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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

Who is responsible for planning weekly worship services?


The pastor along with others who might be functioning as elders should be responsible for weekly worship. The responsibilities placed upon the bishop [elder, pastor] assume that he has the teaching oversight of the congregation in conjunction with corporate worship. Paul wrote the Thessalonians [1 Th. 5:12, 13], "But we request of you brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work." Here, assuming this is speaking of the elders (and there appears to be no good reason to assign this to any other), we see that they "have charge over" the church and instruct the church. In 1 Timothy 3:4, 5 the pastor must manage or "take care of" God’s church. Titus indicates that he does this by holding fast the faithful word and being able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict. Ephesians 4 makes this teaching ministry of the pastor the means by which the whole body reaches unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. In this way the entire body learns to function properly in love and build itself up.

The purpose of music in New Testament worship is for instruction, exhortation, and thanksgiving; the content emerges from a thorough experimental and mental acquaintance with Scripture [cf. Ephesians 5:19, 20; Colossians 3:16, 17]. The pastor/elders should, therefore, always, at the least, be aware of the music used in worship and be able to suggest what should and should not be used. An ongoing study of the hymn repertoire, past and present, is a task that the pastor should make a part of his duties. The singing of hymns is a high moment of education, theology, worship, and corporate witness. Phrases and ideas from hymns have high retention power and can be used effectively to train the mind to think in edifying ways about God. Conversely, poor words and ideas couched in hymns may establish emotional ties to concepts that will be virtually impossible to overcome.

If other patterns for deciding the content of corporate worship presently bypass the pastoral input, the pastor must find a gracious way of educating the staff, church, musicians and whoever else has been involved in the process of the necessity of seeing this as part of his teaching ministry.

Dr. Tom Nettles is a church history professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, author, and frequent conference speaker.


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