Thinking Out Loud

February 3, 2017

Review: The Worship Pastor by Zac Hicks

Zac Hicks should write a novel. In his book The Worship Pastor: A Call to Ministry for Worship Leaders and Teams (Zondervan) he proves himself as a master of analogy. Not one or two, but more than a dozen comparisons between the person you might see on the stage at weekend services leading us sung and spoken worship, and other ministry and non-ministry occupations with which you are familiar.

the-worship-pastorThe need for these comparisons is simple: Worship leaders wear many hats. Those who are paid full-time to do this vocationally at larger churches are definitely multi-tasking, but even in smaller congregations, the task of directing us, as well as leading the worship team itself, is multi-faceted.

For that reason, I would argue that for those who perform this function, this is a book that will be referred to on a constant, ongoing basis. The Worship Pastor is basically an encyclopedia of everything related to the responsibility of planning and executing what is, in many of our churches, up to if not more than half of the total service time.

The author has been writing at his blog, ZacHicks.com since May of 2009. His bio notes that he “grew up in Hawaii, studied music in Los Angeles, trained in Philosophy and Biblical Studies at Denver Seminary, and his current doctoral work is in the theology and worship of the English Reformation. Zac’s passions include exploring the intersection of old and new in worship and thinking through the pastoral dimensions of worship leading.”

Indeed, the brilliance of the book is his ability to speak to two vastly different audiences: Those leading in a traditional, liturgical setting, and those serving in a modern, free worship environment. In both cases those leading have more in common in than they realize, and face many of the same challenges.

Back to the analogies. At the book’s website, these are spelled out and it helps you understand the book best to restate them here:

Chapter 1: The Worship Pastor as Church Lover
Chapter 2: The Worship Pastor as Corporate Mystic
Chapter 3: The Worship Pastor as Doxological Philosopher
Chapter 4: The Worship Pastor as Disciple Maker
Chapter 5: The Worship Pastor as Prayer Leader
Chapter 6: The Worship Pastor as Theological Dietician
Chapter 7: The Worship Pastor as War General
Chapter 8: The Worship Pastor as Watchful Prophet
Chapter 9: The Worship Pastor as Missionary
Chapter 10: The Worship Pastor as Artist Chaplain
Chapter 11: The Worship Pastor as Caregiver
Chapter 12: The Worship Pastor as Mortician
Chapter 13: The Worship Pastor as Emotional Shepherd
Chapter 14: The Worship Pastor as Liturgical Architect
Chapter 15: The Worship Pastor as Curator
Chapter 16: The Worship Pastor as Tour Guide

The title of the book (reiterated in each chapter) also deserves a second look. Hicks clearly sees the job as pastoral and would have those who serve in this capacity see it as nothing less. For those of us who have been criticized by pastors who felt their toes were being stepped on by a music director wanting to express this type of role in the statements, readings, and off-the-cuff remarks on a Sunday morning, this book grants them the authority to pursue their calling as a pastoral role. 

I couldn’t help but note that for a book written by a musician, this one definitely builds to a crescendo in its later sections. 

Wondering about that 12th chapter? “Death is the unspoken anxiety of North American culture…Our people bring all those fears right into the services we plan and lead. Each week, death is the biggest elephant in the sanctuary.” That one was fun reading. (Full disclosure, the chapter also deals with worship directors called upon to assist with funerals.)

Chapter 14 is actually a high point in the book and one that is anticipated throughout earlier sections. We’re presented with a worship flow (my word, not his) which then maps onto various liturgical and contemporary church service models, from Vineyard to Anglican.

But what about choosing some songs? Hicks doesn’t get around to anything as pedestrian as song selection until Chapter 15, and he does it in a rather unique way: By calling on the various ‘people’ in the previous models he is basically asking us to consider what songs ‘they’ would choose. (As a practitioner, I once commented that a longtime worship leader has heard about 5,000 compositions, but song selection isn’t about the five songs you choose, but the 4,995 you have to leave out.) He applies this also to choosing prayers (and how they are worded) and considering transitional segments.

Through the use of illustrations from the author’s experience, this book is accessible to all, however having said that, I believe it is also written at a somewhat academic level, thus I would expect The Worship Pastor to appear in textbook lists for worship courses. For those who want to go deeper, the footnotes represent a vast array of literature which sadly ended up on the cutting room floor. I would love to see Hicks explore those writers in greater detail. (The Worship Pastor: Director’s Cut, perhaps?)

My recommendation? This should be required reading for both worship leaders, singers, musicians, and senior pastors.


zac-hicksThanks to Miranda at HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada for an opportunity to read The Worship Pastor. Any physical resemblance between Zac Hicks (pictured here) and Steven Curtis Chapman is purely coincidental.

October 31, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Welcome to another Wednesday Link List. We have no plans to mention the October 31st thing here.

  • The blog Sue’s Considered Trifles is a fun place for people who love words and love language. Most posts contain related phrases and sayings, usually ending with a short scriptural or faith-based thought. You can refer friends to individual posts, or copy and paste and send as emails.
  • “Because it’s only once in awhile that we get to hear Jesus talk about brutal self-mutilation as a sign of discipleship.” So begins a sermon on Mark 9: 42-48 by Nadia Bolz-Weber you can listen to or read at her blog.
  • A consultant for the U.S. State Department brings a rather sobering article on the long term prospects for Christians in the middle east.
  • Our Creative Writing Award for October — if we had one — would surely go to Hannah Anderson, for this piece about being a mother of three at church offering time.
  • Does liturgy work with the poor and uneducated. Consider: “The liturgy has been, at least initially, a barrier to our illiterate population. After one or two months, however, they have it memorized.” Learn more at this interview.
  • Pete Wilson cites Adam Stadtmiller who suggests that our present model of what we call “singles ministry” is quite unsustainable.
  • We frequently hear stories of the desires of the people who hold the movie rights to the Left Behind books to re-make the existing films. This version gives the starring role to Nicholas Cage.
  • For my Canadian readers: If you remember the story from a few years back about the Ponzi scheme that impacted people at 100 Huntley Street and Crossroads Christian Communications, here is an update.
  • If you don’t feel there are enough Bible translations currently available, then you’ll be happy to know the International Standard Version is getting closer to being available in print.
  • And speaking of Bible versions, if your 66-book collection of choice is the King James, and the King James Bible only, then you probably want to date court someone who feels the same. For that you need to put your profile on King James Bible Singles. (You don’t need to join to read all the profiles — in great detail — already posted.)
  • Rachel Held Evans answers all your questions about the book that is causing so much controversy.
  • On a similar theme, Bruxy Cavey equates the Old Testament’s Levitical purity laws as akin to Spiritual Cooties. This 2-minute clip may not be safe for work, or any other environment.
  • Meanwhile, Kathy Keller, wife of author and pastor Timothy Keller offers some criticisms of Rachel’s book in the form of an open letter. If you click, don’t miss the comments.
  • But then you wouldn’t want to miss this review, which suggests there are Rachel Held Evanses in every church.
  • In other book news, Kyle Idleman, author of the chart-topping Not a Fan is releasing a new book, Gods at War in January.

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