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Posted on Jul 20, 2013 in Worship Ministry | 2 comments

Saints & Sinners: Who’s Qualified to Participate in Worship Ministry?

I don’t recall any of the experts advocating for including non-believers in a worship ministry. I’ve read and heard quite a bit about why worship leaders shouldn’t. Some say God couldn’t, wouldn’t bless or “anoint” a ministry that was harboring sinfulness at all, much less someone who doesn’t even profess Christ as Lord! The most common argument–and soundest line of reasoning–goes something like this: How can we expect someone who doesn’t worship God to lead someone else to worship Him? I actually see a lot of wisdom in both of these arguments. I agree and, yet, I can still imagine a scenario in which I would include a non-believer in my worship ministry! Ok, that’s confusing so let me try and explain my “saints and sinners” philosophy.

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First of all, I distinguish between vocalists and instrumentalists. There’s a significant difference and here’s why: No one in the seats on Sunday morning will be holding drumsticks or standing at a keyboard or strumming a guitar…hopefully they WILL be singing from their hearts, though. And I have extra concern for the spiritual health of those I place along the front of the stage to lead the congregation in their worship activity. Vocalists–be they a choir or a worship team or whatever you’ve got–are essentially placed in a position that says, “Look at me, watch what I do and you do the same.” So they’d better be worshipping the way we want our whole church to be worshipping.

This distinction does not, in my mind, diminish the role of instrumentalists in any way! Nor is it to say they cannot lead worship by what they play. I’m simply pointing out that no one is modeling their actual activity after one of these folks. And that’s why I say there might be a scenario in which I would include a non-believer in my worship ministry.

So what would that scenario look like?

  1. A culture of spiritual maturity. If the ministry I was leading was already full of Christians who were new or immature in their faith, I would seriously hesitate to bring a non-believer in the mix. This makes me think of NFL teams: The ones with established values and mature culture can absorb a troubled player and often help them grow into a real professional! But the immature teams that bring in the troubled player tend to pay dearly.
  2. A humble musician. I would never expect the non-believer to have their whole life cleaned up and looking Christ-like! But they have to be willing to stay out of the spotlight, to blend in, to take instruction, to avoid being a distraction from the worship activity of the congregation.
  3. An incredible opportunity. Ok, every chance we get to share the gospel of Christ with a non-believer IS an incredible opportunity. And that’s why I’d be willing to give it a shot under the right circumstance.

Some would undoubtedly call this philosophy unwise, dangerous, or just plain wrong. And maybe they’d be right. But I’m willing to take a calculated risk if, by doing so, God might use us to save a life.

What’s your philosophy? Do you think I’m going to far or would you take it farther?

  • Jill

    Hi Neil,
    Thanks for your articles… I appreciate your thoughts. At our church, I have made the decision to interview/ audition and include believers only in our band, as well as our vocal team. We do have a Worship Choir part of the year, and it is open to regular attenders or members without an audition.

    I understand the thinking of using the Band as an evangelistic tool. Yep. And it can be a way to reach out to non-believers, if there is a player who will fit the need, and if our band truly sees it as a ministry to share Christ with him/her. But I believe the band is as much a part of the team as the vocalists and even the tech crew. And to minister in unity, we need to be brothers and sisters in Christ. If we have a member that is going through an issue with a spouse or struggling with serious sin, and the Elders have met with them, we will often have them step out of ministry to focus on their area of struggle.

    God bless,
    Jill

    • http://bluecollarworship.com/ Neil Oldham

      Jill,
      Hi & thanks so much for your comment. It sounds like you guys have a really awesome, healthy system going…that’s awesome! I 100% agree that the band, vocalists, and tech crew should be treated as equally important parts of the team. Each worship ministry job is just as important as the next. But each job is also different.

      Perhaps you would say that your Worship Choir is just as important as your vocal teams and, yet, many of your requirements & expectations for them are different because they play a different role. It doesn’t make them less important, just different. And that’s the angle from which I approach this philosophy regarding the band. I just wanted to be sure it didn’t sound like I was diminishing the band at all!

      Your argument from a standpoint of unity is excellent. And we’ve similarly asked people to take time away from ministry to focus on struggles they’re facing. To me, the most important thing is for church leaders to fully embrace both Grace & Truth in their ministries to the very best of their ability!

      Thanks again!