover ways we typically think about leading music in the church, and the specific functions God assigns to pastors.
Referenced in this podcast: The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart by Harold L. Senkbell.
Have a question about this episode? Shoot us an email at email@example.com
Bob Kauflin: Hey, you’re listening to Sound + Doctrine, the podcast of Sovereign Grace Music. Sovereign Grace Music exists to produce Christ-exalting songs and training for local churches, from local churches. For more information and free resources, you can check out sovereigngracemusic.org. Thanks for joining us.
David Zimmer: Welcome to Sound + Doctrine. My name is David Zimmer.
BK: I’m Bob Kauflin.
DZ: And we have Devon Kauflin again with us, which is such a privilege and joy.
Devon Kauflin: Good to be here once again.
DZ: Great for you to be here.
DK: So good.
DZ: Bob, what are we talking about today?
BK: Today, we are gonna be talking about shepherding souls through song. It’s a topic that has been on my heart for decades, I think, and one that I’ve spoken on various conferences. Devon has participated in some of those as well, and I just thought it would be helpful to talk about the role basically of singing in the church. What’s happening? Especially for a leader, what’s happening when someone is leading the singing? ‘Cause it’s always been a source of conflict in the church, and there are a lot of different ways of thinking about it, not all of which are helpful. Sometimes people think of music as the warm-up for the sermon, and I’m sure…
BK: Dave, we’ve had conversations about this.
DZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
BK: Your experience has been sometimes…
DZ: Yeah, so I feel like a lot of the context that I came from, it can have the tendency to be, “We have to put songs at the beginning, and if there’s time we’ll put songs at the end.” And so it’s a different approach to, “What really are we doing in the singing? What’s the reason for why we have chosen songs?”
BK: That’s kind of the question we wanna get at, is, what are we doing when we’re singing? Sometimes it’s meant to be a performance. It’s a display of excellence and skill, and the better it is, the better it is. The more skill, the more talented, the more produced, that’s what we’re going for. And that’s one way people think about singing. I know in the church growth movement, like in the late ’90s or in the ’90s, early 2000s, and probably still today, people think of music as a means of just drawing crowds. If the preaching’s average [chuckle] you make the music good, or if the preaching’s great, bring the music up to the caliber of the preaching, and do the best songs, the latest songs. Do ’em with excellence and… Which you wanna do ’em with excellence, but over-emphasized to the point where the better our music, the bigger the crowd.
DZ: Yeah, well, and it’s such a drawing point, especially for young people, “I want music that I like and I want it to sound the way I like it, and so I go to that church and it draws me in.”
DK: Yeah, it becomes this standard by which we evaluate, “Well, should I be a part of this church?”
BK: And it’s not just younger people. It could be older people like myself. Big choir, big orchestra. Like, how good is the music? And that becomes the means of growing a church, which is…
DK: And it’s the principal… It’s where we derive our identity oftentimes, or churches, they define themselves, it can be easy to define themselves as, “Oh, we’re a contemporary church” or…
DZ: Based on the music.
DK: We’re a orchestra, choir church.
DK: And that’s the kind of people that we are gonna draw.
DZ: Interesting, right. Huh.
BK: Yeah, and that really plays into it. It can be an expression of creativity, God’s creativity and beauty, and so that’s where you get people saying, “Well, why can’t we just have instrumentals because it’s an expression of God’s creativity and his beauty, and it affects people, and it brings glory to God?” And I’d say, “Well, maybe. That kinda depends on who’s listening, because the same instrumental piece will have a different effect in different people, depending on how they’re processing it.” So anyway, that’s how some people think of it. Sometimes music is thought of just as an opportunity to give glory to God, give him our best. “We’re here to give God our best.” To which the question naturally would be, “Well, what is your best?”
DK: Who defines what our best is?
BK: Who defines your best?
DZ: Is your best sound the best? Yeah.
BK: And, yeah, that can be a hard question to answer. What is excellence? What is skill? So it’s this conversation that’s been going on for centuries, really, and I found that this… One thing, one approach that’s rarely mentioned in this topic is the idea that songs can be used to shepherd people’s souls, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for, oh wow, at least 20 years. When I came to Maryland to work alongside C. J. Mahaney, every Sunday I’d lead, and he would talk to me afterwards, come up and say, “Thank you for leading,” and then share these encouraging thoughts, if there were any, and then he’d say, “Now, just a few things that I might change.” And he’d talk about just very briefly, this, this, that. Those began to sow into me the idea, the concept that this is more than just about me having fun, or playing what’s popular, or getting people emotionally engaged…
DZ: Or even just picking a couple of songs.
BK: Or just picking songs.
DK: Or doing your thing.
BK: Yeah, that’s right. And over those first few years, this concept of pastoring through song, shepherding through song began to form. Nd I remember doing a seminar, teaching in 2001, on, I think it was called this catchy title, Pastoral Care Through Corporate Worship. Or, Seeing Corporate Worship as Pastoral Care. And that’s just grown in me as a conviction and a way of processing what we’re supposed to be doing when we’re in front of people leading songs, and it’s… There’s just not a lot of conversation about it. I think Zac Hicks wrote a book a few years ago, “The Worship Pastor”, but beyond that there’s just not a lot of conversation, so I thought it would be really helpful for us to just bat these things around.
DZ: Well, in pastoral care, even that statement as a worship leader seems like, what is that? It’s usually just, “Hey, this is a church member that wants to volunteer and serve its time, and so they’re gonna pick a couple of songs that are not too hard to sing.” Or it’s the opposite of just, “This is a really great talented personality that’s really comfortable on stage and can lead a band and… ”
BK: Plays well.
DZ: Plays well…
BK: Has a great voice.
DZ: And I just think like…
BK: Looks good as a bonus.
DZ: Yeah. And I just think like pastoral care, how does that even apply to these two categories? What is a church even looking for in terms of a worship leader?
BK: Yeah, and that’s how I think I’d put it when we think of who do you want to have lead your music. Is this a category? It should be a category. Can they shepherd people’s souls? Dev, were you gonna say anything?
DK: I wouldn’t even say it should be a category; it should be one of the primary categories. And yeah, just so critical that we have a framework for what takes place as we gather and what the priorities are. And there are different priorities we’ve mentioned. Is it just to draw people in, is it just to have somebody… This is what churches do. I think a lot of churches, we can gather to sing just because that’s what we’re supposed to do without ever seriously contemplating why are we to do this. In one sense, we can easily dismiss the formational aspect of what we do as we gather and what we do as, in particular in this case as we sing.
BK: In a lot of contemporary church there’s been this division between what the musician does and what the pastor does.
DZ: Oh, yeah.
BK: And sometimes they don’t even know what they’re doing, what each other is doing. Which is, it seems to be out of step with the New Testament concept of your elders shepherding, pastoring a congregation, not just through the teaching but through the whole meeting, they’re caring for God’s people’s undershepherds. So every aspect of a meeting, whether it’s the call to worship, the announcements, the leading of the Lord’s Supper, that’s all a pastoral function. So yeah, it’s just a more comprehensive, holistic way of looking at what’s going on in the meeting to consider the music as a way of shepherding people’s souls.
DZ: Yeah, and I’m so fascinated by this conversation because I just think when you said it doesn’t seem like people are having this conversation. I’ve been a ministry my whole life and have never really had this conversation. How does pastoral care factor into picking songs? Is it really more than just “Hey… ”
BK: Picking a song.
DZ: Yeah, pick these songs. Or, sing this song.
BK: They like this one, they like this one.
DZ: So I love having this conversation.
BK: Well, maybe it’d be good to start with, at least in this session, just talking about what a pastor does. And I wanna make it clear that it’s not saying… We’re not saying that the person leading should be a pastor. I think that’s ideal. I think the person leading your music being a pastor is ideal, but they should have a…
DK: But that’s not always gonna be the case.
BK: That’s absolutely…
DK: Nor should it be.
BK: Certainly at Sovereign Grace Church this is not the case, but most of… The majority of people who lead, guys who lead are volunteers or part-time.
DK: But would you say that that person leading the singing should have a pastoral disposition?
BK: That’s right, that’s what I was about to say, and you said it better than I could. [chuckle] Yeah.
BK: Yeah, a pastoral heart. Yeah, to think like a pastor. So there are three scriptures where the roles or the functions of a pastor God lays them out pretty clearly. The first is 1 Peter 5:1-2 which says this, “So I exhort the elders among you, shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion but willingly as God would have you, not for shameful gain but eagerly.” So two aspects of the pastoral call there: One is shepherd the flock of God. In other words, care for the flock of God, care for their souls. And then exercising oversight, that’s the leadership aspect. So maybe I should’ve started with just saying there are five roles that a pastor plays: They feed the flock, they lead the flock, they care for the flock, they protect the flock, and they’re an example to the flock.
BK: So here’s the scriptural support for that. So we just saw care for, leadership, and then we have 2 Timothy 4:2 that says, “Preach the Word.” One of the pastor’s roles is to feed the flock, preach the Word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching. So there it’s a pastor’s job, not just to let their people go with every wind of doctrine that’s out there and go with the flow of a culture, but to teach them the ways of the Lord. We see that emphasis throughout Scripture, that we are to know the ways of the Lord, the commands of God, who He is, what He’s like, so that’s the teaching aspect.
BK: And then there’s Acts 20:28-29, where Paul is speaking to the Ephesians elders and he says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves.” That’s the aspect of being an example. This isn’t just stuff you’re passing on that you haven’t personally experienced. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,” that’s the leadership aspect again, “to care for the Church of God,” that’s the shepherding aspect, “which He obtained with His own blood.” Then he says this, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock,” and that’s the aspect of protecting. We wanna set a guard around the flock, around the church, around the congregation to protect them from the world, the devil and their own flesh. And so, those are the roles of the pastor.
DK: I’m gonna jump in there. I’ve been reading recently The Care of Souls by…
BK: In pursuit of your doctorate, I should say.
DK: No, that’s just…
BK: Oh, you’re just reading it?
DK: Yeah, I’m just reading it.
BK: Well, that’s great.
DK: I wanna care for souls well.
BK: I wanted to throw in that you were pursuing a doctorate.
DK: It’s a great book. It’s by Harold… I don’t know how to say his last name so I’m just gonna say Harold S.
DK: A wonderful book with its focus on “How does a pastor walk out this calling of caring for souls?” But throughout the book, at one point he gives this illustration, which other people have used before, of a sheep dog and how a sheep dog functions in caring for a flock. And the way he just paints his pictures, it’s so compelling and encouraging. But the sheep dog is… It’s a dog. It’s a dog, it’s not the shepherd, the chief shepherd, it’s a dog. And they’re objective in life, what it looks like for them to be faithful, is to do the shepherd’s bidding. And they don’t have their own agenda…
DZ: I love that.
DK: But they live to serve the shepherd. And so they are protecting the flock from wolves, they are ensuring that the flock goes where it’s supposed to go, they’re caring for their various needs as seeks to direct as an extension of the shepherd. And what I love about the way he talks about it is the only way that the sheep dog can do this is because it knows the shepherd, and it’s spent so much time with the shepherd and knows what the shepherd’s emotions mean…
DZ: That’s excellent.
DK: And knows what the shepherd’s desires are. And then you go watch a sheep dog do this, and you will see that sheep dog running with just boundless joy. It’s just tail wagging, tongue out, corralling those sheep, and it’s the joy of its life to do what the shepherd wants it to do. And in so many ways, this is what we’re called to do as undershepherds of the chief shepherd, and we find our joy in not carrying out our own agenda, but out of a desire to please the shepherd, care for these sheep. And I think it’s just such a… As we were talking about, it’s just such a needed conversation today and every day for us, particularly as leaders, in the context of the church. And sadly, it can be very divorced from when we talk about music. It just doesn’t function. And we can just go so quickly to what our agenda is and what we wanna do and our desires and what we define as excellence and greatness and all this stuff, and miss the whole point that we’re sheep dogs and we’re here to serve another. And then another thing that I’ve just been reflecting on, which I think is pertinent to this conversation, if we’re to pastor in one sense a congregation, if we’re to care for people through the songs that we sing, then it means that we know them and are patient with them. And that flies in the face of, I think, just the late modern push to and for mobility. And just I can think of…
BK: Mobility in what sense?
DK: I’m getting to that.
BK: Okay, sorry.
DK: I can think of my function in a church as a job or as a career path. And so, “This is where God’s got me right now, and then I’m gonna move on to something else. I’m looking for that other opportunity, more benefits or the better place to live or… ”
BK: Climbing up the ladder.
DK: Whatever it is, and we see ourselves as very transient in ministry oftentimes. But if our priority is to care for souls, we need to be in it for the long haul, and our disposition should be one that, “I’m content to die here caring for these people.” Because that’s my priority. As I serve the chief shepherd, I want to care for these people well. I wanna see… As I serve in my church, I wanna see babies born and I wanna see people die… Not that I wanna see people die.
BK: No, Dev, that’s pretty harsh.
DK: I want to walk with them through every season of their lives, and I can only do that if I’m there for a long time. And so that priority of pastoring really does shift our conception of time in ministry.
BK: And again, you don’t have to be a pastor per se. It’s just the idea of loving the church, loving God’s people, loving the members of your church, loving your pastor. A number of years ago, there was a music ministry conference out in California and they did a survey, “How long have you been in your position?” And the average time that a music minister had been in a position was two years.
BK: It’s that, wow, there’s just no way that you’re gonna get to know the people in your congregation in that time the way that you could over a longer period of time. And it also speaks to just the value of being in one place for a long time. It’s humbling. As Devon was saying, it’s not a climb.
DK: But it’s interesting, I think in music ministry it can be easy to think, “Alright, I’ve got these gifts and these abilities, and so I’m gonna come here and I’m gonna do my thing. And that’s why they’ve hired me.” And so for you, when you moved up to Maryland, you were hired to do something very specific, and you could have thought, “You know what, this is what got me here, so this is what I’m gonna do.” And people do that, and I think it’s about two years where it’s like…
DK: People kinda get tired of that. And so whether it be you get tired of just doing your thing or the people around you, they’ve grown used to it and they’re like, “Oh, that’s great.” And everybody’s kinda like, “Alright, time for something else.” We’ve all kind of stagnated here because your thing is only good for two years. And you end up seeing guys that are your age… I’ve interacted with different guys that are your age that have been in music ministry for a long time, and it’s like almost they’ve become caricatures of themselves, and they do have to go from place to place, and it’s sad to see. They go from place to place because their thing that they do only has so much of a shelf life.
BK: You’ll tell me if I become a caricature myself?
DK: I would, I would.
DZ: And to jump into what you’re both saying and just give a different perspective, I think sometimes from a worship leader’s perspective, the narrative we’ve heard is, that’s the pastor.
BK: Yes, yes.
DZ: I’m just… I’ll do the music so that they can take care of shepherding the flock, and protecting the flock, and I might be able to do that through the songs, but I’ll just pick ’em and kinda see where the cards land almost. And I feel like what you’re both saying is, we’re sort of raising the bar of what it means to actually be in a place and shepherd these people, and you have a role and responsibility that’s greater than just this is the career path, or this is the place…
DK: And I think that’s what’s so helpful about this sheep dog illustration, because you could be serving at a church and you’re just a member of that church, not a pastor, you don’t feel called to be a pastor, and which I’m sure there are people listening to this that are in that place.
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
DK: But you’re still a sheep dog, and so yes, Jesus is the Chief Shepherd…
BK: Yes, yes.
DK: But he has undershepherds that are serving him.
DK: And so as you serve your church, you’re the sheep dog.
DK: And you’re still doing the shepherd’s bidding. And so the prime Chief Shepherd being Jesus Christ, but then also the pastors that you’re serving.
DK: And so you’re there to carry out someone else’s vision as they care for the church.
DK: But that doesn’t negate your call to care for these people.
DZ: Right, it’s great what you said there, yeah.
BK: This is how Paul… It just makes me think of 1 Corinthians 4. Now, Paul is an apostle, he’s in this distinct category, but he says about him and the other apostles, “This then is how you ought to regard us, as servants of Christ, and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now, it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” And I remember in worship matters, we’re talking about definition of worship leader, a faithful worship leader. That’s what we’re called to be as faithful, and we’re called to be faithful in what? Well, stewarding the mysteries that we’ve been trusted with, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word of God. And so as we stand before people… You can think of that as, “Well, I’m a rockstar.” You won’t say that, but you can kinda think of yourself that way.
BK: You can think of yourself as, “Well, I’m someone who’s climbing the ministry ladder.” You can think of yourself as, “Well, I’m an artist, and what I do is make beautiful music for the Lord for people to enjoy.” Or you can think of yourself as just kind of an administrator, a business person, you’re just kinda getting things done, but you’re in the machine cog of the church and you’re just making it work. Or, you can think of yourself as someone who has been trusted with the mysteries of God which is the Gospel, the Word of God, and you’re wanting to shepherd those people with those mysteries, you wanna steward those mysteries in such a way that you’ll hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
DZ: What a joy, what a privilege.
BK: Well, it is a joy. When Devon talked about that, this sheep dog just kinda [chuckle] running around tongue wagging, I thought of the number of leaders I’ve spoken to over the years who see leading as a burden and…
DZ: Oh, and become embittered…
BK: Embittered, burned out.
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
BK: Pressure, perform and…
BK: Listen, I’m 65 years old. That’s hard to believe, I feel like I’m like 40s.
DK: Not that hard to believe for some of us.
BK: I know, I know.
DZ: I love what I do.
BK: I wanna do this as long as they’ll let me.
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
BK: I’d lead three out of four weeks and maybe even more, most of the time at my local church, it’s a joy because the Gospel never changes.
BK: And this privilege of caring for people’s souls the way God has cared for me through the Gospel, through His Word and the means of those around me, it’s just… I want other people to get it on this. This is not like, “Oh, it’s such a burden, it such a… Or I feel this pressure, or I feel burned out even. It’s just… It’s life-giving.”
DK: Yeah, it’s freeing not to have all the pressure on you to come up with something new every week…
DZ: Oh, absolutely, yeah.
DK: And what’s gonna engage people or excite people or whatever it is, it’s just like you give yourself to that, and you’re burnt out from that, and weary from that, but there is a better way. [chuckle]
BK: There is, and I understand that there might be someone listening to this where your pastor is telling you, “This is what I want.”
DZ: I was just gonna say that, I was just gonna say that.
BK: Yeah, well go ahead and say it.
DZ: Yeah, I was just gonna say that I think it might not only just become internally, which most of the time, it starts internally…
BK: Yeah, yeah.
DZ: Where this is who I am and what I bring to this place. But I think you can be in a context where I’m wanting to serve faithfully, but I’m getting this pressure externally that says, “Can we pick better songs?” Or “Can we do this better? Can we do this… ”
DK: “Can it be more exciting?”
DZ: “Can it be more exciting?” Yeah, whatever. And so holding those two realities can be challenging of like, you wanna be… You want to work hard to be good at leading faithfully, but also where is the priority? Where are the priorities sitting in this role of being a worship leader?
BK: That’s the worship leader pastor dynamics podcast.
DZ: Yes. [laughter]
BK: Shameless plug.
BK: When we get to it.
DK: Oh, you haven’t done it yet.
BK: No, we haven’t done it yet. [chuckle] But that will be a whole… That may be a few conversations.
DK: You have a blog post you wanna plug on that one, too?
BK: I’m sure I do somewhere.
DZ: Well, I think that this is going to be a multiple part series.
BK: Yeah, well, since we haven’t even gotten into how to do anything.
DZ: So I think we are gonna pause now, but we’re gonna have a second episode…
DZ: That talks about how do you actually shepherd through the songs.
BK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
DZ: ‘Cause I feel like we sort of got this overall view of, “Why are we talking about this?”
BK: Yes, yes.
DK: The priority of shepherding.
DZ: And what is the priority?
DZ: And so I think this next episode can be dedicated to how do we do this primarily through song. Right?
BK: Yeah, and let me… I just thought of what some people said over the years. You have the list of gifts that the risen Christ is giving the church in Ephesians 4: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, and some have suggested, hopefully humorously that you should add worship leaders to that list. [chuckle] I don’t think that’s a good idea to ever [chuckle] add something to the Bible. But then we have to find our role within that context, whether or not we are that specific person. This could be someone that a pastor delegates. So that’s what I think, we’re kind of… We’ve been delegated this role of pastoring, even teaching to some degree through the songs we lead, and that’s what we’re talking about, how can someone be more of that person and how can we function that way in the context of the gathering?
DZ: Wonderful, excellent.
DK: Looking forward to it.
DZ: Join us for part two, and thanks for tuning in.
DZ: Thank you for listening to Sound + Doctrine, a podcast of Sovereign Grace Music. For more information, free sheet music, translations, and training resources, you can visit us at SovereignGraceMusic.org.