Recently a discussion developed over at the New City Church blog about a paragraph in my book. Here’s the paragraph in question:
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.
Mixed feelings on this one. One one hand, I see your point and can appreciate it as a Christian. However, I also know that one of the factors leading to my salvation was being included in our praise orchestra at the church I attended as a seeker. Without that, I would have had little reason to keep attending and hear/accept the gospel message. I would not have been around the Christians there long enough to really grow towards accepting Jesus.
Now there were no illusions that I was a church member or even a believer. People still talked with me about becoming a Christian and witnessed to me. My musical abilities were able to bless someone else even though I did not have a saving relationship with God.
At least for our purposes, including me was evangelism. Our orchestra leader was and is a devout Christian (and extremely talented). Everyone else in the orchestra was a Christian. I made no pretense of being a Christian, but merely exploring and was clear about that with people in and out of the church. So in our case, the purpose was definitely evangelism and not to sound better. I would agree that including someone in the worship ministry merely to sound better just isn’t quite right. To witness and minister to them as a primary focus – that’s cool. Just for appealing to people doesn’t strike me as a good reason and I think we agree on that.
Your last paragraph definitely fits the people with whom I served. They witnessed to and loved me, but did not pretend that I was redeemed when I was not. (And believe me, they tried a whole bunch to convince me to accept Jesus and were NOT subtle about it. :-) Thank you to anyone from Parkminster Pres who was part of my time there and is reading this.)
I’m sorry to hear that, you missing the Best life ever
No knowing Christ Jesus.
Although it is up to the Father God to bring or call your name. I pray that soon his grace reaches you and you
Get to know and accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior.
I agree with your stance on not allowing non-Christians to play in a worship band. I have serious questions on whether or not a non-Christian can even worship Christ. This is also why I have a problem with seeker sensitive worship. Worship should consist of believers offering themselves up to Christ. Evangelism is extremely important, don’t get me wrong. But worship is for those that know Christ, to give back to Christ.
I agree, Worship to the Lord King of the Universe is
So spiritual work that without the Holy Spirit leading
The worshipers, means nothing to the Holy God.
Some of us forget at times that God is Supreme Holy
And we think that any person can sing songs and he will
As You workship in the Spirit all forces of darkness vanishes, the right workship break chains and
Strongholds as we workship.
So please if you want results and fruitful Congregation
Get the right worshipers and prepare them for a Superb
Worship to God Almighty.
The right worship is : worship that’s anointed. It’s the anointing that destroys the yokes of the devil. To a Christian, worship is reverant honor and adoration to our God. We bow down to our God and King. An unbeliever do not have the same testimony of true worship. So, the are just playing an instrument and singing, but it’s not worship occuring to a Christian definition of worshipping.
Praise God that God used a loving, faithful church to lead you to a saving knowledge of Christ! And thanks for responding so thoughtfully to my post. I know this can be a volatile issue.
Like I said in the post, though, the issue isn’t whether or not folks can get saved by playing on a music team. It’s the long term effect on knowing who makes up the church. Having non-Christians serve as an integral part of the Sunday gathering leads to confusion in the long run, and potentially a compromise of the church itself.
Worship is a response to the work of redemption and the revealed glory of God through Christ. People who have not experienced the work of Brahms or Picasso can’t celebrate their creativity and certainly would never be called upon to lead/ instruct others in the pursuit. Could evangelicals invade the local pubs and bars, set a musical standard so excellent, that the great art compels every listener to the saving beauty of Christ? Less poison the well, more salt the earth…
I think the confusion that can be caused in this area can sometimes most easily be seen when looking at people who are either new to the church, visitors, or new believers. Repeatedly I’ve been incorrectly referenced by new people at our church as “one of the pastors” or as “Pastor Tim” because of my role as the leader of the music portion of worship on a Sunday morning. Questions about church missiology, methodology, and doctrine frequently come to the music team because of our roles. It is assumed by people new to the church that those who are participating in a leadership role – whether musical or otherwise – during a Sunday morning service represent the church and it’s beliefs. It makes sense, on both spiritual health and a practical church leadership levels, to ensure, to the best of our ability, that the members of the team have experienced the grace of God in a saving way.
I completely agree. The best of intentions don’t make the actions right. The ends do not justify the means. To me this is similar to “missionary dating.” Even if I was saved as a result I would still tell others not to do it. The exceptions only only make the rule more clear.
I’m a domestic abuse survivor. I was abused by a fake Christian volunteer music minister in a para church organization. He was also a bible study leader and president of the Christian organization-given acceptance, pats on the back, best buddies with the on staff paid ministers.
He was and is not in anyway a Christian. He should not have been allowed in a leadership position (front and center) representing the values of the Christian organization. He was not properly vetted. I was also confused by the paid ministers support of the wolf in sheep’s clothing and was trapped.
No fake Christians in leadership positions please!!!
I’ve kept unbelievers off our worship team BECAUSE I’m witnessing to them.
What does (almost) every unbeliever think will earn God’s favor? Doing “good” stuff. Church stuff. I fear we feed into that mentality when we put them in front of the church.
The Lord uses various ways to save people, and we should praise Him for the anecdotal stories of people coming to faith through upfront service. My opinion is, however, having this as a worship team policy or a evangelistic strategy to artists often undermines the gospel we are trying to communicate.
Yes, love them. Invite them into your home. Serve THEM. But having them in situations that serve YOU or serve the CHURCH sends them a message that is confusing to the unbelieving heart and contrary to the gospel you’re trying to share.
Bob, great points (and outstanding book!) on this. Peter, we praise God for the way that you came to Christ, and none of this discussion assumes that God is not using believers who practice differently. Yet, to add to Bob’s discussion above, perhaps another place to look is 1 Cor 12-14, surely an important place to go when thinking of who participates on Sunday mornings and how they are to participate. One example from there illustrates what Bob is saying: “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Cor 14:26). It is “brothers (and sisters)” who gather, and when “you come together,” you bring the gifts that God has given you (12:7; Eph 4:7). Sundays are the place where those gathered use their gifts to worship God and edify believers. Each church has a unique set of giftings based on the people God has called to unite in that congregation. This is a cause of humility (when we wish we had other giftings or amounts) and gratitude for what he has given to us! How crucial it is to celebrate what God has brought into our church and not wish for what he hasn’t.
It is almost amazing to me that this discussion is even occurring. Could you imagine a time in church history when an unbeliever would have been permitted to serve in the public ministry of the church, especially that of leading God’s people in worship. Is there any doubt that the Psalmists and those who played the instrumentation for the psalms in the OT were believers? At times I believe we have thrown common sense out the door. I doubt these are issues being meted out in the church in Myanmar, Vietnam, China, etc. Only in America!
As a pastor I see very clearly the tendency of people to “look up to” those who stand before the congregation each week. to deny this is to willfully ignore the obvious. As elders we are very careful who we put before the congregation to speak, sing, and pray because we understand that they, whether we like it or not, become the public face of our local church body.
Last year I finished preaching through Acts and one thing was very clear throughout the book. The church was well defined. There were no blurred lines (notice how Peter confronted Simon in chapter 8).
Here is a question to consider. If it is ok for an unbeliever to serve on the worship team is it also ok for him to help serve communion?
I played at a church where the drummer had a pretty serious drug habit, but he was a good drummer and the worship leader thought it was important to have him there. I remember first hand thinking about this sort of thing.
I don’t think it is possible for a non-Christian to worship. It is through our relationship with Christ that we are able to say words of worship to the Triune God. Anyone can sing a song, but does it really mean anything? But that side of this is a whole different can of worms.
I think behind the scenes work is a wonderful way to develop relationships with non-christians who are comfortable enough with to be coming to church. When I was a college minster we had plenty of non-christians helping around the building, cooking food with us, cleaning up, setting up for events-pretty much everything except for a deep involvement with leading worship. Doing work around the church with someone who is considering Christ is a great place for them to see the heart of the church and to be evangelized.
Some people above had said that it blurs the lines with who is in the church and who is “out” of the church. I think this is correct and really important, because in so many churches now the lines involving membership are really foggy.
Great thoughts Bob
It seems that that there is a fundamental difference in ecclesiology between those who advocate non-Christians on the worship team/band and those who oppose it. Are worship gatherings for believers or are they primarily for evangelism? The answer to this question, in my view, is what differentiates these two views.
Good Christians with a heart for the lost are on the wrong side of the issue (IMO) due to a poor ecclesiology. But I can admire a zeal for the lost, even if misguided.
I’m from the south so your comment really rings true (for the most part) here. It’s hard to share the gospel at times because everyone’s a “christian” down here. I also think it is a witness to non-Christians to make clear distinctions where necessary like serving the church in various ways, communion, etc. Thanks for the post Bob. It’s really interesting and good for me to know about the different decisions pastors and worship leaders have to make and face. I’m oblivious to many of these things and I can pray more specifically for them.
Great post. I definitely agree that people involved in up-front ministry are more liable for everyone to see how they live & whether their life match with what the church teaches or not. If it doesn’t match, then it’s as if the church teaches empty stuff, which is reflected in the member not living out with the gospel.
I think my church even goes a bit further than that, we have sort of ‘unwritten policy’ that those who are serving in up-front ministry (including the music team) must be committed Christians, or at least showing progression in their understanding & growth as a Christian. This is important due to the reasons that Bob had mentioned above. As the music coordinator, at one time i even had to talk to one of our (carefully selected) music team to tell her off the team because she is going out with non-Christian. That was one of the hardest task i’ve ever done, and it was very sad. But one thing for sure, it’s actually loving for her and the rest of the team (as well as for the other congregation) that we make clear that how the team lives does matter. After all she is still my sister in Christ and we still try to speak to her lovingly in more personal conversations about her going out with non-Christian.
On a different matter, my younger (teenage) brother is invited to a church back in my home country and is asked to help out playing music there while he is not a believer yet. I can’t say that i agree with the church policy whatsoever, but i also can’t say to my brother that he can’t play in the church because he’s not a believer yet. I can only pray to God that through him playing music in church he’d listen to the message and put his trust in Jesus! Just like Peter’s condition above :)
It seems to me that you could eliminate many of the concerns here by simply requiring that those in the worship band (or ushering, or working in the nursery) be church members. If the church is following a biblical process for membership, the member will (most likely) be a Christian. It seems that church membership is no longer seen as a necessary thing for Christians — maybe part of the reason is the lack of membership being a requirement for involvement in much of the work of the church. Bob’s posting above aluded to this, but I think it’s worthy of more consideration.
Here’s an extreme hypothetical situation, but it may illustrate the point. Suppose you have a single, unsaved young woman in the worship band. Suppose she becomes pregnant. What do you do now that her sinful lifestyle becomes obvious to the congregation? Do you tell her that now that the sin she has been living in all along is visible, she can no longer be a part of the band? Now suppose the single young woman is not an unbeliever, but a saved non-member of the church and is in the worship band, and becomes pregnant. How do you address sin in a professing believer who you have allowed to have a ministry in your church but has not committed to membership in your church? Biblical church discipline simply does not fit this issue, because the church never required her to commit to a relationship of integrity and accountability with the church family.
Excellent post. So grateful for your insight into the role of the church as distinct from God’s role in saving sinners through the gospel. I beleive this focuses our hope and praise toward God. Neither eloquent preachers, nor skilled worship leaders, nor church programs, nor church involvement can ever regenerate a heart or atone for sin. We must emphasize God’s exclusive role and glory in the gospel. I completely agree with you–the church is the gathering of the redeemed, not the redeemer of the gathered.
great thougths everybody.
I’m curious about what you would think of the situation i find myself in. currently i am the assistant to our music pastor and the two of us have differing opinions on this very subject. i agree with what appears to be the majority here, that being in the worship band makes you, in some small part, a worship leader and that you should profess Christ as your Lord and savior before leading God’s people in worship.
However, our music pastor feels that it is a good evangelistic tool.
We have discussed this multiple times and how i feel is no secret to our music pastor. What should i do? continue to bring the topic up? i don’t want to raise a stink and i do want to be respectful of the pastor’s authority.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Love your posts Bob.
Thanks for your comment. I’d talk to your senior pastor about the issue. Maybe you could show your music pastor this post and the various comments and set up a time to talk about them. I know that I couldn’t in good conscience participate on a team that was included unbelievers, supposedly leading the church in worshiping the Savior, although I’d be happy to reach out to them outside of that context.
Less on non-Christians on the team, and more about the behavior of those who are on it…this is an interesting conversation. It is true that being on a worship team comes with responsibilities. BUT, if we start measuring how good we are as Christians and trying to use that as a rule by which to determine if we can be on the team, we are only fooling ourselves. True, the fruit of one’s life is indicative of where their heart lies, but we all struggle with things. The whole point is that we CAN’T lead perfect lives, and we shouldn’t expect people to. We can and should only expect them to care enough to press into their faith. We are Christians, and we shall be known as such by our love, not our correctness.
On non-Christians on the team? No, I don’t think so. Maybe jamming here and there with the worship band in off time, but not on a regular service time. It IS a time for Christians to come together to worship their savior. If one hasn’t realized their savior, how can one worship Him, much less lead others to?
Good thoughts, good post.
suzanne this situation is simular to my story…I was a member and still remain a member of my church,however 18mos.ago I found myself being asked the question what did i think should happen now that i was pregant, not married and a youth leader?. guess i was’nt clear with what happens to church members-(believers) who sin. I thought they did what the word says to do; confess,repent,forgiven and God remembers them not. however thats not what happen.serving is apart of being a christian and all have fallen short of the glory, so why is the outward sin looked apon differently?
Thanks for stopping by. I had two responses to your comment.
First, leaders are completely completely forgiven for their sins because of the atoning death of Christ but still have to experience the consequences of it. God may “remember not” our sins, but people do remember. That means leaders may have to step down from a leadership position for a time or even permanently for the sake of those who look to them as an example. It doesn’t mean leaders are sinless. It’s just that their behavior should be in line with the gospel they preach (Heb. 13:17; Titus 1:5-9).
Second, the topic of this particular post is non-Christians on the worship team, not the behavior of believers, as Justin pointed out. I’d like the comments to stay on track.
Totally agree, In Acts 6 the Apostles look for guys who are of good reputation and filled with the Holy Spirit and Wisdom; their job – to serve tables!
I know the jobs where more complex than just handing out the bread and cheese but it seems that we take the ‘qualifications’ for serving in the church very lightly compared to the high calling of God upon those who serve.
We had a non-Christian on our youth worship team at my old church for a time, but it became pretty evident that he was on the team simply to play music. That is the other thing to consider with believers and those who don’t…what are they even on the team for?
Either way, this guy was finally confronted about it, and as it turns out he is a Christian now. Playing on that team and seeing first hand why they play ended up being the perfect outreach for him. At what point do we stop and think “Hey, this isn’t exactly orthodox, but it could really be of great help”? I mean, if we stuck to the rules, he wouldn’t have played and might not have been saved. Once again, we are to be known by our love, not our correctness. How do we balance the rules in this way?
Bob & Everyone,
I’ve so enjoyed reading your post and everyone’s comments. Revelation 4:11 says “Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for thou hast created all things, and for they pleasure they are and were created.” Why are we here?…to bring glory to God. Isaiah 42:8 says “I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” God is very jealous of this area.
The praise team doesn’t necessarily fall under the category of elder or deacon so we can’t apply the clear cut Biblical rules here, or women and/or nonbelievers would not be Biblically allowed to lead in worship even in a support position, since the qualification is godly believing males. But, I believe the musicians and singers should fall under the spititual approval and leadership of the church elders.
John 4:23-24 says, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they they worship him must worship him is spirit and truth.” I truly believe in order to lead others in worship, the leaders must be worshipping. Non-believers can’t do this. It is impossible for a non-believer to worship much less bring glory to God. For the sake of God’s glory and worshping Him in spirit and truth, worship vocal and musician positions should be for “Christ-like life approved” Christians only.
My heart is deeply touched by your testimony, Peter. I praise God you know Jesus as your Savior. But,I’m curious, did the people on the praise team also do things with you outide the practice time to get to know you? Or, was the bulk of their reaching out time at practice? Or, mabe a better question, what about practicing with the praise team particularily drew you to Christ? You probably have very good insights on how Christians playing music and loving a non-believer can be a tool used to lead others to Christ. I definitely think this point should not be ignored.
Bob, thank you for opening this discussion as a blog.
I just finished reading WORSHIP MATTERS and I can’t tell you how much reading it has helped me to gain better perspective on my leadership role as music director (a title rarely heard of anymore but one which our church has kept). The section on non-Christians in the music ministry is one I really needed to hear. It’s difficult when we don’t have all the resources in a small congregation but moving outside of God’s way of presenting the Gospel to people is not the answer. Thank you for the book…I received at the T4G 08 and it’s been a blessing to me.
Thank you Bob for your careful yet on target remarks. I believe that we should remember that salvation is a work of God. We are mistaken if we think that getting someone on a ‘Christian’ worship team is the only way to get them saved. God does the saving. We introduce them to the Gospel. The modern church is too caught up with baiting the hook of the Gospel with gimicks and showmanship. Christ presented the Gospel to the publicans and sinners, but he did not invite them to join the group of disciples. “A man is not worthy to be My disciples if he does not leave all and follow Me.”
Great stuff as always! Nothing to add other than my thanks for your clarity and charity – two traits that can be hard to keep together sometimes.
In my former church, where I was the Worship Pastor, we had a young man who was playing in the worship band when I came to the church who I believed was either not a Christian, or was very immature in his faith. He seemed to be interested in our team simply as a means to use his gift, rather than as a means of serving the church. I bought him a copy of C.J. Mahaney’s “The Cross-Centered Life,” and asked him if he would be willing to read through it chapter by chapter and discuss it with me. About a month later, he decided to leave our band to play on another church’s team.
Sometimes drawing clear lines, or at least requiring a basic discipleship of those on our team, can highlight the gospel and the distinctness it requires. And sometimes simply highlighting that distinctness will make the lines clearer.
Nothing about this issue is simple or without relational tensions. May God be merciful to us as we seek to serve him with grace and integrity. And once again, Bob, thanks for your helpful and humble comments here.
Bob and all,
Most of the responses have been from folks in churches that have “set” worship teams. These are usually small, select groups that meet on a regular basis to rehearse and grow together. There probably should be more emphasis on the “growing” together part of the spiritual dynamics of a worship team. This may very well take care of part of the confusion over this particular issue. The Gospel and witnessing committed discipleship is meant to confront the non-believer to their need for Christ. This may result in Kyle’s experience (go Kyle) or in Peter’s experience (Yeah God!). And it’s for this very reason that I have used talented, searching non-believers in background (ensemble)leadership roles. Worship leader – do your part to proclaim the Gospel and encourage deeper discipleship and leave the result to God.
Here is a wonderful paragraph from “Worship by the Book” edited by D.A. Carson. On page 239, Timothy Keller’s worship arts director, Dr. Tom Jennings writes,
“We often include non-Christian musicians in our services who have wonderful gifts and talent. We do not use them as soloists, bet we incorporate them into our ensembles. We belive this fits a Reformed “world-and-life view.” The dualistic view in many evangelical churches is that a godly, sincere Christian who is an average musicain is more pleasing to God than a non-Christian professional musician. But Reformed theology teaches that God’s natural gifts in creation are as much a work of grace as God’s gifts in salvation. . . Musical talent is the gift of God, and to ask a musician to offer up that gift in a service of worship is a good thing both for him or her and for us [the church].”
Just some thougths from the “other” side.
I agree that no leadership positions in the church should be held by a non-believer. It made me think though … what musical positions are and are not “leadership” ones? Do all the members of a children’s singing choir need to be professing believers? Or is their status as child members of the church because of their parents faith enough?
response to Ken:
I agree that God is the giver of those incredible musical gifts which many non-believers possess. And as such, I agree that when they use those talents it can be very pleasing to God. But, when we are involved as musicians with a corporate worship gathering (like the typical sunday morning), the question that needs to be asked is: As we are playing, who are we trying to bring glory to?
You can’t be bringing glory to something that you don’t believe in. I can’t try to reflect the Tooth Fairy’s glory because i don’t believe she exists.
So I am left wondering, who are these non-believers trying to bring glory to on a sunday morning?
Who is the Creator of all artistic gifts? And Who will receive glory and honor when artistry is offered in the service of worship? When I gather with other Christians with the intent to worship almighty God I am concerned about one thing – am I bringing glory to God in my offering of worship? I do not reflect on the hearts of the persons who may be sharing their God-given artistic gifts. I try to keep my focus on the Creator.
Let’s use this analogy:
Singer/songwriter is allowed by God to create a powerful expression of praise that is accepted around the country as a meaningful addition to corporate worship. Later we find out that this person was never a professing believer – but was an agnostic who understood the language of music in the church. He/she would now profess that they were completely responsible for the song and therefore should receive all the glory for its creation. But for me, as a believer, I have some decisions to make: 1) Who is ultimately responsible for the creation of this song? 2) Does the actions and statements of the artist/creator discount the use of the song in a corporate worship service? 3) Has anything actually changed about the song (other than my knowledge and judgement of the artist)? (By the way – this has happened over and over in church music through the centuries. I am not so naive to think that in this age of worship music renewal it is not happening presently.)
To answer your first question: When anyone plays or sings with artistic skill, they are bringing glory to the Creator regardless of their imperfect and sinful heart. As I play and sing, I do not think about trying to bring glory to God. I focus on the gifts that God has given and the disciplined skill for which I have practiced for years (and am still practicing). In this, I know that am bringing glory to God!
Answer to your second question: I don’t worry about who non-believing musicians think about when they play or sing. I know that ultimately they can only bring glory to the Creator. For me, I reflect on the beauty and glory of God, and in this I worship. (And I try to disciple our church members to do the same.) When I hear them or participate with them in a corporate worship service, I glory in the presence of God the Creator, the Giver of all good gifts, and marvel at the grace He extended me, His child.
Please don’t misunderstand this: I am not writing about a person fulfilling the pastoral role of leading worship, reading Holy Scripture, singing a solo, etc. But a person who plays bass, or violin, or drums, or saxophone, or sings in the choir can come and help us make music unto the Lord. They may not know God’s glory through Jesus Christ, but their gift of music reflects God’s glory – and in this I rejoice.
I was on a worship team that had non-Christians on it and all I can say was it was soooooooooo difficult. I don’t recommend it. They pulled people away from God and definitely took the focus of the group off of worship and God. I don’t think a worship team is an evangelistic project. People need to come to Christ before they lead a church in worship. I would rather listen to bad musicians who love God than good musicians that don’t know him when I am worshiping in church.
I very much appreciate your heart, thank you for your response. Let me answer some of the questions you pose:
1). Who is the creator of all artistic gifts?
2). Who will receive glory and honor when artistry is given in the service of worship?
ANSWER: Whatever is being worshiped.
If the artistry is given in the service of worship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then thanks be to God. But, if something or someone is being worshiped other than our Triune God, we have an issue.
Your last post says that “When anyone plays or sings with artistic skill, they are bringing glory to the Creator regardless of their imperfect and sinful heart.” and “I don’t worry about who non-believing musicians think about when they play or sing. I know that ultimately they can only bring glory to the Creator.”
Out of love i have to tell you that this is simply not true. The bible makes this very clear in the book of Amos. Chapter 6 verses 5-7 state:
“You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.”
So we know that they strum like David who was himself a very excellent musician. We also see in Amos chapter 5:22-23 where it says :
“Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.”
God makes it quite clear that worship is a heart issue, not a talent issue. Each member of your worship band/ praise team/ choir etc. is a worship leader to some small extent. Now maybe they aren’t the primary worship leader, but they are all doing their part to usher people into God’s presence.
I agree – worship is a heart issue.
I agree – God will judge the worship leader who leads with an empty heart. He will not accept their songs or their skill.
However, leading others in worship is a matter of skill. (I believe that is why God set an entire tribe apart to “skillfully” lead in temple worship.) In our North American church culture, a heart that is hot for God does not get you the job. If a person came to me and told me that they had a passion to lead others to worship God – I would ask them to interview and audition for me. They may have the passion, but if they don’t have the skill – they will not be assisting in the near future. I would encourage them to keep practicing. And at some levels we do not allow “on-the-job” training for worship leaders. (You choose – a would be drummer whose heart is right – but he/she has no rhythm, no stick technique, no groove, no understanding of the counterpoint between bass and drums, and no ear – or a trained and seasoned drummer who happens to be a seeker with some rough edges, but will submit to your spiritual and ethical leadership in order to play good music with other good musicians on a regular basis.)
This side of heaven, God is going to judge the heart of every person who leads in worship – as well as those who participate in worship services (the congregation). In our fallen world and imperfect church culture, I will leave judgement of the heart to God. I will pray hard for the salvation of any musician I ever have the opportunity to work with as they help me lead God’s people in worship. And I will faithfully share my testimony of God’s grace to those vessels who relect His creative artistry – and don’t even know it!
Thanks for the dialogue and the passages from Amos. May the revival begin among the musicians as we lead out in battle.
thanks for the posting.
I completely agree that God wants skillful musicians (and artists of all kinds). the bible makes this clear in the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1), the ark of the covenant, etc. And the Levites were trained, skillful musicians. But they also all loved the Lord. In Exodus, chapter 32, after Moses comes off the mountain with the tablets and sees his people worshiping the golden calf it says in verses 25 – 26:
Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.
The church needs skilled musicians who love the LORD and who embrace Jesus Christ as the Messiah, our Redeemer, in whose blood all of our sins are washed away. If the church simply looks for “skilled musicians” then we hear Jesus say in Mark 7:6-7 :
He [Jesus] replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
” ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
If you ask me to choose between Person A who has a heart for God but is a terrible drummer, or Person B who is a fabulous drummer that is seeking, then you set up a false dichotomy. I don’t have to choose either. I can go drummerless, I can program a drum machine, I can actively seek out a christian drummer, I can find a more innovative way of keeping the beat (i.e. get a turntablist, a beatboxer, etc.), or I can use different forms of percussion like hand-drums, I can start trying to train drummers using musicians in the ministry who i know can keep a steady beat, I can communicate with local worship leaders about whether or not they have any drummers they would be willing to share. There are many possibilities. Each church has its own unique resource limitations, and those limitations allow us to flex our God-given creativity muscles.
Please understand that I am not judging you, Paul wrote to the church at Colossae (to an audience of christians) that we should, “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” (Col 3:16). We are both on the same side and the bottom line is that we both just want to see people fall deeper in love with Jesus.
I really appreciate your heart, it’s in the right place and you are doing what God commands: loving your neighbor (musicians).
Just wanted to add a little more to my situation. While I was not a Christian and did not hide that, I was definitely seeking. Now, had I decided to move on, I would have done so. Also, we were not “prominent” by any means. We were there prior to the service to play music while people were still assembling. When the actual service started, we moved to our seats and did not play again. So I guess in some sense, it wasn’t really a highly visible position. We weren’t on a stage or anything and weren’t really pointed out – we were just there playing.
The people on that team witnessed to me and I think if I’d been outright non-Christian or anti-Christian they would probably have told me that this wasn’t the appropriate place for me to be in the church. However, I wanted to know more about this Jesus guy and what made these people so different than the church people I knew growing up. They really did minister to me and helped me quite a bit.
As noted – I can see where this is aimed and I think that for a normal praise team/worship team where people really are leading worship I would tend to agree that a worship leader who is not a Christian doesn’t make sense. In my context, we weren’t really leading worship as such. We were perhaps adding to some people’s meditation prior to gathering, but I think more than anything we tended to be background music. (Sad, but true.) I learned quite a bit from that group, both about being a Christian and about being a better musician. Their love to me and willingness to put up with my questions helped me along the path. Still, had this been a true praise band or worship team, I’d probably lean towards the direction everyone else is leaning – members only or at the very least, dedicated Christians.
Excellent thoughts shared here and I appreciate the post. I think this is one of the more active posts I’ve seen. :)
I just posed the question of this topic to my pastor, who is also a skilled and formally trained musician, and he responded right along the same lines as yours. A remaining question I’d like you to comment on, if you’d please, is, Do you see any flexibility for the contingency of utilizing non-Christian accompaniment to assist with the musical worship, perhaps only temporarily or intermittently, to situations such as a young church plant with only the barest minimum of musical gifts present, or say, a relatively small church not having or losing the main members of its worship team for whatever reasons (excluding leading of the musical worship)? In short, are there any circumstantial exceptions that you would approve of as being acceptable though clearly non-ideal for utilizing non-Christian musical accompaniment?
Thank you for your sharing.
Thanks for stopping by. First, when you ask “would you approve..” I assume you’re talking about what I’d approve of in my own church.
Since the issue is who makes up the “church,” I don’t think the size of the church changes anything. A non-Christian can’t meaningfully participate in leading others to praise the One who redeemed them. They can play great music – they can’t worship their Redeemer. I’d rather sacrifice musical excellence and sing a cappella than water down the integrity of the church.
Hope that helps.
Thanks everyone for an insightful and civil discourse regarding non Christians on a worship team. I read most but not all the posts and wanted to add another perspective.
First my bias is that I think it is acceptable for non believers to aid in the worship of God. I read most of the posts because I really wanted to hear “the other side”, and there were some very well thought out comments.
I would start from the perspective that every human being is a worshiper. We all ascribe worth to something or many things, which is what the word worship derives from – ascribing worth. Some worship Christ, some other gods and some themselves, or many other things. For a Christ follower everything we do is an act of worship, wether then you eat or drink or whatever you do do it all for the glory of the Lord. Picking up litter can be an act of worship, changing a diaper can be an act of worship, and so is singing a love song to Jesus. As I go about my day I buy things, I wait in line with people, all an act of worship I “do” in the company of non believers. If I need help with home repairs I enjoy seeking out my neighbor to help me repair my home as an act of worship and stewardship unto the Lord. In this way I am inviting an unbeliever to help me worship the Lord.
Inclosing I will “say” 2 more things.
1. We are no longer under the law but grace. No one is saved by doctrinal adherence but by grace through faith. We all do things and think things that are contrary to God’s desires because even the most sincere are not perfect.
2. Jesus spent most of His time in public, not the synagogue. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Shall we deny one of His lost sheep a chance to help us ascribe worth to our God because he is not clean enough? Who is clean enough?
Thank you for this forum, lets continue in love and grace to discuss this issue and may it never divide us.
Thanks for stopping by. A few thoughts…
Asking an unbelieving neighbor to help me repair my home is a far cry from asking an unbeliever to help lead the church in praising God. To become a worshiper of God they must first receive a new heart through the work of the Holy Spirit and trust in the Gospel. Before that moment, they worship everything BUT God.
Every one who is saved is saved by grace through faith, but unbelievers aren’t saved at all. If we lose the distinction between those who are saved through faith in the finished work of Christ and those who aren’t, the word “church” loses its meaning.
It’s difficult to draw an analogy from Jesus’ life in this discussion because Jesus was never part of the NT church. At the very least we can say that reaching out to unbelievers in public settings (which we should do) is very different from asking them to participate in leading the redeemed in worshiping the Redeemer (which I don’t think we should do).
But, as you said, this isn’t an issue that need divide us. For me, it’s a matter of being faithful to Scripture on who makes up the church and what we gather to do on Sunday morning.
Thanks again for your thoughts. Please feel free to follow up.
Great stuff and I highly enjoyed the book.
This issue is definitely one that I have thought a lot about and I am glad that you addressed this issue that was written because I had some confusion myself.
I am currently leading Worship in New York City. Professional musicians, actors, and artists are all around us. Since we a three year old church there aren’t a lot of musicians in our church so we hire certain musicians. I believe in doing so it allows our church to Worship without distraction. I believe that if we didn’t have those hired musicians, the quality would suffer so much that even those who know Christ would have a hard time during our corporate Worship Gathering. I also believe that in New York, people are expecting a very high quality due to the fact that you can see the best of the best in the city any night of the week.
I do however believe that those musicians should not lead in prayer, reading of scripture, or song.
So question: Should I allow the quality of music to diminish so we can have all believers?
Great question, and I appreciate your wanting to think through this carefully. I think we have to go with what God has given us in his Word. He’s told us that the church is made up of those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. He never says that we have to have a certain quality of music in the church so that people will come. I think the limited fruit that can come from involving non-Christians on your team are far outweighed by the negative long-term consequences. More importantly, our services are not performances. They are gathering of the people of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit. Unbelievers are certainly welcome, but they can only be there as observers, not participants. Is that helpful?
Great stuff. I agree with you on the fact that I need to think about those long term consequences. So many times as a leader I just want to play with a great band because it makes me more comfortable to lead and less nervous about things going wrong. However, that is such a selfish desire that needs to die. My job is to help people grow and learn more about God.
Thanks for your ministry and your resources. They are very helpful!
Thank You Bob, for a wonderful posting.
I’m intrigued by some of the debate about non-Christians on a worship team. I find myself in the camp that says it is highly undesirable to generally include Nonnies, but I’m not gonna bash those who have does so – you shouldn’t missionary date either and yet I’m a believer because of it (well, by Grace, but yeah…).
I was wondering Bob, on another tack, would you consider the requirements for deacon-ship as applying to team members since they are very visible?
To those who have dealt with these matters outside of theory, you have my love and admiration – God hasn’t asked that of me yet. I hope I’ll be able to discharge the duty in love when he does.
Grace and Peace.
“Preserving the Purity of the Church: A Parable”
Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
Pastor Blake was almost as dumbfounded as the three elders joining him in his meeting with Dr. Sadler, the leading professor of the university’s education department. The professor, a commitment Christian and an active member at First Church for 15 years, had requested the meeting to discuss a proposed ministry to his college students. Although well-respected and appreciated by the church pastors and session, his proposal caught these men completely by surprise. Sadler desired to reach out to his education students with the Gospel, providing them with some spiritual input. Therefore, he wanted the church to consider having a “Education Appreciation Sunday,” which would include allowing university education seniors to take over the Sunday School classes of the elementary and secondary aged students.
However, it did not take the pastor long to recover from the shock of such an idea. With the wisdom of a time-tested, Biblically sound leader, Blake gently acknowledged Sadler’s heart for ministry. “Professor, I appreciate your desire to bring the light of the Gospel to your students. I truly wish more of our people were as determined to put feet to their profession of faith in Christ..” Then, he carefully, yet lovingly unfolded the truths of the Scriptures about maintaining the purity of worship, citing such Scriptures as 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.
After taking a moment to gather his thoughts, Sadler responded, “But, there is a great deal of tradition within Christianity of acknowledging the successes and talents of all men, even those in a secular university. What basis do you have to deny this ministry opportunity? Are we not supposed to reach out to the World for Christ?”
“Sir, that may be the case in many churches, but not in our church. Worship is all-encompassing. It includes not only the official worship service, but also our teaching ministry. You see, we understand the Bible to teach that the only way to properly worship God is by those ways which He institutes. Yes, there will be a variety of interpretations on what that will look like. However, Christ teaches us that worship must be performed in spirit and in truth. Thus, our worship service will have value only when it serves to express the inner reverence and sincere devotion of both the worshippers and the worship leaders. While I am sure there may be some believers among your students, most, by your own admission, do not know Christ.”
“True enough…,” Sadler acknowledged.
“Only those worshippers and leaders whose hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit,” continued Blake, “are capable of such reverence and devotion, and only such men and women should be allowed to lead others in the church. I, along with the Session, must give careful thought to the character of those asked to lead in any part of worship. The lines are sometimes hard to discern, but in this case, there is no mistaking. We simply cannot allow non-believers to lead our people in this way. I am sorry, Dr. Sadler, but we just cannot do this.”
After a brief silence, Sadler smiled and rose to his feet, offering his hand to each elder and to his friend, Pastor Blake. “Thank you for your time, this morning, gentlemen. You have stated your case very well, and I understand your position.” Yet, as Sadler turned toward the door, he suddenly stopped, and turned to Blake and asked, “Pastor, you sit on the front row in the church service each Sunday prior to getting up to preach, right?”
“Sure,” answered the pastor as he smiled, “It’s my tradition, so to speak. Why do you ask?”
“Well, I was wondering if I may sit with you this Sunday morning, if that is alright with you.”
“Certainly, but aren’t you supposed to sing in the choir?” asked Blake.
“Oh, don’t you remember? The University choral society will be leading music this Sunday. I will see you then. Good day, gentlemen.”
RCaughman – great read. Thanks.
The fact really is that someone who doesn’t have faith that Jesus is God and their salvation cannot worship Jesus. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. So if the church gathers to worship Jesus, then someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus cannot “join with them”, and definitely cannot lead those who are worshiping Him.
This is deeper than just the topic of having non-Christians help in leading worship, but I really wonder if we’ve set ourselves up for this discussion (and others) by emphasizing music as a main form of worship over other forms. I know we say that worship is more than a song, but do we follow through with that in our actions and gatherings?
a. Our sanctuaries are built for amazing acoustics and music “production” (or we wish they were) with chairs in rows all facing the stage like an event.
b. Our stages are designed with big sounds, lights, screens, and cameras to show music, musicians, vocalists, and music performance just like a concert hall.
c. If we are missing a musician or vocalist, some buy programs to fill in the artist or need to find someone to fill in because it won’t sound good without.
d. Church budgets can say a lot about what they view as most important. Purpose and priority.
e. Outside of the preaching of the Word, music is almost always the primary use of our time (in some gatherings, it’s done more than preaching).
e. Even when we aren’t singing, music is played behind prayer, readings, and videos.
f. A worship leader is often looked at as primarily a song leader instead of a leader of worship, in its full sense, to God for the people.
As a musician and worship leader, I love music and see it as a special gift from God that should be cherished deeply. We know God loves music because He gave us a song book within His Word, and throughout the Bible, we can see people singing praises to God, often in response to what God did. However, does this suggest that we make music so primary that we don’t use the other forms of worship God blessed us with just as much? The Bible doesn’t say “this is what you should do at corporate church gatherings”. Because of that, we can have a lot of music if we want, but we could also not have a lot of music all the time.
Why don’t we take more time in our corporate gatherings to read Scripture to one another, or pray together in groups over each other or for the world? Could we not spend more time meditating on the Bible, give spoken testimony on how God was faithful in our lives, ask the preacher questions from the text to better understand it, or give more time for celebration and healing in taking the Lord’s Supper?
If our sanctuaries are designed for music performance, these ideas may be hard, but we have to think of our priorities. In a music centered world, I wonder if our worship services, which closely resemble rock concerts, where we say worship is more than a song but not exampled by our actions, has blurred the difference between musicians and worship leaders.
To be clear and careful, it would be wrong to focus less on music because of the world’s idolatry of it. But what about our idolatry of music? Music is a form to help us express our praise to God, but ultimately, the importance is the honest heart’s praise and love for God and not the music. What are we doing to help people worship with honesty, humility, and a right heart?
I’m not for taking music out of the church, as God has given it as such an amazing gift (and wow, how it helps us connect and express our minds and hearts to God!). But I am for removing music as “the ultimate” form of worship and being just as open to using all forms of worship when we meet corporately to help people better understand what worship is and its importance.
I thank you all for your lovely comments,they are really helping.i am a 19 year old,born again and strive to walk righteously before the Lord every single day of my life.iv just came from a good miracles,deliverence and healing conference in my church.i am at the worship team in my church,the reason why im at the worship team at my church is coz when we started there were a few of us so i had to sing but actually its not whwre i belong.im an intercessor and a teacher of the word by God’s grace.from the conference i learned a lot i wasnt fully aware of.sometimes i would want to speak at youth meetings but would hold myself back from speaking about this issue that even my pastor are avoiding to talk about,the issue of purity on the worship team.i used to think they will think im being judgemental but now i know im not.a lot of sinful thngs are being done by the youth who are in leadership in my church and it really does me wrong.i finally decided that during our meeting this weekend im going to raise ths matter and say all iv been keeping inside me and now i know ive been wrong for shutting God’s mouth upon me.some even look at me and say “what does she know” just because im young but this weekend im going to pour God’s heart out.so i need to hear from some1 who has been in the same situation.thank you breatherens and stay blessed
Hi, I have a tough situation at my church and am unsure exactly how to go about it. I am just the youth leader and not any part of the praise team. A few Sundays ago the worship leader’s son came in to play drums. He is apostate and has no desire to repent or turn his life to Christ though one day I hope he does. He is about twenty years old and his wife, who he was currently divorcing, was also on the worship team that same Sunday. Not only that his 1 year old son was in the nursery who he has completely neglected and refuses to support. He also was and still is currently living with his girlfriend who also has a child with him. He was living with her while he was married to the other girl on the worship team. Even more things he slept with one of the girl’s on the worship team numerous times while they were dating. He cheated on her with another girl who was that girl’s friend. Lastly he also slept with another girl at another church I used to attend. Now I know all this stuff because I knew all these people who he hurt. He also offended me personally and tried to slander my name. From all that my question is what do I say to my Pastor about this unrepentant person who I am positive is not a believer and wants nothing to do with Christ when I am just the youth leader and not part of the worship team? He also used to play more consistently but would never talk to anyone and would immediately leave after service. He is not just a non-believer but basically against believing. I been praying a lot, reading a lot, find scriptures, talking to other pastors, and I would just like some more help. Thank you.
Thanks for writing and caring about the musicians in the church. I’d first talk to the worship pastor to get his perspective. I can’t think of any reason to allow such a situation to exist in the church of Jesus Christ, but it would be good to talk to him first. If he’s responsive, great. If not, I’d describe the situation to my pastor and say that it lacks integrity to lead people to worship God in song when one of those who is leading is living in open rebellion to God. If your pastor is unresponsive, I’d look for another church. You might find this post helpful: https://worshipmatters.com/2008/05/22/non-christians-on-the-worship-team/
Thank you very much for responding to my comment. The problem I have with approaching the worship leader who is actually a female is that it is her son she is allowing to participate in worship and I’m not exactly sure how to approach her about it because it’s her son. Any specific things I should do when trying to talk to her about her son being in open rebellion? Oh and the link you wrote is the same post I wrote on at least that is where the link takes me. I read through most of the posts and I can somewhat understand allowing a non-believer who is open to God playing drums but I still would not encourage it but a non-believer who is against God is why this is such a problem in my eyes. Thank you again.
Oops…sorry about the link, Shane. When you talk to her, be gracious, don’t assume you know everything, and try to move the conversation to what God says about who makes up the church, God’s holiness, and how God’s standards take priority over ours. It reminds me of the story of Eli and his sons in 1 Sam. 2. Eli failed to discipline them and incurred God’s discipline for himself and his sons. I pray that God gives you wisdom!
I appreciate your help and thank God you took the time to reply to me with a wise biblical response. God bless you.
i recently encountered a situation where a pastor said it’s alright for professionals to be in the worship team even though they are non believers with the hope that they will be converted eventually.
i have been troubled by this since and His Holy Spirit led me to read John 4 which i believe has the answer:
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
In other words, can someone who doesn’t know or accepted Christ as his personal Savor lead me in the congregation in worshiping Him in Spirit and truth?
i reckon that the pastor maybe interested to make the music-worship great which has proven to attract many…sigh!
I agree in principle with the stance that believers should lead worship music. However, I am unsure if I should make an exception when considering allowing an unsaved, but seeking, teenager to participate in either the choir or the praise team. Her entire family is saved and are members of the church. We allow children to perform in choirs and programs whether or not they have made a confession of faith. Should this extend to high school age?
Kim, that’s a great question. In the end that’s going to be a decision of a local church. But if I was a pastor in the church, I wouldn’t want a confessed unsaved teen leading on a praise team where they are supposed to be modeling a passion to see Jesus Christ exalted. I wouldn’t have them participate in a choir, either, although depending on the state of their heart and the situation (a performance at a special event, for example), it might be conceivable. But the priority is to protect the integrity of the church and not lead a teen into a false assurance of salvation.
Perform seems to be ” the word” as I see it. It is and has always been, a very fine line between Worship and performance. I always pray for discernment in worship. If one feels uncomfortable with aspects of worship within a team they should speak to someone recognized as mature and trusted.
I have to wonder was the jackass saved when G_d used it to stop the prophet. I think G_d can use any one He wants. Look at Jeff Fenholt, he came to the Lord playing Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar.
Frank, no one is saying God can’t use someone who isn’t saved. After all He is God. But the point is why put the church in that position where they are seeing people in a public ministry who aren’t saved in worship service and then doing sinful things knowingly and willingly. Wouldn’t that be considered a stumbling block for some? Aren’t they supposed to be placed in a higher standard? That’s like having a president who hates American be the president aren’t they held in a higher standard In the eyes of the public. Bottom line is God can use anyone He pleases but it’s not gonna be all the time that an unsaved person comes to Christ because he’s allowed to participate in the church ministry. And yes it’s up to the discretion of the pastor but he also needs to be careful with who he let’s participate in the church after all he is in charge of taking care of his flock, and not worrying about how good the worship team sounds.
Firstly thank you for this wonderful article. I want your opinion on this peculiar situation I came across. We were organizing an evangelistic event for Christmas which obviously included a slot for singing and music. There was a young person who has been coming to church regularly and has been part of the youth group and this person is not saved. Some of the young people wanted to involve that person in the singing team for that event since that person has a beautiful voice. Couple of us in the youth leadership team has to gently suggest to the folks who are trying to involve the person that it should not be done. There has been a big difference of opinion on this issue. Even some of the church elders felt it was alright to involve the person since it is an evangelistic event but not worship. But I was at peace with the decision in spite of the brewing storm. So is there is difference in involving people during evangelistic events and church services?
Andrew, thanks for writing. It seems that in your situation a stronger case could be made for only involving Christians. Although I think the case for only using Christians in Sunday gatherings is strong already. You’re telling people the good news of Jesus Christ, not the good news of musical gifting. God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. While God can certainly use the singing voice of unbelievers to draw people to himself, that doesn’t mean we should intentionally set them in front of people. Much harm has been done to the name of Christ through messengers who are either non-Christians or in unrepentant sin. I’d much rather use a less talented vocalist who is actually a follower of Christ than a very gifted musician who doesn’t know the Savior he or she is singing about.
I fully endorse the contents of this article. It is a Biblical fact that our leaders are to be held to a HIGHER standard. We welcome non-Christians with open arms to come into the house of the Lord. However to lead people in worship your heart has to be in the right place. Looking at Amos 5 we see how sin and an unrepentant heart makes our worship a stench to the Lord. Let’s operate with a sense of wisdom while being guided by the Holy Spirit.
Hi Bob, i have been struggling with this question for a while. I have a friend who has a great voice. She confess herself to be a born again Christian. She uses her gift well in the Church and was in the Worship team. However, some elders didn’t appreciated her singing secular lyrics in hotels. So she was let go from the team. Even now, there are complains about her singing in the Church because of her profession. She does earn god money and provides for her family. Her younger sister’s tuition fee is supported by her. Is the attitude of Church elders toward her right? Are they correct in preventing her from singing in the Church?
Rocky, thanks for commenting and the question. I can’t speak for your elders as I don’t know all the details. But given what you’ve written here, I wouldn’t disqualify a person from serving as a vocalist for the church if they also sang non-Christian songs as part of their job. If their life started to contradict biblical values, I’d start asking them questions, though. Hope that’s helpful.
This subject is close to me because I too am a professional musician but yet I serve at church. I grew up in a very legalistic church where if you touched on anything worldly you were a huge sinner. Where do you draw the line? This is how I pay the bills and support my family. Why do legalistic church’s pick on the music industry? Because most church members don’t consider being a musician as a real job. That ideology has to change.
I would just like to say thank you so much for this article!
For a while now it has been on my heart that we(as true worshipers) have been appointed and ordained to be where we are to glorify God. My spirit has been uneasy about our youth worship team’s ( and frankly our church team’s) standard of worship and I’ve been praying and fasting in desperation for a change.
I believe that one of the reasons for our poor standard of worship is because of the people we allow in our team. We have unsaved members and it’s bugging me so much that if they do not know Christ how can they worship him?? This article has given me such a peace about my uneasyness.
Our youth pastor has been our worship leader for some time now and he firmly believes that if they are serving in the team, they will grow and meet with God at some stage. I just think that if thats the case, why should we then compromise on our worship in the hope that this might come into fluition. I have spoken to him about this issue and unfortunately he disagrees with how I feel. I respect my leader’s authority and don’t want to go around him or just leave the team. I will keep praying though and would like to show him this article.
Thank you again for everything said here. God is faithful and I am trusting for breakthrough.
Josh, thanks for your encouraging words. I pray you’re able to come to a place of resolution with your leader that serves both the church and the young people you’re seeking to influence.
Do you think that the ‘visibility’ of the individual matters? For example, no to unsaved singers/leaders (which I agree with) but yes to those who aren’t ‘featured’ (such as bass and drums). My husband I come from music ed backgrounds where there were kids that the band needed, but there were also a lot of kids who needed to be in band.
So if a non-believing drummer (or sound guy or powerpoint person) will *only* come to church if they are playing, I think that’s huge.
I’m 100% in agreement with not letting non-believers sing/lead worship or provide a model of worship, just so you know. I’m only iffy (leaning toward it being okay) on the less visible musical roles… I do think that nonbelievers can serve on powerpoint/sound/media…
Cheryl, thanks for asking. I don’t see why visibility would make a difference. Here’s what I wrote: “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.” To have an unbeliever come to church to serve can lead them to believe they’re needed in the church for their contribution rather than needing to turn from their sins and trust in Jesus. That’s not to say that someone can’t become a Christian as they serve on PowerPoint. But in the end you’re doing damage to the definition of “church” and that has long term negative effects.
I remember a visitor one time that came into my church. She accepted The Lord at the altar call. The following Sunday after service she approached me. And as music director I congratulated her on accepted Jesus.
She told me she was a good singer and wanted to immediately participate in the team. I mentioned to her that we have a process for accepting new team members and especially new believers.
She didn’t like the process obviously and she stormed out. I think every team should have borders and guidelines for everyone.
I am totally in agreement with your article. In my opinion leading worship is a priestly function.
Great discussion. I would like to add, if slightly belatedly. I am now a committed Christian in the open evangelical Anglican mould with a slight charismatic leaning. When I was younger I was a high Anglican (basically Anglo-Catholic) and served regularly in my church (readings, prayers etc). It was only later that I realised I had been doing this for myself to look good and after what I believe was my belated real conversion I started genuine service. My story is unusual in that I honestly believe I was saved after being asked to preach on a passage from Ephesians at a college Bible study, where I managed to give a convincing sermon with a slight Calvinist angle as I knew that would be popular, but afterwards realised I didn’t really believe what I had preached and that I had really just been religious – good works etc etc. It was God’s work not mine but this sermon totally changed me. I gave another soon after and it was from the heart. I am also a musician and am not a fan of the over-performing of some Church musicians as if the focus was on them not God, but am aware how choirs in traditional churches can fall foul of this equally – I know many non-Christian choristers but very few in worship bands.
I have to say that I am totally opposed to allowing a non-born again Christian participation in the Worship Team, or a Christian minsitry band for that matter. Some “Pastors” think nothing of allowing unsaved people to sing or play instruments in the church.
How can this be?
That’s a direct violation of God’s word to begin with!
The Worship Ministry is a priestly position in Christ and should not be infiltrated by unsaved people that have no relationship with Jesus Christ, nor who understand what it is to Worship Him to begin with. Unsaved people do not have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, rather unholy spirit’s. But because of the lack of true Godly leadership and discernment in many churches, there is no standard of truth upheld…. therefore, oftentimes compromise abounds!
I’ve heard some say that those that are not born again should be allowed to participate in the Worship Ministry because they’re “talented” and may get saved by doing so. I’m sorry, but once again… this is false and needs to be exposed. It’s the anointing that matters… not “talent!”
Zechariah 4:6 Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts!
Conversion must come first before one can become a true servant of Jesus Christ! That’s like trying to put the cart before the horse… it just doesn’t work!
In addition, I’d also like to add that by allowing pagan’s to participate in positions that true Christian’s should be in… the church is not complying with the Word of God.
More than ever, we need true Godly leaders that are sold out to Jesus and not willing to compromise for their own selfish reasons.
May we always seek to be obedient and loyal to God in all things!!!
Dear sir, i have a question. If a non christian sings a christian song on an album, will God be happy or not? Thank you.
Philip, thanks for asking. Non-Christians singing Christian songs isn’t a new phenomena, especially in the country music genre. God has used the songs they’ve sung to encourage Christians and draw non-Christians to himself. But generally speaking God is more pleased when the words of our mouths line up with the state of our heart (Mt. 15:8). Hope that’s helpful.
From what I can tell this forum is still active. Maybe someone here can offer up some thoughts to this: I am the lead singer of a praise team. We are all professional level, most of us have degrees in music and all of us are Christians and members this church where we play every Sunday. The son of one of our guitarists has been brought into the band to sing. He is not Christian. He has told me he does drugs, he is gay, he has told me about being raped by another man, he is suicidal. I have tried to tell the band and the pastor that he should not be leading worship because of this, that he needs professional help. I tried to tell them some of the things he told me. Turns out they already knew about most of it and they still feel he should be leading worship. He sees a therapist but that’s all. He’s on suicide watch but not in an inpatient hospital…???? (that makes no sense!!!!)
Between this and the constant struggle of our contemporary service people versus our traditional service people, I just checked out. I’m ready to quit. It’s very hard though when people in the congregation come up to me every week telling me my singing moved them to tears. But I can’t do it anymore. The focus is gone. There are so many things that have lead up to this point including an ugly pastoral change that lost us not only our previous pastor, but he was also our drummer and a professional one at that. So I’m done. I’m ready to leave. Maybe I’m just looking to see what someone who knows what this is like has to say before I do. But either way, it’s over. I’m just gonna be a secular musician… God needs more people making music to move non-believers outside of the church walls anyway.
Dana, thanks for your comment and question. I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. It’s grieving in so many ways. Of course this young man you mention shouldn’t be “leading worship.” Right now, he’s worshiping the god of this world and needs to be converted (Eph. 2:1-3). I’d say that the band and pastor want to use him for his musical gifts, thinking either that it will serve the church, possibly influence his soul, or both. But the church belongs to Jesus, not us. Rev. 2 and 3 show us clearly that Jesus isn’t happy when we allow heresy, immorality, idolatry, and toleration of sin in the church. That results in us eventually becoming the church of Laodicea, in danger of being spit out of the Lord’s mouth. I encourage you to find a church where those who lead the corporate worship are seeking to lead others to worship God through their lives as well. More importantly, you should be in a church where God’s word is clearly, compellingly, and consistently preached.
As far as non-believers needing music to move them, I think they have plenty already! But that doesn’t mean God couldn’t use you that way, as a light in the midst of dark places. I pray God will give you wisdom, and want to encourage you to move towards something biblical rather than simply away from the situation you’re presently in.
Thank you so much for your words. I have prayed about it and am going to move on to a different church as well as play music outside of the church. First I am going to find a new church though because that is what is most important! God bless you!
i love this blog. My situation is a bit different. Reside in Nigeria. Been looking for a good church to join. Seeking the truth and a place where Christ alone is exalted. A Reformed, yet Charismatic assembly is what i seek.
Thank you for this. I am a music pastors intern and I organize and lead the youth worship service music. This has been on my heart and this provides a balanced and biblical response.
There are students involved in the organizing and making wonderful theologically solid music. But…some, God has not chosen to save, at least not yet, and I hope and earnestly pray that they do come to the knowledge of the Gospel.
I have had thoughts of just bringing this music band to an end for a time for the sake of not defiling worship in its proper sense. But you are correct brother… Yes, it would be wrong for me/us to treat them as if they were children of God and tell them to lead within the body of Christ if they themselves are not in Christ! For they have not the ability to effectively display and proclaim the glorious Gospel of our savior Jesus Christ. All they know to do is rebel within their hearts against God as we all were born doing.
As the leaders of these lost kids/adults participating in the ministry of music and other various worship settings we must boldly proclaim the Gospel and teach truth to them, in the opportune times and with the influential positions we have, with all patience and gentleness as we are told in 1 Timothy. We must earnestly urge them by the authority of Gods word, to cry out to God for mercy and then fully trust in the finished work of Christ.
Just as Christ was, we as Christians are in the world but not of it. Let’s not take what is evil and call it good lest we take what is intended for good and to glorify God and make it evil.
Ten years later, and this topic and entire discussion still have been so relevant and helpful to me. I grew up in the church and became a Christian when I was five, but now in my late twenties feel more and more like an agnostic, even though I continue to attend a local church, hoping that maybe a lightbulb will come on in my brain one of these days…I am a guitarist/vocalist and used to serve on the worship team, until I became too convicted that I was singing about things that I didn’t really even believe. Which is hard, to be one of the lead vocalists and have everybody looking at you, while you’re just trying to help out, by meeting a big need in a tiny church with limited musicians, but hating your fakeness the whole time. I eventually left the team, for “personal reasons,” but mostly because faith and Christianity in general still just make no sense to me these days and I don’t want people looking to me to model or lead worship. People in church keep asking me to help serve, though, because there is still a need for a guitarist/vocalist – and I want to help, out of a desire to serve the community, but they don’t know where my heart is and has been spiritually. This discussion thread has given me a bit more peace, though, about continuing to say no to the worship team for now. Thank you Bob for facilitating a pursuit of greater understanding, not only through your books but through these active comment sections as well!
Jay, thanks for your encouraging words. I’m glad you’ve seen the inconsistency of leading people in singing words you’re not sure you believe. That being said, I’d encourage you to consider Jesus on a personal level. Read through the gospels slowly and ask yourself if Jesus is just a great teacher or could conceivably be God’s Word to us and the only Savior of the world. If you haven’t read Tim Keller’s Reason for God, that might be helpful as well. May you find Jesus to be all he claimed to be!
I am a christian and my desire is to serve God through music but my Pastor told me i cannot join the worship team because my husband is unbeliever and we’re not yet married in the christian church. The only way i can be accepted in their worship team is when i give up my husband. We have three kids.
Jen, I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. I don’t think there’s anything in the Bible that supports the stance your church has taken.
Has anyone been through this? : I have just been hired as the worship leader at a church and am being treated very disrespectfully by half of the volunteers in the band. One in particular is kind of the main problem and the others just follow his example. (Ignoring me when I’m talking directly to him, not practicing or knowing the music but bashing the way others play, “correcting” my instructions to the band right after I give them, bossing me around) For some reason, although the leaders in the church know this guy is a problem, they seem to baby him because he grew up in the church and they still see him as a child. He’s in his late twenties. I have no problem with confrontation but if I am not allowed to correct this behavior, I would rather not work at this church. Does anyone have any thoughts?
Dana, If the pastors aren’t willing to step in and help you deal with a disrespectful member of the band, it’s unlikely you’re going to enjoy that position long term. Or even short term. I would speak to the leaders directly about the issue, asking if they’re okay with you confronting the individual. Having someone in the band who regularly exhibits disrespect will wear down unity and make being in the band a bad experience for everyone. Most importantly, it dishonors the Lord.
Hot issue, hot topic and forever will be. For whatever valid reason it may be, my contribution to this would be that..
A lot of us church musician by the name tag “Christian” have had so much privileges. The tag name acts like a super shield. Some of us church musician are far more evil and sinful than that of Non-believers. Vice versa, a lot of non-believer are far more honest and well behaved than us people that call oursleves “Christian” musician. Meaningless… God will see to it.
A band member is a smaller group and could be monitored. “A choir” is from small to a very large group of choir with many people involved and yes, choir is a part of church music or worship team as well. Qualified musically? Yes. Qualified spiritually? It is really complicated.