Who May Lead Worship?


The question "who may lead worship?" was asked in a recent edition of Worship Leader and I am curious as to how CRC churches have puzzled this one out.  Can anyone be a part of a worship team or must they be a professing member in good standing?  What about new Christians who are still trying to figure out what it means to live as a Christian?  Do we expect a certain amount of spiritual maturity to be exemplified by our worship leaders?

On the one hand you want to encourage non-Christians to attend and become a part of the fellowship with prayers that the Holy Spirit will use those experiences to bring him/her to believe in Christ.  But should a non-Christian musician be part of a worship team?  Does it make a difference if they are a bass guitarist, organist, or singer?  What is a church to do if this is the only musician they can find? 

On the other hand how can a non-Christian lead Christians in worshiping the Triune God when they themselves do not believe? 

Has your church faced this dilemma?  Maybe it was the request of a choral group that wasn’t explicitly Christian that led you to have this discussion?  What has your church decided to do?  Do you have a written policy? 

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Hi Joyce, When Jesus picked his 12 men to lead His church, They were not true believers of who Jesus really was. I think if someone wants to play in a church as non-believer, I would think this is great way to show them who Christ is and help them to believe.




Kudos Joyce for attempting to ask the tough questions.

For many years I struggled with this question as a worship pastor.  And I still struggle with it now as an ordained pastor.

When I was a youth pastor/worship pastor, I led youth worship teams that was more a training ground than anything else although I saw God use it in powerful ways to transform the lives of those youth.  Some are worship leaders now in their own churches.  And at first there were some who were not believers just excited-to-learn musicians and vocalists and, don't forget the sound people.  It drew closet guitarists, drummers, keyboard players....et al, out of the wood work.  A number of them came to know Christ through their participation.

Having said that, I was often at war in myself in regard to the levitical calling of people in worship.  Here's what I came up with eventually:

  1. Anyone who is a worship leader (organizing, speaking, giving direction during the service) must be at least a regular committed attender or member who is a committed Christian and willing to be under the authority of the church. There's built in accountability then.
  2. Other musicians should at least be attenders or connected to attenders and committed to the focus of the worship ministry.  This is the tough part in checking attitudes cause we all know how musicians can often be tempermental. I deal with this as soon as it rears its ugly head.  I have no trouble guarding the worship and letting someone go if necessary.  That hasn't been too much trouble.  I have had just as much trouble with this from Christians as with pre-Christians.
  3. Everyone on the team participates in our "small group" component whether or not they are believers.
  4. Everyone shares their expertise and ideas to put together the best possible worship service.

Common grace plays a part in this too.  I believe that God can use even non-believers for his purposes and touch their lives in the process.

Seriously, my experience has been that the pre-Christians who want to be involved are usually just that "pre" and are seeking and desiring more of God in some way.


That's my take.

Thanks Allen, I never considered levitical law. What if I hardly attend church, Does that count me out? Levitical law was kind of handled by Jesus and His sacrifice. Why do we still try to apply this when Jesus said He is the summary of all laws. It's simple and to the point. He didn't remove the laws but put them into perspective. With Leveitical law no one could follow it and that was God's point. When we apply these teachings in a subjective way we miss the point. That is why it is easy to watch and listen to Jesus and understand what God desires of us.




Ken, I think you misunderstand me when I say levitical calling. I am referring to the calling of the Levites by king David to be responsible for the proper functioning of the temple (1 Chronicles 23-25) which included some requirements and responsibilities of the musicians and singers. In the early days of Israel, they would also go out and play and praise before the army of the Lord.

I agree with you in regard to Jesus satisfying Levitical law, but that's not what I was talking about. As worship leaders under the authority of the elders we must accept worship responsibility very highly. And I think too that especially in corporate worship we must take requirements of worship very seriously. Every Christian worships with their life, but there are other biblical expectations when it comes to corporate worship, leading others into the holy of holies so-to-speak.

Hi Allen, I understand but I can't comunicate the concept of Jesus's words and life refered to basicly one law of God that enforced all the others. That is Jesus told us to love and forgive. To a point where attitudes and judgements we make go through that screen of concious. It make's  decisions easy. But Allen you are right in saying that I don't understand. I really don't understand a lot things. I also make a lot of error's.



Rob: I like "what you came up with" We struggled with this for a while and worked things out similiar to what you have. I have to agree that the worship leader needs to be just that a leader. A leader in the church (could be a leader with or as a youth) but they need to be accountable to others. Those who are new to the church will probably not understand this concept.

I do understand it can be difficult in some churches where the talent pool is shallow to suggest new comers attend for awhile and then maybe they can join the worship team if they have a real talent and are willing to play. Larry



We don't hesitate too long to allow new-comers to join in participating with a worship team.  We realize that if they are excited to participate, it may be what connects them to the church and creates a lasting bond.  We do wait a bit first though to see where they are at before allowing them to connect in the worship ministry.

Another thing we need to guard against is a person's motivation for participating in worship.  Paul Baloche mentions that in a recent article in Worship Leader magazine.  One's motivation should be to use their talent to help people enter in and not for personal attention and gain.  I struggle for instance letting a non-believer get up and sing a Christian song in church as a special number. It is more a talent show than a praise to God -- that's my honest opinion.  There may be another setting better for sharing the song.

I think this whole topic shows how important it is for a church to define its worship philosophy and position.  Like any other ministry in the church, without it, it's hard to regulate and evaluate.

BTW Larry, were you thinking I was my brother Rob? ;-)

Sorry Al, not sure why I called you Rob, maybe I was thinking of your brother. I get called by my brothers name all the time so I know how that feels.

I agree defining a worship philosophy / position is important so everyone, the congragants, those on the team and those thinking of joining the team knows what IT is all about. Care must be taken doing this as it can cause tension with all involved. I suppose that goes without saying but it was amazing to me the diversity of opinions within the worship team when we began talking about this.

Hello all,

I think this a question I too have struggled with. I have chosen music as a career and also lead music at my church (When I am home). So far I've played with both many christian and non-christian musicians and they've all been great! However it's a tough call when it comes down to having non-christian/ "Unsaved" people leading. My personal views are what if Jesus were picking the music team this Sunday, would he go down the line and say "Do you know me? If not, you're not allowed to play on this team" or would he say "Do you know me? If not, why not stay a while, lets get to know each other. Feel free to play along if you know the music". 

Not that this works for all of us, but I feel more than fine to have someone join for the practices and if they can keep up and (This is important) that they understand what it is we're doing "Leading in music worship of the Lord God" and they are fine with it. I say let them join.




Don, I think your answer to the "WWJD" question regarding worship is purely speculation because in other places of the gospels and throughout the apostles letters, the church and its leadership is held to a higher standard.  Jesus didn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I would be interested to know what people think what the purpose of worship is and what it supposed look like after Jesus came and died for our sins?



Ken, I think worship was always meant to glorify God.   Both before and after Jesus came to earth.   Jesus has enlarged the scope of this worship, since we now know exactly what Jesus did to redeem us, and that gives us more reason for worship (rejoicing).   In our worship of God, in worship services, we can serve God by praising His Name, by listening to His Word, by honoring God.   Worship is not just the singing, but it includes also the prayers, receiving blessings, reading of scripture, and listening to or presenting a sermon.   Worship should be edifying, spiritually uplifting and convicting, and lead to spiritual growth, strength and perseverance.  

Thanks John, That's my description too. Thanks for the response I was glad you included the worship outside the church building.




Nice John.