Even though musicians aren’t necessarily “elders” or “teachers” their presence in front of the congregation week after week implies that their life is worthy of emulation—not flawless, but demonstrating the fruit of the gospel. When that’s not true, the church gets the message that worship is more about music than the way we live. Likewise, when non-Christian musicians are used, we’re implying that the art of worship is more important than the heart. (p. 230)
The comments focused around the topic of using non-Christians on a worship team. Here’s how I responded to the discussion and questions about what I meant by my original paragraph:
I remember very clearly writing that paragraph of the book. I thought that people would take issue with it. Allow me to explain what I was saying, and hopefully answer some of the comments here.
First, I’m not saying that God doesn’t use or speak through non-Christians or art produced by unbelievers. He obviously does.
Second, I think those with a public ministry (however you define it) in the church should be held to a higher standard of conduct that those who serve more behind the scenes. The reason is that they’re more visible and more prone to be critiqued or seen as an example. So someone who sets up chairs or wraps wires might be working through significant character issues but still be able to serve. The more pronounced the leadership role or visibility in the church, the more concerned we should be about whether or not a person’s life is in line with the Gospel.
Third, I understand that churches invite non-Christians to play in their meetings for reasons other than simply making better music, usually evangelism. I’ve known non-Christians who have been converted as a result of playing for a church. But in the above paragraph I was mostly thinking of situations where churches are more concerned about the sound of the music than the nature of the church.
Which brings me to the reason I wrote what I did. The key issue for me is who is gathering on Sunday morning. If what we’re engaged in is a media production, drawing a crowd, or a motivational event, then it’s not as important who does what. But if we are the gathering of the church, the called out ones, those whom Jesus Christ has redeemed by his blood, who have professed faith in his substitutionary sacrifice, and are seeking to live for his glory, then it matters. In talking about the church Acts 5:13-14 says, “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” I’d say that we’ve come a long way from “none of the rest dared join them” when we’re inviting non-Christians to be involved in leading/serving roles in the church. We may see people saved in the short run, but there are certainly other ways that can happen that don’t blur the distinction between the church and the world.
One last thought. It’s true that things always go better when pastors explain the qualifications for serving in different roles. But it seems that the emphasis in Scripture is always on leaders and Christians being examples (Heb. 13:7; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:12) and the church being made up of those who have repented of their sins and trusted in Christ for salvation.
In our sincere desire for the church to be a community where non-Christians feel welcome and see the gospel in action we can blur the distinction between those who are owned by Christ and those who aren’t, between those who have trusted in Christ and those who haven’t, between those who live for the kingdom of light and those who live for the kingdom of darkness. If that sounds polarizing, it’s because that’s the way God describes our position – inside or outside of Christ (Rom. 12:4-5; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:13).
Christians are those who have been reconciled, redeemed, restored, and made right with the Father. We gather as his people to celebrate and remember the grace we’ve received in Christ. Unbelievers are welcome to come and observe our common bond in the gospel, and hopefully be affected by it. That’s always our prayer.
But for the sake of the Gospel and the purity of the church let’s encourage them to put their trust in the Savior through our example, witness, speech, love, and proclamation—not by asking them to participate in worship that is only possible through the regenerating work of the Spirit. We don’t want to potentially lead them and the church to believe they’re already part of the redeemed community before they’ve been redeemed.