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What Some People Are Saying About The Worship Pastor

I've been privileged to pass some advance drafts of my book, The Worship Pastor, to some thinkers, writers, scholars, and poets across all kinds of lines. I've been very grateful for the responses, feedback, and endorsements. Below is what they've said! Also, the book's site is officially up. Pre-orders really help, so please spread the word. And, there's some incentive. I've put together a study guide with discussion questions and "for further reading" recommendations. Some people will really want to dive more deeply into the topics I open up. Those helps are available for FREE for folks who pre-order!

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“The modern role of the worship leader . . . has emerged in recent years as a mission-critical position on church staffs,” writes Zac Hicks. But how do we characterize that role? With years of contemporary worship-leading experience, theological acumen, love of the church, and profound respect for the calling of leading God’s people in declaring his glory, Hicks identifies the role as pastor. Hicks explores perspectives that will inspire worship leaders and ennoble the worship practices and priorities of God’s people.”

— DR. BRYAN CHAPELL, pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church; author, Christ-centered Worship


“Zac Hicks educates and challenges us to carefully consider how we “do” our function as congregational leaders of prayer, all the while christening us with an elevated title that suits the role: the worship pastor.”

— CHUCK FROMM, founder, Worship Leader Magazine


“Not only is this book well-written, it is deeply wise and consistently scriptural. I love this book. I wish that every worship pastor (and every pastor) would read it. Read it. You will be pleasantly surprised.”

— ELYSE M. FITZPATRICK, author; Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings


“It’s been fifty years since the first forms of contemporary worship appeared. It’s been thirty years since the position of worship leader developed. It’s been twenty years since mainline churches adopted contemporary styles. And so it’s time for a mature, multifaceted guide for those who lead God’s people in worship. Zac Hicks’ The Worship Pastor fills that need wonderfully.”

— LESTER RUTH, research professor of Christian worship, Duke Divinity School


"As worship pastor becomes a standard job title in churches across the globe, we are in dire need of a guide for this unique vocation. Zac Hicks has given us a masterpiece that is equal parts manual and manifesto. This book is pastoral theology at its very best."

—GLENN PACKIAM, pastor, New Life Downtown; author, Discover the Mystery of Faith


"This book is a welcome introduction to the multidimensional nature of worship leadership. Written for practitioners by a practitioner, Hicks brings a convincing voice to the slow-growing but much-needed plea for worship leaders to take up the pastoral duties that are so vital for successful ministry. I highly recommend it for persons in any stage of worship ministry."

—CONSTANCE M. CHERRY, professor of worship and pastoral ministry, Indiana Wesleyan University


“In The Worship Pastor, Zac Hicks holds up the diamond of worship leading and
wonderfully encourages us in its many faceted roles, reflecting the glory of the gospel with every view. This book is a must-read for pastors, worship pastors, and even worship team members.”

— STEVE AND VIKKI COOK, songwriters, teachers, worship leader/team member


“If I could choose one worship pastor to serve with for the rest of my life, it would be Zac Hicks. Marinate in his book, Worship Pastor, and you’ll understand why my words aren’t pastoral hyperbole. Get it; soak in it; share it with many.”

— DR. SCOTTY WARD SMITH, teacher-in- residence, West End Community Church


“Long has the worship community needed a guidebook for understanding that the role of the worship leader encompasses more than great music. I highly recommend The Worship Pastor to anyone seeking to follow God’s call to lead worship.”

— DR. VERNON M. WHALEY, dean, School of Music, Liberty University


“Zac Hicks has laid down some important principles for worship leaders to function beyond merely choosing songs—as pastors. Worship leaders who adapt Zac’s principles and disciplines will find that their call to ministry will be widely enhanced to the glory of God.”

— DR. EDWIN M. WILLMINGTON, director, Fred Bock Institute of Music, Fuller Theological Seminary


"Zac has thoughtfully and thoroughly addressed the many creative avenues in which worship can be pastored. And that’s so important, because techie artists like me need a better, deeper theological understanding of the influence we have over the worship space. And how we may actually be worship pastors even though it’s not in our job title."

—STEPHEN PROCTOR, visual liturgist and projection artist,


“This is book is an invitation to reenvision the identity of all of us who lead God’s people in worship. My prayer is that it will encourage and inspire both beginning and lifelong leaders of God’s people, and lead to worship of greater theological depth and Christian joy.”

— JOHN D. WITVLIET, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College and Theological Seminary


“Speaking from years of personal experience, Zac Hicks offers this winsome invitation to worship leaders to think of themselves as ministers as well as musicians. Essential reading.”

— MAGGI DAWN, associate professor of theology and literature, Yale Divinity School


How the Gospel Fills Worship with Passion

Dead Worship, Anyone?

Every new worship leader goes through that painful transition period where the rose-colored glasses come off and you realize that not everyone is as "into" worship as you are.  Part of the reason you took on this role is that you simply love to worship God with the people of God, and your fervor is spilling over.  But, when you're doing it week in and week out, and when you're looking out upon the countenances, posture, and engagement of Christ's Bride, you can't help but get a little depressed.

If the good news of Jesus really is as sweeping and epic as the Scriptures proclaim it to be, why do our worship services which seek to display it, retell it, savor it, and revel in it seem so often to not look like the gospel is as grand as it is?  Why do our services lack passion?  (Notice that this line of questioning transcends issues of musical style or high- or low-church liturgy.)  There are hosts of important answers to this question, from cultural, to sociological, to theological, to biological, to psychological, to existential.  

Lincoln's History vs. A Dictionary's History

One answer worth pondering is given by Michael Horton, where he helps us to understand the difference between viewing history "from within" and "from without."  It is the difference between truth and dramatic truth:

H. Richard Niebuhr contrasted "outer" and "inner" history--one as told by a supposedly objective bystander, the other by a participant in that history:

"Lincoln's Gettysburg Address begins with history: 'Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.' The same event is described in the Cambridge Modern History in the following fashion: 'On July 4, 1776, Congress passed the resolution which made the colonies independent communities, issuing at the same time the well-known Declaration of Independence.' ..."

It hardly seems that Lincoln and the Cambridge Modern History were describing the same event. "Hence," Niebuhr adds, "we may call internal history dramatic and its truth dramatic truth, though drama in this case does not mean fiction."  We cannot approach the preaching of the Word as if it were merely describing its doctrinal or moral content; it must be preached as indeed it was written--namely, as the dramatic, developing story of God's creative and redemptive work in Jesus Christ as God's true and faithful Israel.*

The Gospel as Dramatic Truth

We can extrapolate outward the very poignant illustration beyond preaching to the entire worship service and experience.  Do we celebrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ as dramatically as it truly is?  Do we sing, pray, hear, read, and taste the Glorious Message as passion-filled insiders who have been changed by it, or as cold and clinical outsiders who are analyzing it?  It's the difference between Lincoln standing in a context of racial inequality and passionately remembering and rehearsing the Declaration's glorious truths upheld and the dictionary reporting the game-changing event of 1776.

Toward a Solution

"Solving" this problem is multi-faceted and way too complex for my very limited brain to handle.  But there is a very simple and easy first starting place for us as worshipers and worship leaders--personally cultivating a life of savoring the Gospel.  A few weeks ago, Scotty Smith preached a soul-melting sermon at Coral Ridge in which he outlined two simple practices to staying smitten with the love of God in Christ:

  • Stay focused on the dying love of Jesus on the cross--perpetually survey, think continually on, place before you, always go back to the cross; never depart from thinking on it, even if at times doing so feels rote.
  • Stay focused on the undying love that Jesus has for us--remember, savor, rehearse Jesus' ongoing, perpetual love for you; remember that, in Christ, God cannot be more pleased with you than He already is and that He delights in you as a Father would a child who is perfectly obedient, perfectly selfless, perfectly perfect. 

Cultivation of a passion for the good news of Christ is the most important thing that pastors and worship leaders can do to lead their flock.  Human beings have an instinct for being able to identify the difference between those who believe in truth coldly from the outside and those who believe in it passionately from the inside.  

And, by the way, this is at the center of what it means to be a "Spirit-filled" worshiper and lead "Spirit-filled" worship.  Someone who is Spirit-filled swoons for the things the Spirit swoons for.  The Bible is clear that the Spirit's heart skips a beat over Jesus.  The Spirit desires, even "lusts after" the Son (Gal 5:13-26).  Being Spirit-filled means to get caught up in the intra-Trinitarian infatuation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

So let's keep in step with the Spirit by doing no more and no less than lingering at the foot of the cross to survey Christ's dying love and meditating on the very throne room of the Father, where Christ has ascended, and is pleading His undying love for us, to which the Father replies, "This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased."  Because the punch line is, when God is talking about Jesus, He's talking about us (Eph 2:6).

*Michael Horton, A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 58-59.