Published on February 10th, 2014 | by Jaycen Saab
On The Spot: Is it OK to allow non-Christians to lead worship?
The “On the Spot” question of the month is posed to the WV4G writers. The questions are ones that raise eyebrows and something not everyone is comfortable talking about. Hence the name. It’s a place for us to discuss difficult things that most folks don’t have the courage to ask openly.
(Want to put the WV4G writers “On the Spot”? Drop us a line here with your question! -> Submit Question)
There’s a growing trend of churches using their worship team as an outreach ministry. That said, the OTS this month asks, “Is it OK to use non-Christians who are musically gifted on a worship team if they are unconverted?”
Josiah Batten writes:
In the Old Testament, musical service in the tabernacle/temple was a duty of the Levites (2 Chronicles 34:12, 1 Chronicles 6:31-47), a tribe dedicated to the Lord’s service. In the New Testament, Jesus says we are to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Musically gifted non-Christians should not be members of worship teams because they cannot offer true worship to the Triune God. To set them up as examples before the congregation is to say that our belief in and commitment to God is irrelevant to our service to Him. If your congregation does not have musically gifted Christians to serve on the worship team, the congregation is not being taught or permitted to develop their gifts. And while you may think this is a good opportunity for evangelism, you should recognize the influence can go both ways, the non-Christian musician may be able to influence others toward unbelief.
David Bitler writes:
In most cases, I believe non-Christians should not be part of a church’s corporate worship service. I say “most”, because I believe that this issue requires a strong level of pastoral wisdom depending on the specific case and need. In the case of worship singers, I would personally never be comfortable asking a non-Christian to vocalize words that they do not fully believe in their hearts. This is a spiritual dis-service to everyone involved regardless of the singer’s willingness to participate. On the flip side, I’ve known situations where pastors and/or worship leaders have pastorally incorporated non-Christian instrumentalists as part of an overall discipleship process. Again, wisdom and discernment is necessary to ensure that this does not become a stumbling block to the worship team, the worshiping community or the non-Christian. To Christ alone be the glory.
Jaycen Saab writes:
I believe Bruce Leafblad of Dallas Theological Seminary hit the definition of “true worship” square on the head. His definition goes like this, “TRUE WORSHIP HAPPENS WHEN WE SET OUR MINDS ATTENTION AND HEART’S AFFECTION ON THE LORD. PRAISING HIM FOR WHO HE IS AND FOR WHAT HE’S DONE.” We see this perfectly illustrated in Psalm 96:2-5:
WHO HE IS -> 2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
WHAT HE’S DONE -> tell of his salvation from day to day.
WHO HE IS -> 3 Declare his glory among the nations,
WHAT HE’S DONE -> his marvelous works among all the peoples!
WHO HE IS -> 4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
WHAT HE’s DONE -> 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
Using that reasonable explanation as a baseline of what true worship is, let’s return to the On the Spot topic, “Is it OK to use non-Christians who are musically gifted on a worship team if they are unconverted?” If we use the aforementioned definition as a benchmark, we can see one problem with non-Christians leading worship exposed right away. Non-Christians (unregenerate) do not have a saving-faith sort of knowledge of God. So how could they experience those expressions of authentic worship. Or to put it another way, “How can you lovingly worship a God you don’t know?”
When someone comes to a saving faith because they realize the sin they are steeped in (Romans 3:23) and God regenerates their heart (Ezekiel 36:26), they become a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). And that new person, when they come to a saving faith in Christ Jesus alone, can and will joyfully (Luke 7) and authentically worship and love the God of the Bible in a unique, Biblical way. To say a person, minus that type of a salvific regeneration, can lead God’s people is theologically and spiritually impossible. Tragically, an emotional high may be achieved, but it likely only results in the non-Christian being deceived into counterfeit worship.
Even more dangerous are churches, yes even some locally in North Central WV, that use the position of worship leader as an “outreach” tool. Not only do they expose the unconverted to false worship, but they go starkly against the method God has explicitly given in Scripture to convert unbelievers, rather Romans 10:17.
Soli Deo Gloria!